Best Place to Live in Ireland 2021: A map of how the counties are faring

There are notable patterns in the 1,500+ nominations so far

Killarney has so far received 23 nominations in the Irish Times Best Place to Live in Ireland 2021 competition

Killarney has so far received 23 nominations in the Irish Times Best Place to Live in Ireland 2021 competition


Nominations are now closed for Best Place to Live in Ireland 2021. There have been more nominations from Co Dublin than any other county in Ireland for the Irish Times Best Place to Live in Ireland competition 2021. Of the 1,538 total entries, 423 are for locations in Dublin.

But it would be simplistic to conclude that people prefer living in the capital. An analysis of the entries so far show that rural locations dominate to a huge extent. The breakdown of entries suggests a far stronger sense of place is found in towns and villages than in urban locations.

Almost half of the entries (743) are for villages, including some urban villages; 548 are for towns; 125 are for cities such as Waterford, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Derry; just 88 are for suburbs. There are 42 townlands and five islands among the entries. Even within Co Dublin, more than half the entries are for the “village” of Malahide.

How the counties compare
How the counties compare

With its wealth of positive attributes, not to mention large population, Malahide leads entries with 269. No rural location has received more nominations than Glaslough, Co Monaghan, which has been nominated 207 times.

Other places with significant numbers of entries include: Greystones, Co Wicklow, 27; Adare, Co Limerick, 34; Bray, Co Wicklow, 40; Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, 23; Derry city, 63; Killarney, 23; Waterford city, 26; Tramore, 14; Carlingford 10; Clonbur, Co Galway, 14; and Portumna, Co Galway, 16.

Entries closed on July 25th at midnight. The winner will be announced in late September. While some places have received a large number of entries, this emphatically is not a numbers game. When the nominations are put before our judges, the quality of the entry and, more importantly, the quality of the place will be the crucial factors in deciding the winner.

So it is all still to play for. This year’s competition is supported by Randox Health.

The Irish Times ran the original Best Place to Live contest in 2012, when Westport, Co Mayo, was selected as the overall winner. It won for its beautiful natural and built environment, sustainable transport and employment opportunities, but most noteworthy was its indomitable community spirit – exemplified in the town’s 90-plus voluntary organisations.


What’s a “place”? It could be a town, village, city, suburb, island or other distinct community – such as a peninsula, valley, townland or even a county.

Each place will be judged on criteria including: natural amenities; buildings; community initiatives and spirit; presence of clubs, societies and activities; good local services; diversity; a welcome for outsiders; transport links; employment opportunities; local economy; the price of property and housing supply; cost of living; digital links for distance working; safety and security... and the X factor.

The judges

Judges are chosen for their expertise in a variety of disciplines. The 2021 panel, chaired by Irish Times journalist Conor Goodman, is:

Simon Wall Now Mayo county architect, he was a key person behind Westport’s success in 2012.

Dr Illona Duffy Based in Monaghan, she is a general practitioner and public health commentator.

Rosita Boland An Irish Times journalist, she is also the author of A Secret Map of Ireland.

Zainab Boladale Her job as presenter of RTÉ’s Nationwide programme has taken her far and wide around Ireland.

The winner

Every stage of the contest is documented in detail throughout the competition in The Irish Times and on The winner will be announced in September so watch this space.

A sample nomination

To give you a sense of what we are looking for, here is one of the nominations we received, written by Sandra Dunlea about Killarney, Co Kerry:

Killarney is a unique place to live. We have a wide range of beautiful schools, job opportunities and access to very good transport links, train, airport and great primary roads for bus and car. We live in the midst of 26,000 acres of protected national parkland that is a recognised as a world Unesco biosphere.

We have lakes, rivers, mountains and the only ancient woodland left in Ireland. Our lakes are surrounded by beautiful sandy bays which locals access for swimming throughout the year, and there are a wide range of water and recreational parkland activities that are part of our daily lives.

There is so much public space that there have been no issues accessing beautiful outdoor activity throughout the Covid-19 period. Most of the older people had access throughout this period to safe walking areas free from people, and all locals operated a walking code to give space to other people in the park.

There are a large number of beautiful restaurants and cafes who have all adapted and provided amazing takeout options during the past year, and we are so happy to see people adapting to outdoor dining. Lots of locals have worked together to support each other to ensure local business survive.

We have a large number of luxury and family hotels in Killarney, part of our unique town culture, and access to luxury dining, afternoon tea, leisure and spa facilities throughout the year.

We have a beautiful art school, a variety of dance and stage schools, GAA, soccer, martial arts, gymnastics, rowing, canoeing and various other water sports. We have a lovely town which has visitors through the year. We get to meet diverse and interesting people.

As locals we get to enjoy live music, plays and comedy from world-famous acts and it always feels like a lively and energised place to live. We have a huge number of volunteers who dedicate their time to keeping our town and park clean and beautiful.

Killarney is a vibrant, multicultural, modern town whose people have come together to support each other in difficult times. We have a community hospital which provides rehab, we have a Cheshire independent living service, intellectual difficulty services, and Killarney continues to promote and improve inclusivity throughout the town and services.

We feel very lucky to be here in Killarney and proud of the people who make Killarney culture as special as its beautiful natural scenery.