Offaly pretty Georgian house on the waterfront for €450,000
Seven-bed house in Shannon Harbour village for sale for first time in 200 years
Harbour Master House, Shannon Harbour, Co Offaly: down by the old canal
Harbour Master House house in the village of Shannon Harbour, Co Offaly, is a rare find – a house that has never been on the open market since it was built more than 200 years ago.
The waterfront property, an impressive Georgian two-storey-over-basement house just a stone’s throw from the Grand Canal, and three miles from Banagher, is run as a B&B by owner Gráinne Kirwan, who grew up in the house and inherited it from her father,the last harbour master of Shannon Harbour.
Built in 1806 on the plans of a substantial townhouse, Harbour Master House stands proud on the boat-lined waterfront of a tiny village that has one pub, and few full-time residents.
“There are 35 people, 35 dogs and about 90 cats,”says Kirwan of the quiet backwater town, which also contains the ruins of the Grand Canal Hotel, also built in the early 1800s to cater for traffic on the Grand Canal when horse-drawn barges brought goods from Dublin into the west.
The seven-bedroom B&B is being sold as a going concern and Kirwan,who wants to retire, is hoping that the new owner will continue to run it as a guest house.
“Shannon Harbour needs a B&B,” she says. “There’s very good business here, particularly from April to October.” Sailors and anglers are among the regular customers that she has built up over 17 years in business. There is good pike and trout fishing in the area, with the Grand Canal and the River Brosna both joining the Shannon within 500 metres of the house.
There has also been a big increase in the number of cyclists and walkers visiting the area which, though quiet and out of the way, is within striking distance of Clonmacnoise and Birr Castle demesne.
The Grand Canal Way, she says, has brought lots of walkers from Dublin, who typically take five days to arrive from the capital to Shannon Harbour on foot and the planned cycle way from Dublin to Galway would bring even more business to the neighbourhood.
Located 12 miles from Birr and three miles from the village of Cloghan, Kirwan describes the village as “idyllic”. “Every day the canal will give you a different view, day and night.”
Photographs of the property on the B&B’s bookings page show the house bathed in summer sunshine and iced with snow, but always looking elegant. The house can take up to 12 guests comfortably, says Kirwan who converted the basement into a cosy sittingroom and diningroom.
When she was growing up, an only child in the house, she remembers that the basement was her father’s domain, a large workshop where he made oars. Eugene Byrne, had come from Dublin in the 1940s to manage the canal traffic and take up residence in the house. Some 20 years later, when the canal company was winding down, it offered Byrne the opportunity to buy the house.
Kirwan, who worked for many years on the village’s Tidy Towns committee – has kept the house in pristine order, and also restored the big walled garden to the rear. “It had to be low maintenance,” she said, given the level of work involved in running the house. She and her husband also run a dairy farm nearby. A friend, who happens to be the head gardener at Birr Castle helped them, she said, designing a lawned garden with shrubs and trees rather than an abundance flowers.
Most of Kirwan’s business comes from repeat customers. It took her a while, she admits, to realising what it takes to run a good guest house. “You learn a lot,” she says. “You realise that most people who come will have saved up for a long time to make it here, and they have chosen to come to your house, so you have to be nice. Everything flows better if you can see things from their point of view.”
Harbour Master House is for sale through Donal Boyd Auctioneers at €450,000