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After a disused cottage was donated to the community of Kilballyowen in Loophead, Co. Clare, a local volunteer group, Kilballyowen Development CLG, recognised the opportunity to not only provide much-needed accommodation for tourists visiting the area, but also to provide an offering for visitors with additional needs.

“We completely refitted the cottage so that we could provide wheelchair access and build a sensory room for children with autism. Those features have made the cottage a popular destination for families with loved ones with disabilities. We now get repeat bookings from multiple families every year,” says Teresa O’Gorman, Secretary of Kilballyowen Development.

Loop Head Self-Catering Cottage Wheelchair accessible plus sensory room
Loop Head Cottage - Kilballyowen Development CLG

Key to Success – WDC Bridging Loan

The total cost of the renovation and upgrade works was €70,000, Teresa explains. While a LEADER grant covered 50% of the cost, the sum would not be paid until the work was completed. Discussions with the Western Development Commission (WDC) resulted in a €35,000 bridging loan so that the registered charity could begin the work while making up the outstanding balance with a loan from a commercial bank.

“A representative of the WDC came to Loophead and looked at the cottage. The project was suitable for the WDC in an area where there have been challenges with the supply of suitable  accommodation. We had all our paperwork ready at that time so the process of getting the loan ended up being very easy,” says Teresa.

The support of the WDC was crucial. We simply would not have been able to fund the project without the bridging loan because a bank loan for the full amount would have been unaffordable. As it happens, we did take out a bank loan for the other half and we are paying that back over a period of seven years. We’re totally comfortable with that.

Teresa says that the group’s loan application to the WDC had been boosted by its history of successful fundraising for community projects. Previously, Teresa and her fellow Kilballyowen Development volunteers helped to raise €100,000 to build a new playground in the area – a remarkable feat considering the entire population of the town is little more than 400.

“The cottage sleeps eight people and is always booked out from June to September and then again at Christmas. It’s proved popular – and not just with families with additional needs. We have a group of people booked in for March this year that are studying the geology of the area,” says Teresa, adding that the project was continuing to have a major impact in terms of the future development of the town.

“Any funds left over after paying back the bank loan are put back into the town. We’re always looking for new development projects and this will only help us going forward,” Teresa adds.

Now the future is a little brighter and Kilballyowen can look forward to a bright summer season thanks to the support of the WDC and others.

Teresa says: “We proved that we could do it, that was the main thing. The cottage is now available to book all year round, either directly through myself or AirBnB.”