Urney cottage open for trade

STRABANE entrepreneur Anne Speers yesterday launched a unique new farm diversification project by officially opening two new holiday cottages at her premises in Urney.

During the last year Mrs Speers has breathed a new lease of life into a redundant barn by converting it into two modern tourist units called Finn Valley Cottages, located just 3 miles from Strabane on the Tyrone/Donegal border with fantastic views out over the Finn Valley.

Mrs Speers specialises in aspects of livestock production, is a farmer’s daughter, runs her own business, and is the wife of a local rector in Donegal, Canon David Crooks.

She was a student at Loughry College gaining an HND qualification and completed her MBA at Brighton Polytechnic in 1986.

She also has a wide experience as a college lecturer, head of a college department and gained much commercial expertise working for a large international food producing company in England before starting her own business, Agricola Solutions, back in Northern Ireland.

The family farm at Urney had an old stone barn in one field that had outlived its useful life, and which has commanding views across the hills to Donegal. So Mrs Speers decided to diversify the farming activities and turn the barn into a useful income generator.

In a statement she explained: “The barn was slowly deteriorating and something needed to be done to prevent vandalism and further dilapidation of the structure.

“The project was funded under measure 3.1 - Diversification into non-agricultural activities of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2007 – 2013. DARD funding was delivered via Arc Northwest, Omagh.

“Plans were drawn up, eventually after many meetings with local government departments, planning was granted, a builder was appointed and work began in April 2011. The result is two wonderful holiday cottages that can be described as ‘more than home from home.’”

She says the cottages are finished to a particularly high standard both internally and externally and have attracted much interest both locally and from further afield. Throughout the cottages there are beautiful rural landscapes on sale, painted by a local artist.

And the plan now is to attract holiday makers from a variety of places eg Europe especially Germany, France, Belgium and England. The target market is primarily for anglers, hillwalkers, golfers, cycling and returning families.

There is excellent trout and salmon fishing on the rivers Finn and Mourne. The Sperrins offer superb hillwalking. And National Geographic has just given the Sperrins 88th place in the world’s top 101 top scenic drives.

Mrs Speers says the cottages are also just the job for local families who have relatives living afar.