“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived”
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond
I was 21 years old when I read this line for the first time. It was in the summer of 2010 and I was in a campsite in Northwestern Madagascar, swinging in a hammock with my dusty feet dangling over the side, gently scratching the many mosquito bites covering my legs. I had been in the Madagascan dry forest a few weeks as part of an ecological expedition and had already fallen in love with the landscape; the mangroves, the dense forest, the open plains. But it was the words in this book that seemed to awaken something in me and what caused me to promise myself one thing: to always live deliberately.
The thing is, it was very easy to honour this commitment back when I didn’t have any responsibilities and had what felt like all the time in the world to make mistakes. There were no bills to pay or people relying on me to make the right choices so it felt effortless to live in the moment. Now that I’m 30, I’m finding it harder to keep my promise and to remain present in my everyday life. I can get caught up in the grind with my head burrowed so far down that I haven’t really looked up for days.
When I feel a slump is lurking around the corner I usually always plan something that will wake me up again or remind me of the kind of life I want to live. It’s impossible to be always be sure of who we are or what we want because we’re in a constant state of flux; life is always changing and our hopes and dreams have to change along with it. When I feel like I need to reconnect with that promise I made back in 2010, I’ve found the best remedy is to pluck myself out of my little daily habitat and place myself somewhere new and that I know will inspire me. Well, what a better source of inspiration than living in a treehouse, right???
When I saw the Bird Box listing on a friend’s Instagram story a few months ago I went straight to the Airbnb website to book us a weekend. After checking it out we quickly realised that Andrew and I had actually stayed with the same hosts before a few years back and I had featured it in a recent blog post listing our favourite Airbnb experiences – small world!
The Old Cowshed
The hosts, Pete & Anna, are a couple who relocated to Donegal over 12 years ago to convert an old stone cottage and byre on a beautiful bit of land looking out across the Glenties towards Glenveagh National Park. Since moving there they’ve not only built a home for themselves and their family but built two lodgings as well as converting the byre which we stayed in all those years ago. The treehouse is their third and final lodging on their property and is certainly their crowning glory (in my own opinion!). The craftsmanship that Pete has taught himself is incredible and how he managed it all in the Donegal weather is even more impressive – the midges alone would break even the strongest of wills!
We booked the treehouse many weeks in advance because unsurprisingly it’s proved to be the hottest Airbnb home in Co. Donegal. I tried not to count down the days too much but by the time our weekend finally arrived I was more than ready to escape to the trees. We drove our tired bodies from Belfast as soon as we clocked off and as we edged across the map towards Donegal I could almost feel the tension leaving me – our favourite county was a-callin’.
We arrived at twilight with the sun just starting to fall behind the mountains. The sky was tinged with gold when Pete welcomed us in that warm Donegal way and quickly took us through our own personal gate and down the woodland path to our new home. The last of the bluebells were clinging on in their small clusters and the wind was weaker under the canopy of the trees. And then I locked eyes on the treehouse! The angular lines of the roof cut through the leaves so gently with the wood of the house blending with the bark of the trees so well that it seemed as if it had always been there, somehow waiting to be discovered.
I tried to contain myself as I walked across the bridge, knowing rightly that as soon as Pete left I would be running back and forth like an excited toddler. It’s hard not to let your inner child run riot there and since children aren’t actually allowed to stay here it makes it a lot easier to relax! There is a swing chair to read a book in under the trees, a mezzanine bedroom with a sky light up in to the trees, books to read and a stove fire to tend to each night after dinner – heaven!
We spent the first 24 hours of our trip cocooned in our nest. I kept the doors wide open while I watched the rain sweep across the glen, turning the mountains all the colours of a landscape painting or making them disappear completely. I kept the blanket wrapped around me with Andrew looking over from the mezzanine to check I was still alive. I was so transfixed that I only stopped to make cups of tea or to look down at the book I wasn’t able to concentrate on, the view was just too good.
The sound of rain woke us up in the morning and then lulled us back to sleep again. Everywhere we looked we could see the canopy surrounding us – even the shower had a little window that opened up in to the trees! It was magic to be spending quality time together in such a special space which encouraged us to make the last minute decision to stay an extra night. It was the Bank Holiday and we thanked our lucky stars that they weren’t booked for the Sunday and we got a whole extra night to hide away.
We managed to leave our nest on one of the days we were there to venture out to Árrain Mhór and down to Slieve League cliffs but we were itching to get back to our sanctuary. It was the purest delight to come home to this little piece of paradise, the sun glistening and dancing across the bark with the breeze singing through the trees. We were heartbroken leaving but we knew we would be back again.
Our weekend in the treehouse was the perfect cure for a disaffected slump and on the drive back home to Belfast we were the happiest and the most relaxed we’d been in a long time – a complete tonic for tired souls.
If you’d like to see videos of the treehouse then you can find them in my Donegal highlights on my Instagram page – you can find them here.