Thatch Cottages (Doonamona Crossroads)

Situated at the same crossroads as Doonamona castle and Tuffy’s pub are a set of thatched cottages, which have been renovated to become self-catering cottages (Michigan State University, 2009).

What are thatched cottages?

Speaking generally, thatched cottages represent a time of strong oppression in Ireland’s history (Michigan State University, 2009). It was in the 1700’s when the Penal Laws were still in effect, that a member of the British parliament named William Pitt brought forward an extra taxation on daylight. He tripled the tax, in fact, to pay for the rising costs of the Napoleonic wars (Grant, 2017). To be specific, this tax limited the amount of sunlight allowed into a house without having to pay fines or taxes. Obviously, to avoid having to pay these fines, many Irish people built their homes using tiny windows and half doors. It is said that the term “daylight robbery”—which is used when someone is being cheated or ripped off—comes from this particular situation in history (Michigan State University, 2009).

Thatched cottages are environmentally friendly and durable. They also represent one of the most iconic images of Ireland and are the products of centuries of tradition and history. Even up until the 1800’s, as much as half of the population of Ireland lived in thatched houses. Today however, very few people still live in them (Langan, 2023).

O’ Gaoithin (2019) writes that “One of the primary features of a thatched roof cottage is the chimney and turf fire. In the chilly Irish weather, gathering around a turf fire after a long day of farm work was an important part of daily life. Turf fires were almost always burning, so proper ventilation was a necessity. Thatched roof cottages are crafted from stones and then covered with white plaster on both the inside and the outside. Traditionally, these cottages were only one room with a loft for sleeping in.”

What materials were used in constructing a thatched cottage?

The materials used in constructing a thatched house vary from region to region and the materials have also changed over time. The wealth of the family also dictated the materials used. The most expensive option for creating the walls is ‘mortar and lime,’ and it is also the most desirable material. As an alternative, mud bolstered with strengthening agents such as reeds, straw or animal matter were used (Langan, 2023).

But what about the roofs? First the timbers were put in place with overlapping layers of turf sod laid on top. The straw thatch went on top of this. This was produced from a variety of materials such as flax and wheat. This was carefully threaded and cut by a thatcher in either the sketch or slice style. Believe it or not, it would frequently take as many as 5,000 handfuls of straw to complete a roof (Langan, 2023).

The art of thatching

From father to son, the thatching trade was passed down through the generations. Work was reasonably plentiful since thatched roofs must be replaced between every 5 to 20 years depending on the thatch condition and the materials used (Langan, 2023).

Thatching is rare as a family trade in Ireland today, due to the decline in the number of thatched cottages. Nevertheless, a few groups and individuals still carry on the tradition of thatching in Ireland, today. They restore older cottage roofs and create new roofs (Langan, 2023).

O’ Gaoithin (2019) writes that the thatching itself is made from locally sourced, natural reeds that proliferated in Ireland’s temperate climate. He goes on to write “Tightly woven thatched reeds were resistant to rain and wouldn’t blow away in storms, and were fortified by a layer of turf.”

Thatching around the world

Although thatching has become an emblem of Ireland, the practice is common in other countries right the way around the world (Langan, 2023). Thatched roofs can be found in a variety of other countries such as Peru, Japan, Bali, Germany, and Denmark among other places (Langan, 2023).

The article (referenced below) from ThatchingInfo (n.d.) states that over a century ago “most of mankind lived under thatch.” The same article makes an interesting point when it says that thatched dwellings might look ‘primitive.’ “But what these buildings are in fact, is the result of the clever use of local thatching and building materials. Built by people with limited resources, to usually create stout, weatherproof, well insulated buildings. They are not Huts, Shacks or Wigwams; but homes…”


  1. Grant, M. (2017). 5 of History’s Most Ludicrous Taxes. Available at: Accessed on 19th of January, 2024.

  2. Langan, S. (2023). The magic of Ireland’s thatched cottages. Available at: Accessed on 24th of January, 2024.

  3. Michigan State University, Study Abroad Programme. (2009). Thatch Cottages (Doonamona Crossroads). Internal Report: Folder 2, Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail—Clogher Environmental Group Ltd. Unpublished.

  4. O’ Gaoithin, E. (2019) Ireland’s Rustic Homes—Everything to love about thatched roof cottages! Available at:,the%20houses%20were%20built%20on. Accessed 24th of January, 2024.

  5. (n.d.) Thatching around the world… Around 1900. Available at: Accessed 24th of January, 2024.