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How three friends transformed an old pub in Connemara into a luxury retreat

A sustainable luxury holiday development in Roundstone showcases local craft and materials, rooting guests in the colours and textures of Connemara

Strolling around Roundstone village, there’s little hint from outside the small terrace of three sage-green houses, tucked between two shops, of the impressive refurb within. A small plaque on the wall beside one of the doors discreetly signals Within the Village.

The houses for many years comprised Connolly’s B&B, family home and bar, a place of many good times for locals and visitors to the coastal village in Connemara. The pub was still operating until about 15 years ago. Behind the terrace was another house, some sheds and other buildings.

The houses are in the middle of Roundstone, where 200 years ago Scottish engineer Alexander Nimmo (he of Galway city’s eponymous pier) designed the harbour and leased adjoining land for “a tolerable fishing village”. More recently, cartographer and writer Tim Robinson lived for decades in Nimmo House near the pier. These days it’s a very attractive village, which famously becomes a sort of Dublin-4-on-holidays during the summer.

Long-time friends Lorna Kissane and Maria Murphy came across the For Sale sign on the former Connolly’s premises on their way to a swim in Gurteen Bay early during the Covid-19 pandemic. Lorna’s brother Keith Kissane saw the potential, too, and it was the start of a long adventure for the three Galwegians.

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After buying it for €560,000 in September 2020, planning came through in June 2021, and they started renovating in September. Two years later they hosted a local unveiling for Culture Night, in September 2023.

Today Within the Village is an impressive and sensitive refurbishment with five townhouses – village to the front, coast behind. These are characterful, comfortable short-term rentals with high-end finishes and understated luxury, using the work of local artisans and craftspeople, showcasing the area’s materials and products.

We insisted on retaining as much of the original buildings’ footprint as possible so as not to interrupt the original townscape of Roundstone village

—  Keith Kissane

The original layout has been cleverly reconfigured, so the original terrace and other buildings are now five evocatively named townhouses – Lichen, Bog Cotton, Kelp, Bracken, Sea – of 65-105sq m and from one to three bedrooms, available to rent individually or smartly interlink for a large group (up to 24 adults, or 29 including children). Prices start from €300 per night for the one-bed townhouse, from €400 for the two-bed and from €600 for the three-bed.

Because of its historic layout, each house has a distinct character, including the vaulted ceilings of the original pub in Bog Cotton’s livingroom, multiple exposed internal solid stone walls, stunning views over Roundstone Bay, the upstairs sitting rooms of Sea and Kelp, and Bracken’s bedroom.

The trio works as a team. Keith, experienced in hospitality management and construction, oversaw the work and manages it on the ground. Lorna, with a career in travel and tourism, and who lived abroad for more than 20 years, is across IT and digital marketing. Murphy, with long experience in tourism education and research, advised on the concept.

“Lots of people have great memories of good times in Connolly’s,” says Murphy. “And we hope to continue extending that Irish welcome and keep the lights on in the building well into the future through this concept of luxury, serviced accommodation.”

They didn’t have an architect but “a very patient engineer and builders who worked closely with us”.

The aesthetic is both luxurious and natural: exposed stone, woods, beautiful fabrics and textures. Lorna says “internally we chose finishes combining elements of our favourite places to stay in Ireland and overseas, including the extras that make a visit special, predominantly good service, local knowledge and high-quality accommodation with tasteful art and design. What is most important for us now and for all our guests is to invoke the feeling of staying in someone’s really nice Irish home with friends.”

Keith says “from the outset, sustainability was at the core. We insisted on retaining as much of the original buildings’ footprint as possible so as not to interrupt the original townscape of Roundstone village. We used excavated stone to incorporate into the rear and build new boundary walls. We didn’t want to knock the buildings, and by removing a lot of the old sheds and clearing the site, and splitting the existing pub, we made five individual houses, each with their own front door, and a nice communal outdoor space for guests but also ideal for small events for the wider community.”

Two of the townhouses open directly from the street; the third door leads to the one-bedroom townhouse, access to the courtyard and the other two houses, and the guest relations office for help and advice.

It was a labour of love and took more than a village to pull it all together

—  Maria Murphy

It ultimately cost more than €3.5 million, including purchase, renovation and fitout. All three got involved in the design and choosing materials and interiors, and the result is a combination of their ideas, with bespoke furniture, upcycled materials, antiques and stoves. Towards the end of the project, Galway-based interior designers Studio Panfili helped tie it together and source furnishings, including leather chairs and kitchen tables of recycled wood.

Where possible, they used local craftmakers and tradesmen, including stone masonry and carpentry. The finished townhouses include Paddy O’Malley of Ballyconnelly’s outstanding concrete bathroom countertops (incorporating fossils and shells he finds on local beaches); Joshua Gabriel’s bespoke kitchens; and Rosie Johnson at Provenance Interiors in Clifden-made curtains and blinds in Irish linen. Thoughtful attention to detail includes Seamus Laffan’s Roundstone Ceramics; Inish Living’s sustainable bed linen from wood pulp; Burren Perfumery toiletries; Finline couches; King Coil beds; Sarah Jenkins’s turf baskets, and Calendar Coffee from Oughterard, ready to brew. Outside the courtyard is Mark Grehan’s Connemara-inspired garden design, with recycled plastic outdoor furniture from Houe, including a large dining table. Aoibheann MacNamara (Ard Bia restaurant and the Tweed Project) sourced local art and craft from Dorothy Cross, Roisin Coyle and Cliodhna Prendergast, and Joe Hogan’s beautiful baskets.

“It was a labour of love and took more than a village to pull it all together,” Murphy observes.

The result is a striking combination of high-end finish and local materials, marrying an awareness of heritage, sustainability and contemporary craft, while aiming to support local businesses long term. For guests who want to borrow inspiration, there’s a list of the makers and suppliers in situ and on the website.

The project aims for sustainability, both in the materials used and how it operates, and is also inspired by aspects of the Italian Albergo Diffuso (“scattered hotel”) hospitality concept, developed to revive historic villages and towns off the usual tourist track, by embedding guests in village life, in rooms or apartments with authentic local decor, with one manager and central reception, offering the basic services of a small hotel, and bringing business to the area.

Within the Village is a twist on this, and there’s a lovely sense of these houses’ past and present coexisting, and of being rooted in its area, in its architecture, and in the muted, natural, luxurious colours and textures of Connemara. Even visiting on a miserable day, the cocoon and the views seem like a retreat, while the village is right outside the door.

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