Last chance for your best place pitches
The closing date to enter our Best Place to Live in Ireland competition is May 31st, so this is your last chance to nominate your locality as the best in the country. Here are four more pitches before we pick a winner
Moate, Co Westmeath - Vera Hughes
There was a time when one sped with unholy haste through the sleepy, little towns on the Dublin-Galway road and considered the Irish midlands to be dull, flat, and uninteresting. But in the mid-1950s fate and romance decided my future husband (a Dubliner) and life would be in Moate. Fifty-six years on, I can say in all sincerity “Ich bin ein midlander”.
So what makes this midlands town the best place in Ireland to live in, for me a westerner, when it lacks the wild grandeur and drama of mountain and sea? Its gently undulating landscape is spectacular – the mighty Shannon, with its many picturesque wooded islands linking north and south, is a shining ribbon of solidarity. Its people are warm, genuine and excellent neighbours, once you get to know them.
Its story is fascinating. Its Gaelic name “Mota Gráinne Óige” reflects its native Irish and Norman origins – Moate from the Norman-French “motte” or moat (which is at the back of Main Street) and Gráinne the Munster princess who wed a local chieftain and cleric – they were enlightened times in the 16th century. Gráinne was a feisty colleen who, tradition has it, dispensed justice from the summit of the motte.
Today’s Gráinne, resplendent in silver raiment, rode in a chariot, flanked by her medieval henchmen in the Easter parade, past clusters of daffodils and tulips trumpeting their glory in the sunshine.
After the Normans came the Quakers, a sober, God-fearing, frugal-living sect who made Moate an industrial town that gave much local employment for almost two centuries, until English tariffs and the nefarious Act of Union killed the industries, and Moate reverted to a market town. While today not a single Quaker remains, their legacy does. I live in a large, solid, unpretentious 1790s Quaker house – with bell-pulls to summon the servants – and the name Cartronkeel contains the Norman “cartron” or 60-acre measurement, together with “keel”, the Anglicised form of “caol”, meaning narrow.
There is so much to explore farther afield – the remains of castles, abbeys, monasteries, holy wells, cairns, battlefields, St Ciarán’s Cathedral in Clonmacnoise, Newgrange, which was built before the pyramids, the sacred hill of Uisneach, umbilicus of Ireland, and Tara of the high kings, and then there’s Goldsmith country too.
Today’s Westmeath and its environs marries past and present sympathetically, and with restrained, good-mannered dignity in its hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, golf clubs and sports arenas, without the honky tonk and exuberant vulgarity often unhappily obtained in some seaside resorts.
Here, there is a genuine Westmeath welcome, an honesty and naturalness towards the stranger. Ken Wardrops’s much-acclaimed film His and Hers featured 90 women from the midlands, women who were at ease and happy in themselves and in their lives.
Now long a midlander by adoption, I too am happy in myself, not hell-bent on having to live in top gear, but delighted to live in this leisurely, magical corner of the hidden Ireland of music, drama, song, dance, art, literature, history, friendship and good neighbourliness – everything that makes life worthwhile.
Killarney, Co Kerry
The town of Killarney has a feel of true community spirit, with the good of our local community being the responsibility of all who live here. The testament to this spirit was our national award in the tidy towns and numerous Entente Floral awards. - Mark Murphy
In my 12 years living in Ireland, 11 of the years have been in Killarney. Hailing from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and having lived in Dublin for a year, Killarney was very different. Although it is smaller and quieter, the natural beauty of the place is overwhelming. Another great thing here is the schools. St Oliver’s national school has 27 different nationalities. Not only that, we also have an inclusive school policy, which makes it a great place for educating kids. With the parks, gardens and playground, it’s a great place to bring up children. For me, initially, Killarney seemed too small a town to live in; now I can’t imagine living anywhere else. - Veena Krishnankveena