The story of how a pair of Londoners, Lorely Forrester and her husband Rob, came to live in the Old Rectory in the small village of Easkey on the northwest coast of Sligo is one full of coincidence.
It was the early 1990s, and Rob’s parents had just retired to their much-loved holiday home near Lough Gill when Rob’s mum died suddenly. Rob and Lorely were heartbroken.
“It made us sit up and say, we’re going to end up in boxes at one end of the day or another, will we have done all the things we wanted to do? Should we stay in the rat race in London or would we rather have spent more time together and more time pursuing the things we want to do?” Lorely recalls asking.
They decided to opt out and buy a house in France.
But on a visit to Rob’s dad in Sligo, they both came across the Old Rectory separately. Rob spotted a notice in an estate agent’s window, while, says Lorely, “I saw the house over the garden wall and I had such a strong sensation about it. It was weird – it was just such a complete entity, I can’t put it in any other way than that. It had a very strong sense of itself and it felt like a place that was settled in its own bones.”
She didn’t know the Old Rectory was for sale – there was no sign up, and it wasn’t until a few days later that she realised this was the place Rob had fallen for too.
When they went to view it, Lorely says, “there were two kissing elms by the gates which were so beautiful – we had lost all our elms in the UK long since, and we’re both so much nature and tree lovers. That was it, we had fallen in love.”
Three months later, they and their four-year-old son were ensconced in Easkey.
The house is magical. Built in the 1790s, on the site of an earlier two-storey thatch, it has been home to the rector of St Anne’s church next door for most of its life. But, as Lorely discovered recently, it had one owner before the church bought it.
She was working as appeals director of the Restore St Anne’s fundraiser, when she read in the church records that her mother’s relatives had originally owned the house before it became the parsonage in 1815.
The house sits in the centre of its 1.7 acres of lovingly tended gardens on the edge of the village. Lorely is a garden designer, among her other careers, and won a Gold Medal at Bloom 2015 for her Yeats’ Garden. “I think I have a bit of chlorophyll in my blood,” she says, “I have gardening going on in both sides of my family down the ages. I’ve always loved gardening.”
The place was a jungle, she says, when they moved in, but over the years, the pair have untangled it somewhat, always leaving a little wilderness so nature can have its way.
Surrounded by old stone walls, the grounds are divided into different ‘rooms’. There is a walled garden with a formal Victorian-style potager for fruit and veg growing, a sheltered flower garden with a joyous rush of herbaceous perennials, roses and flowering trees, and an orchard of apple, plum, cherry and pear to the front of the house with views to the sea. The house itself is surrounded by lawns, mature trees and shrubs. Elsewhere there is a small walled paddock, a polytunnel and a hen house.
There are also two restored coach houses, one that with a little further work, could be a nice Airbnb earner and has two double bedrooms. The second has two single bedrooms upstairs, and a workshop below.
The main house has been well maintained and, for many years, ran as a B&B and was featured in Alastair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay. The couple retained its Georgian features, old wooden floors, sash windows and shutters, fireplaces and stone-flagged floors to the rear. But they modernised the kitchen and added bathrooms, rewired and upgraded the roof.
On the ground floor, there is a library, double aspect drawing room, dining room, bright, country-style kitchen, back kitchen, pantry as well as a shower with WC.
The first floor has a large master bedroom with en suite and dressing room. There are three other double bedrooms and a family bathroom.
The property has views to the sea from the front bedrooms, and sits on the Wild Atlantic Way. As such it has obvious appeal for a potential buyer interested in running a tourism business, or of course for a family looking for the good life, or a keen surfer.
Easkey is well-known to surfers worldwide. There is the lure too of excellent transport links – both Sligo (40km away) and Ballina (20 minutes’ drive) are connected to Dublin by rail, while Bus Eireann’s Sligo to Ballina route stops in Easkey village.
Besides the sea and the scenery, the village of Easkey boasts Pudding Row, an award winning cafe, a school, post office, health centre, shops and pubs.
The Forresters are selling the Old Rectory themselves without an agent. Their two sons are grown up now, and the couple are downsizing but have no intention of moving from Sligo.
“We’ve been here for 20 years, our lives are rooted here and we have so many friends in the area. We’re as besotted with the place as we were when we first came.”
Contact: Rob Forrester (096) 49181
Viewing: Strictly by appointment
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