Story of Home A retreat to the hills
In the second in the Ulster Bank series we meet two Dubliners in Donegal who have created a stunning home and a unique Irish design- themed retreat
Breac House is a beautiful ode to Donegal. This modern retreat is the home of its owners Cathrine Burke and Niall Campbell and a “home from home” for the guests who stay there. Reflecting the splendour of Donegal’s land and sea back to guests at Breac House, which sits on the breathtaking headland of Horn Head in Dunfanaghy, was fundamental to the couple in creating their home and business. This very special place to stay has the dramatic, unspoilt beauty of Donegal singing seamlessly throughout.
“When people come in, the first thing we say to them is ‘ for the next few days you are to make yourself feel completely at home.’ We are here to look after them to make tea, coffee, whatever they want over the course of their stay. But the whole concept is, you come and you use this house as you need to,” she said.
The couple are both from Dublin and met while doing business degrees in DCU. They went on to work as accountants but always knew they “had another career in them.”
“Niall has been coming to Donegal since he was a child. I have been coming since college so we decided that at some point in the future we would build, buy or certainly do something in Donegal, and we would do something from a business perspective,” says Burke.
“Over the years we built a plan in our heads of something we thought would really work in Donegal and it was a question of finding the time and the opportunity and the right place to do something a little bit different.”
They had bought a holiday home in Gaoth Dobhair, over half an hour away from Dunfanaghy, where Breac House is located. They found themselves spending more and more time there as they loved the coffee in the local coffee shop, “Muck and Muffins,” who would later be commissioned to create crockery especially for Breac House.
“We would be walking for the day and we’d find ourselves doing a detour via Dunfanaghy for coffee on the way back. We thought, if you are going to do something, particularly in tourism, you want to be near a really nice town that has nice restaurants, nice coffee shops, nice services so I think, little by little, we realised that it would probably be in this part of Donegal rather than further west,” she says.
The couple knew the location had to be perfect. They were familiar with the house that existed where Breac House is now from their walks around Horn Head, and in 2014 they jumped at the chance to buy it.
“There was no doubt in our minds and we both knew on that day. We made the decision in five minutes that we were doing it once we stood here.”
Their passion for keeping things as local and sympathetic to the landscape and community as possible i s evident throughout Breac House. They used the award- winning Letterkenny- based, MacGabhann architects for the new design of the property, which took inspiration from nearby Muckish mountain.
“I think you have a certain responsibility when you build in rural Ireland, and in particular areas of natural beauty, that the house becomes part of the landscape. I suppose, our vision for the architects and our instruction to them was that we want everything about this house to be Donegal. So Donegal architects, Donegal builders, Donegal joiners, materials, wherever possible, were to come from the locality. It was to be a complete reflec- tion of everything you see when you look out the window,” says Burke.
For such a modern property, there is an authentic connection to tradition throughout. From the handcut Ardara quartz flagstones to the gorgeous oak to the Fanad granite. Donegal is all around you, inside and out.
“Breac House, for us, is all about people experiencing ‘ authentic Donegal’. That phrase is very overused but when people travel nowadays, often they stay in a modern hotel and they meet no one, they speak to no one and they don’t get to discuss where they are.
“Anyone coming to Breac House will either sit in the lounge or in their room and the first thing they will see outside is Muckish mountain and we have a whole theme within the house that runs off that. From the colour of the pottery through to the chairs in the bedrooms that are all inspired by that mountain that we look at every single day.”
The incredibly clever design allows for awesome views from every part of the house, be it the thrashing waves of the north Atlantic in Sheephaven Bay or the green and heathery fields and outcrop that lie between you and Muckish.
“This home is at once traditional and contemporary, and the couple have created a celebration of their passions for design, architecture, food and travel, as well as for Donegal. There is outstanding