Best Place to Live in Ireland 2021: Final five locations revealed

The judges have chosen their shortlist in The Irish Times Best Place to Live in Ireland contest

Waterford at sunset: The winner will be announced on September 25th. Photograph: Getty

Waterford at sunset: The winner will be announced on September 25th. Photograph: Getty

 

The judges have chosen their shortlist of five in The Irish Times Best Place to Live in Ireland 2021 competition, which is supported by Randox Health.

The five places are: Clonakilty, Co Cork; Galway city; Glaslough, Co Monaghan; Killarney, Co Kerry; and Waterford city.

Over the course of the summer, more than 2,400 members of the public nominated 470 locations in every county in Ireland. While the number of nominations was a factor in our original selection, the judges have now visited all locations to determine for themselves the quality of each one.

Each place was 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; the price of property and housing supply; cost of living; digital links for distance working; safety and security.

Property prices are just one of several measures our judges are applying in choosing the Best Place to Live, but in the midst of a housing crisis they are an important consideration. We visited villages where houses are quite cheap, and city suburbs where property is out of most people’s reach. Included in this article is an affordability analysis for each place, comparing local prices with the regionalised “affordable” housing caps listed in the Government’s Housing For All plan.

The longlist of 20 was announced on September 4th. Every stage of the contest is documented here. The winner will be announced on September 25th.

Here’s what we said about each one.

Clonakilty, Co Cork

Population: 4,592
Nominated by: Marcus Bateson
Total nominations: 9

Clonakilty, Co Cork is described as a trailblazing town which may be seen as a blueprint for other towns globally to follow. Photograph: Getty Images
Clonakilty, Co Cork is described as a trailblazing town which may be seen as a blueprint for other towns globally to follow. Photograph: Getty Images


What the pitch says: “Clonakilty is an incredibly progressive and forward-looking community which champions inclusivity and diversity, a trailblazing town which may be seen as a blueprint for other towns globally to follow. 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, but 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.”

What The Irish Times says: “There are 12 beaches within 12 miles, but community interaction is Clonakilty’s strong point. It was the country’s first “fair-trade” town and first “autism-friendly” town. The chamber of commerce was recently awarded “cool community” status for its efforts at carbon reduction. It has both a local and a commuter economy, and housing supply is improving.”

Affordability Analysis
Government definition of an “affordable home” in Co Cork: Under €350,000.
Average of the last 50 sales in Clonakilty: €290,000.
Average asking price of homes for sale on myhome.ie: €361,000.
Number of homes for sale on myhome.ie: 39 (nine are sites).
Affordability: Average asking price is marginally above the average price for Co Cork. The average of actual recent sales is below. Sixteen of the properties for sale are seeking less than €350,000; seven are less than €200,000. Be prepared to look in the hinterland as well as in the town.

Galway city

Population: 79,934
Nominated by: Henrietta Broderick
Total nominations: 9

Galway is described as a city peppered with cultural assets with a vibrant arts scene. Photograph: Getty
Galway is described as a city peppered with cultural assets with a vibrant arts scene. Photograph: Getty


What the pitch says: “Its higgledy-piggledy skyline, narrow winding streets, grey-stoned buildings and proximity to the ocean make for a wonderful place to live. It’s rural, yet cosmopolitan. Everything is within walking distance. It’s a culinary hotspot. It’s colourful, bohemian and laid-back. Galwegians are welcoming to old and young alike. It is a jewel in the crown of Ireland.”

What The Irish Times says: “Galway’s core is commercially vibrant, with high occupancy levels and well-used public realm spaces, such as Shop Street and its surrounds. The city is peppered with cultural assets and has a vibrant arts scene. It has expanded significantly over past decades, with a strong multinational employment base. Galway is a culturally diverse city, and is a very desirable place to live.”

Affordability Analysis
Government definition of an “affordable home” in Galway city: Under €400,000.
Average price in Galway city: €325,000 (according to Daft.ie housing report 2021).
Average asking price of homes for sale on myhome.ie: €365,000.
Number of homes for sale on myhome.ie: 204.
Affordability: The average current asking price is below the Government definition of €400,000 for an “affordable” home in the city. There are 167 homes for sale at or below the affordable level for the area, and 46 of these are seeking €200,000 or less. As the Government affordability cap suggests, prices are high in Galway, though many sales fall below this level.

