Best Place to Live in Ireland 2021: A map of which counties are faring best

Monaghan inches ahead of Dublin. Roscommon and Longford have just one entry each

Glaslough, Co Monaghan, is  in the north of the county and home of luxury hotel Castle Leslie. File photograph: The Irish Times

Glaslough, Co Monaghan, is in the north of the county and home of luxury hotel Castle Leslie. File photograph: The Irish Times


The county with the greatest number of nominations in the Irish Times Best Place to Live in Ireland competition 2021 is now Co Monaghan, with 136 entries, slightly ahead of Dublin with 126.

Ninety-seven of the Monaghan nominations are for the village of Glaslough. Situated in the north of the county and home of the luxury hotel Castle Leslie, Glaslough has a population of 453 – so almost one quarter of its residents appear to have nominated their village.

In Dublin, the most nominated place is the suburb of Malahide, with 36 entries.

They are followed by Bray, Co Wicklow with 30 nominations and Killarney, Co Kerry with 22.

Other places with several nominations include: Carlingford Co Louth (nine); Dún Laoghaire (12), Blackrock (nine) and Skerries (seven) in Co Dublin; Clonakilty in Co Cork (seven); Tullamore, Co Offaly (seven); Clonbur (13) and Portumna (11) in Co Galway; Donegal’s Inishowen peninsula (six); Dungarvan (nine) and Tramore (seven) in Co Waterford; and Emyvale, Co Monaghan with 11 – hinting at a touch of rivalry with Glaslough.

Which counties are faring best?
Which counties are faring best?

The Irish Times launched its search for the Best Place to Live in Ireland 2021 in June, and invited people countrywide to nominate their favourites. The nominated places will be researched and put before a panel of judges, who will choose an eventual winner in September.

There have been 746 entries so far for the 32-county competition. Ten counties – Armagh, Carlow, Derry, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Longford, Meath, Roscommon, Tyrone and Westmeath – have fewer than five nominations. There has been just one each from Roscommon (for Lough Key) and Longford (for Lanesboro).

Rural locations feature far more heavily than urban ones. The nominations break down into 314 entries for towns, 314 for villages (a small number of which are urban/suburban), 48 for suburbs, 36 for cities, 28 for townlands, and five for islands.

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.

This year’s competition is supported by Randox Health. To enter, simply go to you will be invited to write a short “pitch” of 300 words or less for the place you think is the best in Ireland. All instructions are on the website.


What’s a “place”? You decide: 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 so watch this space. The closing date is July 25th.

The nominations

To give you a sense of what we are looking for, here are some of the nominations to date.

Bray, by Nikki McLaughlin

Bray, Co Wicklow, has 30 nominations for the best place to live. File photograph: Getty
Bray, Co Wicklow, has 30 nominations for the best place to live. File photograph: Getty

Bray People: Bray people are helpful, happy and have a hearty love of life. We believe in community and being just outside south Co Dublin our house prices are more affordable!
Bray environs: This includes mountains and the magnificent sea which gives it the most pretty of backdrops. Visitors come to view the beauty and leave envious. We have cliff walks, Bray Head hikes and the Bray Wheelers to lead the way! Historical, Kilruddery House and Gardens is a magnificent venue for all sorts of events.
Bray is adventurous: It provides all manner of activities from the wonderful Bray Wanders, Bray Emmets and Bray Lakers to the smaller more grass root soccer, martial arts, Irish dancing and boxing clubs. We have Shoreline Leisure Centre to promote our physical wellbeing and Bray Bowl for a bit of family fun.
Bray is vibrant: The variety and quality of bars, restaurants and coffee houses is amazing. Bray hosts a wonderful Bray Summer Festival of music, culture, food and of course the famous air show, all supported by local businesses.
Bray is easy: With the main street and now the new shopping centre, shopping in Bray is going to be a breeze. We have everything we need and the businesses are mostly local families carrying on local traditions. And with the M11 M50 and Dart on our doorstep, travelling outside of Bray is easy too. It’s easy to educate our children as we have both primary and post-primary schools through both the mediums of English and Irish.
Bray is nautical! We live with a blue flag beach and a Victorian promenade which is the envy of many and it attracts families from all over Ireland and abroad. And it’s free! We feel lucky.

Clonakilty, by Marcus Bateson

Living in Clonakilty ‘is a dream; with access to stunning sandy beaches’. File photograph: Getty
Living in Clonakilty ‘is a dream; with access to stunning sandy beaches’. File photograph: Getty

Clonakilty people: Clonakilty people are incredibly progressive and forward looking. The community champions inclusivity and diversity. From becoming Ireland’s first Autism friendly town to launching an initiative to combat the climate crisis and holding an annual LGBT Pride march, Clonakilty is a trailblazing town which may be seen as a blueprint for other towns globally to follow.
Clonakilty environs: Living there is a dream; with access to stunning sandy beaches, a great farmers market, a plethora of artisanal food companies and speciality coffee roasters, this is a town which is a colourful and beautiful gem that surely is the envy of the country.
Clonakilty pride: It is the strong community of Clonakilty that fosters a spirit of inclusivity and creativity which makes people of all backgrounds and identities feel welcome here. This is a town which fosters great pride in the local area and the local people, and the result is an ambitious and cohesive town which promises to nurture the artists, change makers and leaders of tomorrow.
Opportunity in Clonakilty: There is a wonderful sense of work-life balance here, with incredible working opportunities including in the internationally recognised technology park, in all of the local flourishing businesses, and from the new digital hub on Ashe Street. World-class employment opportunities are matched with easy access to gorgeous natural spaces – and Cork city is easily accessible with two regular bus services taking only an hour.