For a cozy vacation, rent an enchantingly Irish thatched cottage

Anyone who wants to sample the peace and splendor of rural Ireland on vacation, and perhaps to search for ancestral Irish roots, might consider renting a traditional Irish cottage, complete with all modern facilities, including central heating.

If the holiday proves a success and if the visitor takes Ireland to heart, he or she might also consider buying a similar cottage for $36,000 to $48,000, depending on size and on the buyer's income.

The rent and purchase schemes are organized by Rent-An-Arish-Cottage and Irish Cottage Sales, which are offshotts of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company, with offices in Shannon, Ireland, and in New York. Visitors, however, can rent an Irish cottage for a vacation without any obligation to buy.

The 98 cottages, and potential sites, are situated within reasonable driving distance of Shannon International Airport and are situated in 12 main localities in Ireland's midwest region around Limerick and Galway. Most of the cottages are built in neat rows or clusters and are adjacent to existing Irish villages such as Ballyraubhan and Corofin.

The philosophy behind the schemes, which began nearly 10 years ago, is sociological as well as financial. Dr. Brendan O'Regan, the former chairman of the Shannon board of directors, was a driving force in the project. HE saw the need to bring revenue to rural Ireland and to help the local people to identify with a new influx of life to depopulated areas.

A good example of this is the story of Thomas and Maureen O'Dea whose homestead is situated in the rugged beauty of the Burren Country of County Clare , just north of Shannon airport.

The O'Dea family has been on this land for about 200 years, and long before the disastrous Irish potato famines of the 1840s, in which many people perished and which led to mass emigration to America.

he O'Deas sold part of their land to provide sites for three cottages. One of these i owned by an American lawyer and recently I rented this building for a two-week vacation with my family, shortly after it had been occupied by the United States ambassador to Ireland, William Shannon.

The rental was around $450-$530 in May for two weeks. The cottage was extremely comfortable, with every facility for parents and three rambunctious children. It was tucked into the quiet countryside of dark greens and gray-white limestones. The cottage was a short distance from the O'Deas farmhouse, where Thomas and Maureen daily supplied milk and eggs, and Irish charm in liberal quantities. The O'Deas have six girls and one boy, and they are anxious to keep as many of the children as possible from migrating to other parts of Ireland of outside the island to look for a job.

Mrs. O'Deas said, "We welcomed the new cottages as a means of bringing modern amenities like electricity to our area. It is a shame that so many young people have to go to the cities for a job. We hope that the cottages will bring new people and more prosperity to an isolated place."

The holiday near the O'Dea family was enchanting and it proved the truth in the old saying that a stranger is simply a friend you haven't yet met. The O'Deas were extremely helpful and my family -- from the far north of Ireland -- felt that the cottage was home away from home.

Three more cottages are to be built near the O'Deas at Carron, and other sites in the entire region are under consideration. Those who build can rent the houses to holidaymakers when they are not needed by the owner, and these transactions are handled by the Shannon rent-a-cottage company.

The cottages have style and a special charm, complete with thatched roof, heavy beam ceilings, stone floors, half-doors (or "Dutch" doors), and of course the central heating to combat, if necessary, the gently rigors of an Irish mist. There is only one major drawback -- these cottages are in great demand for rental, and you might just need the luck of the Irish to get one.

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