Are these the best places in Ireland?

Mon, Apr 23, 2012, 01:00

The Irish Times is on the hunt for Ireland's nicest neck-of-the-woods and has invited members of the public to nominate their favourites. Here are three of the pitches so far

Trevor Gilligan: Clondalkin, Dublin 22

As someone born, reared, educated, living and working in Clondalkin, I am very proud of my home town. From the Round Tower to the Camac Valley and from the Royal Canal to Corkagh Park. Within Corkagh Park we have the only fishing lakes in Dublin. We have recently formed a Tidy Towns Committee and are meeting weekly. We will enter the Tidy Towns Competition this year also. The Clondalkin Sports and Leisure centre was built with an investment of €12 million and has a top-of-the-range swimming pool and facilities. I am a frequent user and it is a great amenity in the Clondalkin area. I also enjoy a quiet game of pitch and putt in the CPM club, which again, the Camac runs through.

In the village centre, we have lively local bars such as – The Wheel, Laurels, Quinlans and the Village Inn. Right on the Royal Canal, we have the Waterside Pub. If anyone fancies a pint “as Gaeilge”, there is the Áras Chrónáin as well as the Round Towers GAA club, which is embedded in the history of Clondalkin. The astroturf pitch on the Monastery Road opened in February and our main sand-based all-weather pitch opens in the summer.

The Clondalkin Chamber of Commerce plays an active role in the area. Every Christmas, the lights shine down Main Street, while the council organises a lighting of the tree right in the centre, where local choirs sing songs of joy. The Clondalkin Youth Band recently won the Best Marching Band in Ireland.

The people of Clondalkin take pride in their hometown. South Dublin County Council has worked with IDA to bring many global companies to our Digital Hub in Grange Castle: Pfizer, Takeda and Microsoft, to name a few. More foreign direct investment means more jobs. While many people know of Clondalkin, as it is just off the N7 en route to the city centre from Tipperary, Limerick or Cork, more people need to know about its heritage, history and beauty, and that is why for me, Clondalkin is the best place to live.

The X factor is that Clondalkin is both a rural and urban town. If Clondalkin wins, we will be delighted to bring The Irish Times out for a coffee in Liffey Valley Shopping Centre – also in Clondalkin.

Pamela Hardesty: Kinsale, Co Cork

KINSALE OCCUPIES an enviable position on the southern edge of our northern island. When I look out my windows I can track the sun from east to west over the day, reflected in the harbour. And if I look further, my sight travels over the open horizon, facing Spain. Psychologically, we are southern people, our imaginations flowing over that blue line towards heat and exotic spices. There is a constant clink of the harbour boats’ rigging, the flutter of foreign flags – whisperings of distant origins.

In his architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright championed the idea that humans need a balance of prospect and refuge. Surely this also applies to any living space we seek – that it provides just enough sense of freedom and potential to explore or escape, but also real security.

From Kinsale and its celebrated port we enjoy this freedom of the edge; we look out from our high views, always awake to adventure – and we are also only 15 minutes from an airport, and the wide world. But we also enjoy the refuge of a small but complex town, gathered comfortably on the hills around our deep harbour. I am only one of many grateful refugees from faraway lives and foreign parts who have found in Kinsale a welcoming anchorage and, gradually, a home rich in all the ways that Kinsale is famous.

Our many visitors attest to the allure of our setting, our heritage reflected in medieval buildings and our maze of narrow streets, and our culture of food, sport, and festivity. But we residents know that the true joy of Kinsale is calling it “home”. We bask in an intimate, stimulating, and active community of a variety of souls: chefs, farmers, poets, sailors, academics, shopkeepers, artists, surfers, monks, scientists – some at the forefront of their fields internationally. From this mix comes the positive vibe, the distinctive ingenuity of our town – always buzzing with initiatives and intriguing news. Kinsale is a vibrant and challenging home, perfectly balanced between the horizon’s pull and our convivial enclave.

All around us is a bonus and an inspiring resource: our cars turn naturally west toward favourite hidden beaches and cliff walks, road bowling, whale-spotting – and the unfolding magic of west Cork and our sister villages along the inlets. Cork city is only 30 minutes away for shopping, culture, education, or employment. Kinsale is poised between the wildness of the West and the cosmopolitan offerings of Cork, held in a creative and fruitful suspension, enriched by both influences.

For 23 years I have noticed the consistent happiness that greets me whenever I return from even the most wonderful holiday or exciting city – that coming home down the long descent into our town, turning out along the harbour, feels always a delight and a blessing. Kinsale’s quality is beyond compare, in Ireland or anywhere: it is unique, uplifting, a truly life-enhancing haven for any pilgrim at rest.

Andy Jones: Mullagh, Co Cavan

LOCATED AT the edge of Drumlin country, Mullagh village incorporates a few of the worst things about the Ireland of today, heavily outweighed by what makes it a great place to live.

Like everywhere in the country, much of the development that took place was unwise. However, this has not changed the fundamental atmosphere or ambience of the place. Indeed, the influx of new blood into the village in the past 10 years has created a vibrant and lively community.

Mullagh is a historic place. Birthplace of St Killian, who was martyred in Wurzburg in Germany in circa 689, it is a place of pilgrimage for many German visitors each summer. A state-of-the-art heritage centre which covers the saint’s adventures has pride of place in the area’s attractions.

Mullagh is a hidden gem. Overlooked by Mullagh hill, it has every facility required for a healthy outdoor life. A local benefactor donated the land on the hill to create a path to the summit , and the climb is made easier by the series of poems extolling the surrounding countryside fixed to the fencing.

From the picnic area on top, the vistas are stunning. Looking south and west, the beautiful Mullagh Lake is at your feet with the distant spires of Kells prominent. On a clear day, the thin blue line of the Dublin hills can be seen. Turning to look north, the curved drumlins stretch out, like a rumpled green blanket.

When I first came here on business more than 30 years ago, it was very much a backwater. Today, with the new M3 motorway only a stone’s throw away, it has arrived as a place to live and play in, even for those who work in the capital. Driving at less than the permitted 120km/ph, the trip through some of the nicest scenery in Ireland takes about 50 minutes. Then, when you are home, you have all the benefits of a traditional, rural, relaxed way of life.

Finally, the locals. A blend of canny Cavan humour, and a warm welcome for those who respect their way of life combines to produce great friends and good neighbours. My wife and myself are privileged to live here. Mullagh is home.


Do you live in the best place in Ireland?

The Irish Times is on the hunt for Ireland’s nicest neck-of-the-woods, and invites you to nominate your favourite. It can be a town, suburb, village or remote spot – anywhere that, despite all the problems our little nation is going through, you feel supremely lucky to have landed in. The reason could be the neighbours, social life, scenery, the facilities or none or all of these.

THE PRIZE

The winning “place” will be announced in early summer. The Irish Times will mark the accolade with a plaque for the locality, publish a story on the winning place, and make a short film about it for irishtimes.com.

THE JUDGES

The best place will be chosen by a panel of five judges: Maureen Gaffney, adjunct professor of Psychology and Society in UCD; architect Paul Keogh; statistician Gerard O’Neill from Amárach Research; Irish Times Environment Editor Frank McDonald; and Irish Times journalist Edel Morgan.

YOU

But the process starts with you. We want you to tell us in no more than 500 words why you think your area is the best place to live in Ireland. Pitch, argue, convince and gush, and explain what gives your neighbourhood the X factor.

There are also some questions about everything from the local schools to the quality of the environment. But don’t be put off if you live in an area that doesn’t fit all these criteria. Ultimately, the strength of your pitch will count.

See irishtimes.com/bestplacefor details on how to submit your entry.