The community in Adare is coming to terms this week with an outbreak of fire in the village last Saturday which destroyed two thatched cottages that have been landmarks and an integral part of Adare’s heritage for almost two centuries.

The cottages, which were a huge tourist attraction and were protected by a preservation order, were built by Lord Dunraven in the 1820s and served as homes for employees of his estate. One of the cottages was owned and occupied by the Benson sisters while the other was rented. The occupants were traumatised by the out-break of fire but escaped uninjured.

Fire tenders from Foynes, Rathkeale, Newcastle West and Limerick city attended the scene and fought the blaze that took a number of hours to bring under control. Traffic was diverted from the village all day on Saturday.

It is believed the fire started in a chimney and quickly spread to the thatch and on to a second cottage, with both almost immediately engulfed. A third cottage which suffered some damage was protected from serious devastation by the fire fighters.

One of the first on the scene was local councillor Emmet O’Brien, who said:

“I must commend the great work of Limerick Fire Services and the efforts of the people of Adare in assisting the home owners. It is really encouraging to see such strong community spirit and see the comm-unity rally around the families who were in a genuine state of shock and distress seeing their family homes destroyed.”

Deputy Dan Neville said: “The true extent of the damage to the cottages will not be known until a thorough examination takes place. It is unclear whether major rebuilding works will be needed to restore the cottages. In any case, it is very important to the local economy that swift action is taken to restore the cottages.  Initial views are positive that restoration can be completed.”

Adare and its cottages have been one of the country’s leading tourist attractions, with over half a million visitors to the area annually.