Bervie is a secret hideaway, gloriously remote from the usual tourist trail. Set like a pearl washed ashore on Ireland's largest offshore island of Achill, Bervie resonates with quintessential Irish country house charm. It is at heart a beloved family home romantically embraced by the sea. Just outside the back garden gate is the magnificent blue flag beach Trawmore Strand. Almost three miles of golden windswept sand curves smoothly around the coast with magnificent views of the Cathedral Cliffs, Dooega Head, Minaun Heights and numerous islands floating like mirages in the distance.
The long, low bungalow is painted white with dark blue trim and its stark simplicity blends perfectly with its serene surroundings. Originally built as a coastguard station in the 1820s, it then served as a salmon fishing center. In the 1920s Elizabeth Gallagher-Barrett's relatives bought the Bervie as a family home and summer beach house that they shared with guests. This long tradition of heartfelt hospitality continues today, with John and Liz dispensing warm and gracious courtesy in their delightful cottage by the sea.
Visitors are welcomed in a lobby with a glass front and tile floors. There is a small check-in desk of paneled pine set with fresh flowers and a pretty lamp. Floral curtains are tied back at the windows and plants add a pleasing touch. Above a narrow antique bench is a huge old map of Achill and a notice board of island events.
On arrival the offer of tea should be readily accepted. Have it on the sun porch with its bank of picture windows overlooking the back lawn and ocean views. There are little tables set with linens and a row of wicker armchairs meant for lingering. Liz's homemade scones served with whipped cream and strawberry preserves, along with a pot of steaming tea is just the introduction needed to ease visitors into a slower pace. Afterward, go through the blue garden gate to take a bracing walk on the windswept beach.
As you would expect of such an old building the walls are thick and solid and some of the floors are a bit crooked. But that just adds to the charm. Bedrooms in the main house are tidy and cozy. Most of them have a separate alcove completely paneled in pine with a table and two chairs. Views extend over the back lawn edged by sea plants to the stunning seascapes beyond. Beds are firm and comfortable with pine headboards, simple spreads and throws. Rustic chests hold reading lamps and there are dressers and luggage racks. Each room is carpeted according to its individual color scheme and has a TV and hair dryer. Room 17 has a pretty antique carved pine double bed. Room 14 is a large family room with two separate bedrooms and one bathroom with a tub. It has a double and twin bed in the main bedroom - along with a sitting area - and one twin in the smaller bedroom. How heavenly to slumber with your windows open and the be lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean whispering on the wind.
Bathrooms are snug and spotless with tile floors and half-tiled walls. They have a pedestal sink with shelf and mirror along with a shower. Shampoo, shower gel, soap and a washcloth are provided along with plenty of towels. As with the rest of the house look for unexpected whimsical touches everywhere that will make you smile. My bathroom had a little ceramic crab hiding behind the door up near the ceiling.
The sitting room is enchantingly cottagy and full of nooks and crannies. There is a bay window with floral curtains and a couple of lounge chairs. Another area has a desk and chair, perfect for writing postcards or reminiscing in your travel journal. One tiny alcove has a wing chair with a tall bookcase well-stocked for your reading pleasure. It is carpeted in soft rose, while the furniture is done in tones of rose and green with crocheted antimacassars and plenty of cushions for lounging. In front of the stone fireplace is another seating arrangement of settees and chairs where you can enjoy an open fire in the evening or watch TV. Fresh flowers, antiques, old paintings and family photos and mementos make for a quaint retreat. You almost expect to find Miss Marple knitting in the corner.
A delicious breakfast is served in the large dining room, which is painted bright golden yellow. At one end of the room is a fireplace flanked by arched niches displaying china and crockery. A large pine Irish dresser displays colorful majolica. As with the rest of the house family memorabilia, etchings, paintings, plates and prints adorn the walls and shelves. Linen draped tables are arranged throughout and there is a wall of windows overlooking the sun porch through which you can see the beach and superb views. Simple cream drapes are tied back at the windows and a French door leads into the porch. Juice, cereal and fruit are available on a sideboard while your selection is made to order. It is accompanied by tea or brewed coffee and lovely homemade scones and brown bread. Dinner is also served but must be ordered in advance.
Alongside the main house is a separate newer annex of six rooms that is used during the season. Some of these rooms don't have sea views and are doubles. For those wondering about the name Bervie, it is the name of the village in Scotland where Alexander Hector - who bought the coastguard station as a fishing enterprise - was originally from. Liz was born in room eleven.
Bervie is a blissfully soul-soothing experience evocative of old idealized Ireland at its very best. It is totally unpretentious, absolutely comfortable and genuinely welcoming. Liz and John have infused their benchmark establishment with a pinch of inspiration, a dash of dreams and a large dollop of romance. Add unspoiled, lyrical scenery and you have discovered your own sublime arcadia.