Slieve Aughty Centre began 30 years ago with sustainability and nature-based experiences at the heart of everything we do. In 2012 owner Esther Zyderlaan dismantled her original timber farmhouse to build The Three Towers Eco House and Organic Kitchen. The building is a beautiful example of functional, comfortable sustainability in practice with lots of windows for natural lighting, low flow taps and toilets, efficient lighting features, puraflo peat filtration wastewater system, and eco-foam insulation. Also in the plans was a biomass burning boiler for heating, which after 5 years of saving was finally installed in 2018.
The state of the art boiler burns timber and heats the 800 square metre guest house, eco-lodges, glamping cabin, conference space, and equestrian centre locker room, toilets and classroom. The boiler itself was manufactured in Austria by HDG Bavaria GmbH and has an EU energy rating of A+. It has an impressive capacity for 220L of fuel in the fuel chamber and is connected to 3 large insulated storage tanks with a total capacity for 900 litres of 90° water!
While the centre still maintains a traditional oil boiler as a back up, the goal with the HDG Euro 50 is to decrease dependency on fossil fuels by 80-100%. The timber is purchased from Coillte, the largest private forestry company in Ireland, and is harvested Sitka Spruce, which grows quickly and is replanted after harvest, so is a renewable resource. It is also grown right beside us, so we have nearly eliminated any shipping impacts.
Speaking of timber, the history of forestry in Ireland is really quite fascinating. Ireland used to be one of the most heavily forested countries in all of Europe, mostly stands of oak and pine. However, centuries of deforestation from agricultural clearing, industrial processes, and English interests resulted in only 1% of the total land area of the country covered in forests by the end of the 19th century.
Since entering the EU, incentives have been introduced to increase Ireland’s forested acreage. Currently Ireland has a total forest cover of about 1,789,000 acres equivalent to 10.5% of the national area and 43% of this is in private ownership. The goal is to increase forest cover in the country to 17% by 2030.
A visit to Slieve Aughty Centre offers you plenty of opportunity to explore more than 2,000 acres of Coillte forest, so you can see this renewable resource in action. There are protected areas, harvested areas, and stands of forest in all stages of development throughout. Every day you can visit a different part on horseback, on foot, or by mountain bike!