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County Clare contains the most unique and special places to stay in the region. That said, it’s perhaps a little surprising that there aren’t more of them. Fortunately there are some real gems among their number.

Renting a Cottage in the Irish Countryside

When the "Rent an Irish Cottage" program was pioneered here almost 30 years ago, the idea was simple: Build small rental cottages designed in traditional style, with exteriors of white stucco, thatched roofs, and half doors.

Aside from the turf fireplaces, all of the interior furnishings, plumbing, heating, and kitchen appliances are modern.

Built in groups of 8 to 12, the cottages are on picturesque sites in remote villages such as Puckane, Terryglass, and Whitegate, overlooking or close to Lough Derg's shores. As there are no restaurants or bars on-site, you shop in local grocery stores, cook your own meals, and mix with locals in pubs at night. In other words, it's a chance to become part of the community.

Rates range from around €350 to €1,500 per cottage per week, depending on the size (one to six bedrooms) and time of year. Rental rates include bed linens and color TV; towels and metered electricity are extra.

One of the loveliest cottage settings belongs to Mountshannon, County Clare, a cluster of 12 pastel-toned, one- and two-story cottages on the shores of Lough Derg at Mountshannon Harbour. Grouped like a private village around a garden courtyard, the three-bedroom cottages cost €310 to €690 per week, depending on the time of year. Also on the shores of Lough Derg are 12 cottages in a country village setting in Terryglass, County Tipperary. Rates for three-bedroom cottages are the same as above.

For more information, contact Rent an Irish Cottage, 51 O'Connell St., Limerick, County Limerick (061/411109; www.rentacottage.ie).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.