The Best Place to Live in Ireland
The Irish Times hunt for the Best Place to Live in Ireland is drawing a huge response on our website. Here, three people who have nominated their areas explain why
Bray, Co Wicklow
Submitted by Cara Augustenborg
STRANGER: “Where do you live?”
STRANGER: “I’m sorry.”
I have had this conversation hundreds of times and the response still surprises me. Bray is the best place I’ve ever lived!
Many people seem to think that Bray’s only value is its proximity to Dublin. We are indeed fortunate to enjoy small-town living while having an easy and scenic commute to all the capital has to offer. However, there is a lot more to living in Bray. Bray has its own cultural venues (Mermaid Arts Centre, Kilruddery House) and top-rated restaurants (The Beach House, Campo di Fiori), not to mention the Lonely Planet’s “best pub in the world” (the Harbour Bar). We enjoy a culture and nightlife made even more special when many of the staff at these venues greet us by name and treat us like family members.
Having lived in 12 cities across the world, I believe that what makes Bray such a great place is its perfect blend of a pedestrian-friendly urban environment, combined with the community’s appreciation for its coastal resources and heritage as a seaside resort.
My family and I regularly climb Bray Head, hike the famous Bray-to-Greystones cliff walk, and stroll along the Victorian seaside promenade. We enjoy sailing, fishing, sea kayaking and the Bray summer festival at the water’s edge.
I feel spoiled by the glorious scenery right on my doorstep and fortunate to live in such a warm and caring community. I’m grateful for the Bray residents who formed volunteer groups, such as Bray CoastCare Group, and work tirelessly to keep Bray looking nice.
Bray may not have been as blessed by the Celtic Tiger as its neighbours. Maybe that explains why people apologise to me when I tell them I live in Bray. But when the Dart rounds the bend at the end of the day and I see the cross on Bray Head welcoming me back, I think I’m the luckiest woman in the world to have found this perfect place to call home.
Achill, Co Mayo
Submitted by Tommy English
I HAVE BEEN lucky enough to have lived and grown up in one of the most beautiful areas in Ireland, some even say the world. But it is not just the well documented, world-class scenery that makes me proud to be from Achill Island, but something visitors do not see very readily on their whistle-stop weekend breaks or summer vacations. That something is our sense of community, our sense of togetherness and of charity for one another.
Many commentators say that the rugged wildness of Achill really does filter down to its people. The Achill people are a hardy race – years of the wild Atlantic bashing against our shores may have chipped away somewhat at our cliffs and headlands, but they still stand proud and tall as ever. This can be said about the people of this great community. Achill has suffered through many years of hardship from famine, oppression and emigration but its residents still hold on to that one thing that binds them together no matter where they find themselves – that one thing is their pride of place, pride of their home across the water.
It really is difficult for me to imagine growing up anywhere else but Achill. We had the freedom to roam free to the beaches, the hills, the bogs, breathing in the fresh Atlantic air, our parents nearly as carefree and easygoing as ourselves – they knew nothing would go wrong, not in Achill, maybe apart from the minor graze, but that was all part and parcel of growing up on this immaculate island.
People would say you were some sort of immortal if you didn’t come home injured from one of your adventures. This freedom and landscape moulded unique traditions and a culture that really exudes what it is to be Irish.
Our island has inspired some of the best artistic minds of the last century including Paul Henry, Henrich Böll and Camille Souter, who is currently living on the island. On St Patrick’s Day you can hear the haunting swirl of the sound of the bagpipes through the Atlantic breeze from our famous pipe bands, no floats here or cheap imitations but pure, untouched Irishness, a tradition spanning back 130 years. Our language is a major part of who we are and inspires many songs and stories about ourselves and our community. It is an eclectic mix of Ulster and Connacht Gaeilge, unique to anywhere in Ireland due to our history of emigration to work in Scotland, picking spuds to send a few pounds home.
I couldn’t be more proud of an island and a community that have fostered and nurtured me as well, as so many others. Some of the finest people I have known come from this unique place.
Our sense of culture, history, community, belonging and pride, mixed with our beautiful, rugged scenery carved by the wild Atlantic, really do make Achill Island the best place to live in Ireland.
Tassagh, Co Armagh
Submitted by Ursula Conroy
ALONG ONE OF Ireland’s great ancient roads lies a hamlet called Tassagh. Few will have even heard of it, except those from the county, who come for nothing but to walk its leafy lanes and a few bullet men from Cork who come every Easter to throw road bowls along the same country roads.
Lying in the heart of a valley carved by the flowing Callen River, Tassagh is comprised of just a pub, a church and post office, but its inhabitants know it’s the close-knit community that makes Tassagh such a big place. Neighbours do not have to even ask for a favour – it’s already done.
Perhaps the idea of everyone knowing everything about everyone does not sit well with some people, but I think the fact that anybody cares is a charming trait in itself. The silver lining of any sadness or tragedy is the sense of belonging it can bring to someone’s door, when phones are ringing offering hands, or ticket sellers and events are whipped up in order to give to those in need. No one is left without.
Joy is taken too, no more so than in Basil Sheils bar, not so much a drinking hole, but a meeting place, where the craic is adored and slagging is seen as an art, a place where everyone feels welcome regardless of religion, creed or nationality – unusual in itself in a province so split down the middle.
It is an area steeped in history, overlooked on one side by Slieve Fuait, where legend says St Patrick wanted to build the cathedral that now stands over Armagh city, the other side overlooked by a sprawling viaduct, a monument to the bygone days of industry when Tassagh was dotted with linen mills and flax holes.
While sessions around the fire get you through the long winter nights, when the clocks go forward, Tassagh really comes into itself. From when the mist skims the valley at dawn, to the silence at twilight when the sweet stench of honeysuckle fills the air, the locals are about enjoying the area’s understated beauty. Roads are filled with cyclists and runners, horses and carts and road-bowlers, walkers and gardeners, never without the dying art of a hand up at every stranger passing.
But it’s not just the beauty and the locals that make Tassagh a great place to live: the local school is all-ability and second-to-none. Everyone from the local primary schools go straight into first year – a rarity in Northern Ireland, where most children are segregated at age 11, according to academic ability. And for the grown-ups? The cobbled streets of Armagh city and its local boutiques, cinema and theatre are only six miles away, while Belfast is an hour’s drive and Dublin, two. You’re never far away from anything or anyone.
The Irish Times is on the hunt for Ireland’s nicest town, suburb, city, village or other area. The place the judges deem most livable will be announced in early summer.
The Irish Times will reward the winning neighbourhood with a plaque, a feature in the paper and a film on our website.
How to enter
Go to the website at irishtimes.com/bestplaceand tell us in no more than 500 words why you think your place is the best in Ireland.