House-hunters in the market for a property with a whole lot of history attached to it - and a project that could become a home and income in a beautiful location on the Wild Atlantic Way - should take a look at Binghamstown House near Belmullet. The property comes to the open market for the first time since it was built, more than 200 years ago, having remained in the ownership of the Bingham family ever since.
The family's connection with the area dates from 1584, when Sir Richard Bingham was dispatched by Queen Elizabeth I to the west coast of Ireland to see off a rebellion, tackle the Spanish Armada, sort out trouble with the clans and deal with a pesky pirate by the name of Grace O'Malley. Sir Richard's family seat was at Bingham's Melcombe Manor, one of the loveliest houses in Dorset, thought to have been built during the reign of Edward I.
During his sojourn in Co Mayo, Sir Richard picked out a location for a castle for himself at Elly Bay, where the ruins of Binghamstown Castle, built by his descendant Major Dennis Bingham still stand. The major and other relatives are buried at the chapel of ease associated with the castle.
"There must," says Bingham's descendent, Gerald Bingham, the current owner, "have been many a skirmish, but Grace O'Malley ended up asking Sir Richard's brother, George, to raise her son, so perhaps there was some mutual respect."
George Bingham had two sons, one of whom went on to inherit the title of Lord Clanmorris, while the other inherited the title of Lord Lucan. Gerald Bingham is descended from the Clanmorris side of the family; the Lucans are cousins.
As well as Binghamstown Castle, Gerald's ancestor, Major Dennis Bingham, built Binghamstown House in the 1790s.
"He loved the area and did a lot for it in terms of planting trees and developing amenities," says Gerald. "He wanted people to see the rugged beauty that surrounds us here; in some ways I think he was an early fore-runner of the people who saw the potential of the Wild Atlantic Way."
Binghamstown House has been passed down through generations of the family ever since, and Gerald's mother lived there until 2000.
After Gerald inherited the property, he set about a full restoration of the oldest part of the house, lying perpendicular to the road, commencing in 2016. He and his family, who live near Oxford, have enjoyed using it as a holiday home ever since.
Now, though, Gerald says that "life is taking us in other directions" and that they are not managing to visit as often as they would like. "We are only ever custodians of these old houses," he says, "and it's time for someone else to take it on."
Gerald has restored the oldest part of the house, which now has an open-plan living/kitchen/ dining area, a cosy sitting room, four bedrooms and three bathrooms. It has been re-plumbed and re-wired, and has a new roof, Thermoseal windows and oil-fired central heating. There is also an un-renovated two-storey section of the house, which is a protected structure, as well as a large stone stable block in ruins that is also suitable for renovation.
Given the location in an area of outstanding natural beauty, 5.5km southwest of Belmullet, on the Mullet Peninsula, the potential to develop the property for tourism is obvious. Belderra Beach, where there is a surf school, the Cross Loop Walk and Binghamstown Harbour are all within walking distance of the house. Nearby Elly Bay is a lovely sheltered beach that's ideal for swimming and surfing. It's also where Admiral Yelverton, a relative of the Binghams by marriage, used to moor his battleship during World War I when visiting his sister.
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Crowley (098) 29009
Viewing: By appointment