We ended up visiting the Swiss Cottage by chance one day, after a last minute decision to drive to Cahir while we were kind of in the vicinity! Situated on the banks of the River Suir, the Swiss cottage was built in 1817 for Richard Butler, the 1st Earl of Glengall and his wife Emily Jeffreys of Blarney Castle. Also known as Lord and Lady Cahir, the Swiss Cottage was originally part of their estate and is said to have been designed by the famous Regency architect, John Nash.
Now a national monument, it is regarded as one of the finest examples of a cottage orné in Europe. Also known as fantasy houses or ornamental cottages, this style of building was popular with the landed gentry in the 19th century, as places where they could play at being peasants. A strange trend of the time and just looking at the exterior you can tell they clearly weren’t very clued up on how peasants actually lived, but sure each to their own!
The two-story cottage is rustic in design and inspired by nature. This is reflected in the curved thatched roof and external woodwork which resembles branches of trees. This theme is continued throughout the interior with the furnishings and wallpaper. One of the wallpapers used in the cottage was manufactured by the Dufour factory and is one of the first commercially produced Parisian wallpapers.
A beautiful spiral staircase leads to the upper level where there are two bedrooms. Despite this, the cottage was never used as a residence. It’s purpose was for entertaining guests, enjoying picnics and parties during the summer months. However, it is also suggested that it was a secret love nest for the Earl, which may also be one reason behind the discreet tunnel entrance to the site!
The cottage was later a private home but was abandoned and left in a state of disrepair for many years, before being taken into ownership by the state under the Office of Public Works (OPW). Restoration of the Swiss Cottage began in 1985 and it was opened to the public in 1989. The restoration was a collaborative effort but was largely funded by American philanthropist Sally Aall, allowing the cottage to be refurbished to its original condition. The level of detail is incredible, including the restoration of the hand-painted French wallpaper. Some quick thinking locals had even removed some of the beautiful windows to save them after the cottage had been abandoned, returning them later when the work was being completed.
I haven’t been able to include any photos of the interior as photography isn’t allowed inside the cottage but trust me, the results are well worth checking out. I’d highly recommend adding the fabulous Swiss Cottage to your itinerary if you are anywhere around this area.
Getting to the Swiss Cottage:
While you can drive there, I’d recommend instead parking at Cahir Castle and taking a stroll along Coronation Walk. The route, named for the coronation of King George IV in 1821, runs along the river for 2km, leading you to the Swiss Cottage. It is a lovely walk with native trees and the possibility of seeing wildlife along the way including swans, ducks, cormorants, heron, red squirrels and pheasants. The trail is straight and flat so there’s no fear of getting lost on route either!
Know before you go:
– Admission is by guided tour only with tours taking about 30-40 mins.
– Photography / Video is not allowed inside the building or while on the guided tour.
– Groups of 10 or more must be pre-booked.
– Summer is very busy so be prepared for a wait to get on a tour.