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GO STAY: "Bothar Bui"

GO STAY: "Bothar Bui"

We visit “Bothar Bui”, a rare and special holiday retreat on the south west Atlantic coast of Ireland.



Light is fading fast as we arrive at “Bothar Bui”, the little collection of buildings clustered together on a hillside overlooking Kenmare Bay on the Beara peninsula in the South West of Ireland. The buildings are entirely hidden from the road, only coming into view as we drive down the steep track.



It is early January. A full moon sits in the sky above the silver Atlantic ocean. The track down is so sheer I worry aloud if our car will ever make it back to the main road. We get out and stretch, inhaling the cool sea air.

I unzip the key pouch I have been given. A collection of tagged keys tumbles out. Ah yes, of course. Each little building must have its own front door. I hadn’t thought of how this would work practically.

We have booked to stay at Bothar Bui for only three nights, But we haven’t travelled lightly. I consider our tired, tightly packed car. I glance down at the collection of keys in my palm and count the cluster of buildings spread out before us. Where, I wonder, do we begin?



Hunger dictates. We begin to unpack ourselves into the kitchen and living area situated in the original single story farmhouse. Within half an hour a bright fire is roaring and dinner is sizzling. Outside the night is cold and calm. Heavy clouds move slowly across the sky.

Later, after dinner, we walk up to the bedrooms and watch the light of the moon reflecting on the wet stone paths that connect all these little buildings. I have warmed up. It is obvious that this is a rare and special place.



The next morning, in daylight, my crankiness has abated entirely. We unpack fully and explore further.

We have (ambitiously) planned to combine some creative work time and a family holiday into our stay here. And, we are not the first to seek out time here as a way to combine creative work and holidays. In many ways, this idea sits at the heart of this unassuming place. Bothar Bui was designed by the renowned Irish architect Robin Walker and the holiday home has played host to a highly esteemed array of Irish artists, writers, designers and poets. In the guest book sitting on the kitchen dresser, I recognise and revere many of the names of those who have stayed here before us. It is said that the poet Seamus Heaney wrote the collection “Seeing Things” partly while staying at Bothar Bui.



In addition to the renovated, old, stone farm buildings there are three contemporary buildings. In contrast to the cosy, interior-world of the old stone buildings, the new buildings all have one wall of floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Running in parallel, along the length of each building, are very simple balconies. Later on we will perch here at sunset, drinking in the view downhill, over the old oak trees and out across the sea.



One of the contemporary buildings is a large all-purpose space - a kind of large living /dining room, play room, writer's study and artist's studio. And naturally this is where we choose to set up our own “holiday studio”.



Aside from the large studio building the other two “contemporary” buildings both contain bedrooms. Sitting downhill from the studio, each bedroom building has a small book lined entrance hallway, two bedrooms and a shared a bathroom between them. Both bathrooms have sunken baths and the rooms have balconies with views across the woods and the bay.



As days and nights pass, we ease into the ritual of this place. We find a pattern of creative work during our daylight hours and fireside dinners, candle-light, books and baths at night. We move naturally between this little cluster of buildings, our very own clachan, as the work day eases naturally into evening family time.

I breath in fresh sea air as I go to the kitchen to make a mid day pot of coffee. I gaze at the starry sky as I trudge back uphill to collect my phone charger from the studio before bed. We never forget to notice the changing light, colours and weather of the damp magical winter world outside. We are forced out into weather and light multiple times per day. And we are grateful for this.

On the final day, we stand at the bottom of the hill. I wonder aloud again if our heavy, packed car will make it up the steep track that will connect us back to the main road. I pretend to worry. Maybe, just maybe, I think we might have to stay here forever.




Watch: a short film about Bothar Bui (narrated by Seamus Heaney whose collection Seeing Things was partly written at Bothar Bui)

Read More about architect Robin Walker here:

Further: Bothar Bui is owned by the family of artist Sarah Walker.  To learn more about Sarah, her work and her gallery in Castletownbere, visit and

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