Glaslough, Co Monaghan

Population: 453
Nominated by: Ann McGhee
Total nominations: 246

Gorgeous, litter-free and festooned with flowers, Glaslough has a symbiotic relationship with Castle Leslie. Photograph: Joe Dunne/Getty
Gorgeous, litter-free and festooned with flowers, Glaslough has a symbiotic relationship with Castle Leslie. Photograph: Joe Dunne/Getty


What the pitch says: “Glaslough has everything needed for a happy life. A friendly, welcoming community with beautiful architecture, Glaslough has 13 community organisations and two great primary schools. There are plenty of lovely walking trails, gardens, and things to see and do. As the current winners of the national Tidy Towns competition, it is clear to see why we are the best place to live in Ireland.”

What The Irish Times says: “Gorgeous, litter-free and festooned with flowers, the village has a symbiotic relationship with Castle Leslie, but also an exceptionally active and proactive community, which is something they have created themselves. The well-maintained public seating – apparently pre-pandemic – encourages chat and a way to be social. It is very attractive, with some beautiful buildings and lots of charm and atmosphere.”

Affordability Analysis
Government definition of an “affordable home” in Co Monaghan: Under €225,000.
Average of the last 50 sales in Glaslough, Co Monaghan: €139,000, stretching back to 2017.
Affordability: Excellent, but only five sales in the past year and very little available currently. If you see one, nab it.

Killarney, Co Kerry

Population: 14,504
Nominated by: Sandra Dunlea
Total nominations: 31

Killarney, Co Kerry is described as an unique place to live. Photograph: Getty
Killarney, Co Kerry is described as an unique place to live. Photograph: Getty


What the pitch says: “Killarney is a unique place to live, we have a wide range of 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, have a beautiful art school, a variety of dance and stage schools, GAA, soccer and water sports. We have a lovely town which has visitors through the year. We have a huge number of volunteers who dedicate their time to keeping our town and park clean and beautiful.”

What The Irish Times says: “In a stunning location, Killarney is a lively, bustling town, full of cafes, restaurants and bars. And because it is accustomed to visitors, it is part of the culture to be extra helpful to strangers. Everyone speaks to each other on the street. All the amenities, both natural and man-made, are impressive. It’s easy to see why people are proud of the area.”

Affordability Analysis
Government definition of an “affordable home” in Co Kerry: Under €250,000.
Average of the last 50 sales in Killarney: €266,000.
Average asking price of homes for sale on myhome.ie: €417,000.
Number of homes for sale on myhome.ie: 33 (nine are sites).
Affordability: Average asking price of existing dwellings is well above the average price for Co Kerry, but the average of actual recent sales is just slightly above. Seven of the 33 available properties are seeking less than €250,000; five are less than €200,000. So there are some houses for those on modest budgets, but the average is driven up by some high-spec, high-priced homes. Overall, affordability seems a victim of Killarney’s success in other areas.

Waterford city

Population: 53,504
Nominated by: Micheál O Foghlu
Total nominations: 47

Waterford boasts a rich history, walkability, liveability and an ease of access to outdoor amenities. Photograph: Getty
Waterford boasts a rich history, walkability, liveability and an ease of access to outdoor amenities. Photograph: Getty

What the pitch says: “Waterford city hits the sweet spot for size: not too small, not too big. Most amenities, from shopping to cliff walks, are within 15 minutes of the city. Tramore and Dunmore East are hubs for surfing, sailing and all things in between, and the Waterford Greenway has opened up the region. There’s a booming IT and pharma sector, and the local housing market provides many reasonable options for all types of housing.”

What The Irish Times says: “Nobody here was surprised to hear Waterford was being considered as one of the best places to live in Ireland. It isn’t perfect, and suffers from the same problems as other cities, though perhaps on a smaller scale. But what it lacks in those attributes, it makes up for with its rich history, walkability, liveability and the ease of access to outdoor amenities.”

Affordability Analysis
Government definition of an “affordable home” in Waterford city: Under €250,000.
Average house price in Waterford city: €202,150 (according to Daft.ie housing report 2021).
Average asking price of homes for sale on myhome.ie: €295,000.
Number of homes for sale on myhome.ie: 76.
Affordability: The average current asking price is above the Government definition of an affordable home in the city. Nevertheless, there are 51 houses at or below the affordable level of €250,000, and 44 of these are €200,000 or less. Affordability and variety of supply are good in Waterford city.

The judges
This summer, the Irish Times Best Place to Live in Ireland judges and researchers have been scouring Ireland for its hidden gems and known paradises. Judges were 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.

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