After a career in telecoms, Justin Lennon made the move into property in 2017. By the following year he had completed the renovation of a house in Dublin 8, put it on the market and was on the hunt for another property to flip.
"I knew my way around Mayo as my father had retired there from Dublin," he says, "so I shortlisted some auction properties and headed west. After a long day of viewings, I ended up on Achill Island with the cottage in Killala the last one on the list. It was 10pm before I drove up the lane, and my viewing consisted of whatever I could see illuminated by the headlights of the car and through the windows with the torch on my phone. I couldn't see much, but I could hear the waves of the Atlantic Ocean in the distance and got a feeling that there was something very special here."
The auction took place two days later, during 2018's Storm Emma, on the worst day of the snowstorm. Justin arrived home from the west just 15 minutes before the auction closed online, and secured the cottage for €67,000.
"The joy of nabbing a bargain was immediately followed by a sinking feeling as I really did not know what I had bought," he says. "A few weeks later I got the keys and headed across to see it with some trepidation. It was a gorgeous day and I remember the views being incredible. But the house had been vacant for years, with much of it unfinished from a renovation that started in 2006."
Justin decided to gut the cottage and make it suitable for modern living, while keeping as many of the original traditional features as possible. The six-month project involved upgrading all the electrics and plumbing, and exposing the original internal walls.
"I had an excellent local carpenter go through every square inch of the cottage, and the painting crew was on site for six weeks," says Justin. "Everything in the house was pine, from the panelling on the ceiling to the staircase, which is a painter's nightmare."
Justin put in a modern kitchen with an island, and when it came to furnishing the house he was able to draw on the expertise of his twin brother, Darrán, who owns Hyde Interiors.
"I was like a child in a sweet shop in his warehouse!" says Justin. "I set out with a goal to create a cosy haven away from the city, by the sea, with interesting features for the eye everywhere - and I feel like I have achieved that."
With a large open-plan kitchen/living/dining space, four bedrooms and two bathrooms, all painted in Farrow & Ball tones, Swallow's Nest will appeal both to those in search of a family home and buyers looking for a holiday property in a beautiful coastal location.
Having intended to flip the house as soon as he had finished the renovation, Justin ended up falling in love with Swallow's Nest.
"My favourite thing to do is to sit beside the log-burning stove of an evening with a glass of wine or cup of tea," he says. "The house is the perfect place for entertaining and I have had the most incredible times here with family and friends.
"At the start of lockdown, I had planned to be in the cottage for a few days - and the few days turned into months. I walked on the beach and cliffs, watched incredible sunsets on Kilcummin beach, swam at Lacken Strand and Ross Beach and got lost up on the beautiful Lacken trail. There's something about the north Mayo coast that is very special - the wildness, the beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way, the culture, and the friendliness. For me, a holiday home should be something with history and comfort near the sea, rather than some new-build in a holiday village."
Now new opportunities have arisen and so Justin has placed Swallow's Nest on the market, with more than a little regret.
Era: 19th Century
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald Feeney West (096) 72 828
Viewing: By Appointment
4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms