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Dublin: 14 °C Thursday 4 June, 2020

Sleep Here: A converted Georgian gate lodge in the heart of the Wicklow mountains

Stay alongside a growing family, ponies, dogs and a terrapin.

Image: Old Rectory

WHEN JOANNA SLOAN, owner of the Old Rectory Studio, first created her Airbnb listing in October 2017, she wasn’t quite sure if it was the right choice for the space, which used to function as a dining area for her screen printing workshops.

But within twenty minutes, she received the first booking. “We never looked back!” she says.

And in fact, when you have five children, two ponies, two dogs and still have more space to invite guests to stay, you might find yourself making the same decision. Sloan says they were inspired when they lived in Madrid for a year to make the most of the extra space they have in the studio of the Old Rectory in County Wicklow. They took a few weekend trips and stayed in Airbnb rentals, which she says was the perfect solution for a large family.

The Old Rectory Studio is a converted gate lodge, dating from the early Georgian period, built on a sloping valley looking beyond Dunganstown Castle and toward the Wicklow Mountains. Sloan explains, “Mature trees obscure a sea view but offer tremendous shelter, a natural habitat for birds and beech-leaf canopies in the summer. We fell in love with the house and its rambling walled gardens when we had one child — we now have five. You could say the house and space beckoned a large family!”

Source: Old Rectory

Passionate about continuing historical features and the property’s past, Sloan says the renovation of the gate lodge has resulted in “a feeling of the past with simple interiors, pared back furnishings and a geothermal heating system.”

But what the guests are taken by, explains Sloan, ”is the visceral feeling of ‘you’ve arrived’ when you draw up to the house. Guests are immediately taken in by the trees, sweeping views and birdsong when they arrive.”

Source: Old Rectory

The two ponies graze the paddock or stay in the stables adjacent to the studio, and the two dogs like balls being thrown from them, by family or guests. Sloan reports that “the resident terrapin is becoming quite a draw,” not surprisingly!

Source: Old Rectory

The Old Rectory Studio’s proximity to Dublin (it’s just an hour’s drive away), Brittas Bay beaches and the Wicklow Mountains gives it an added appeal. Sloan recommends eating in Mickey Finns, a fun gastro pub in Redcross, Wicklow, with live music twice a week, or in their local cafe, The Bay Cafe that serves a wonderful cod and chips after a beach walk.

As for excursions, Kilmacurragh Arboretum, Devils Glen Wood, and Avondale Park in Rathdrum are all free adventures Sloan recommends, and of course, when you’re in need of an Avoca berry scone fix, there’s one close by.

Source: Old Rectory

Sloan continues to be glad she and her family chose to open this section of their property to guests. “I really enjoy meeting a diverse group of people from all over the world even if only for a quick ‘hello-check-in’. People are polite, respectful and very happy to be part of the fabric of The Old Rectory for part of their holiday.”

And guests have been so curious about the history of the house that Sloan has compiled a book of stories of the Old Rectory from past and present , which she hopes will be sitting on the coffee table at the studio before the end of the year.

Sleep Here: Drift off in a luxury glamping pod among the trees at Castle Ward Estate>

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Emily Westbrooks

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