Dubbed the Sandy mount of the northside, but without the traffic problems of its fashionable neighbour, Clontarf is one of the highest growth areas for property values north of the Liffey. House prices have doubled in the last four years, according to estate agents in the area and the trend is likely to continue upwards.
The reason? Clontarf is one stop on the DART from the city centre, has a cosy village atmosphere and most roads lead down to the sea. Some of the best roads back on to St Anne's Park, with its award-winning rose garden. An unbeatable combination, judging by the large number of newcomers buying into the area in recent years.
The place is steeped in history. Clontarf's ancient name, Cluain Tarbh, means "meadow of the bulls", from the sound of the waves on the seafront which was likened to the bellowing of bulls. The legendary people of Parthalon are said to have lived here and Brian Boru pitched his tent during the Battle of Clontarf on high ground where St Lawrence Road stands today. Earlier, St Comgall of Bangor founded a church here in AD 550, on lands now occupied by the houses on Castle Avenue.
Clontarf was a fishing village and a popular seabathing resort for city people around the time when the Vernon family were the largest landowners in Clontarf. The Sheds, now a public house on the corner of Vernon Avenue, was used for drying and curing fish in the 17th century.
A walk along the seafront promenade reveals a wide mix of residents. Retired people out for a stroll, business executives from nearby East Point Business Park popping home for lunch and golfers crossing the bridge to the Royal Dublin course on Bull Island. The arrival of the business park, which has easy access to Clontarf via Alfie Byrne Road, has transformed the population profile in recent years.
The cost of living in such a desirable location is not cheap. First-time buyers will find little in their price range - one-bedroom apartments cost around £180,000 and most three-bedroom semis sell for over £200,000. A record price is expected when Lisney auctions a period house on two acres on Howth Road. The two-acre property is valued at around £3 million and is likely to be bought for development.
In Clontarf, what you are buying into is a vibrant community with more than its share of interesting residents. One house currently for sale through Sherry FitzGerald was until recently home to the largest telescope in Ireland. Astronomer Eamonn Ansboro, a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, discovered a new star (Nova Vulpecula) from his back garden observatory in October, 1976.
He also reported a moon quake to NASA and sighted a hydrogen envelope around the rings of Saturn, which was later confirmed by the Pioneer 10 satellite probe. The house, a four-bedroom bungalow on a quarter acre plot on Seafield Road East, has a guide price of £480,000.
Perhaps because of the presence of both the Central Remedial Clinic and the Wheelchair Association in the area, bungalows are in huge demand. Sherry FitzGerald has one on Howth Road, guiding £360,000 and Gunne Residential is selling 51A Kincora Road for £280,000. Clontarf is noticeably wheelchair-friendly and the new DART station has lift access to the platforms.
There are houses of every era from early Victorian times in Clontarf. Pockets of Victorian and Edwardian houses exist, especially on Howth Road, but being scarce they command premium prices. Jackson-Stops & McCabe sold a detached Victorian house on St Lawrence Road this year for £800,000.
Smaller period cottages which once belonged to the Vernon estate do come on the market and were ideal starter homes before prices began to rise. St Joseph's Square is a cul-de-sac of one and two-bedroom maisonettes off Vernon Avenue which once housed families. These are tiny and still affordable. Jackson-Stops & McCabe sold a 340 sq ft one-bedroom last year for £107,000.
Last month, Sherry FitzGerald achieved £495,000 for a very pretty redbrick period house on Victoria Road. Hamilton Osborne King sold a Victorian terraced house on Clontarf Road for £380,000. The same agent recently sold one of the tram cottages on Conquer Hill for £150,000.
A two-bedroom cottage beside St John's church, off Vernon Avenue, was also sold for £156,000. One of the seven former coastguard cottages on Bull Island, which was sold nine years ago for £80,000, fetched £334,000 last July in a Jackson-Stops & McCabe sale which attracted a great deal of interest.
A treasured nature reserve and home of the championship Royal Dublin Golf Club, Bull Island was the focus of a recent local residents' march. They were demanding that the Dublin Port Company makes a breach in the causeway road to prevent silting.
Residents are keenly protective of Clontarf's shoreline and keep a watchful eye on developments in the bay area. Chief among their concerns is the Dublin Port Company's plans to reclaim 50 acres of land on the eastern side of the existing coastal terminal going towards the Bull Wall Lighthouse - one kilometre from the sea wall at Clontarf.
House-building in Clontarf accelerated during the 1950s housing boom, so post-war three-bedroom and four-bedroom semi-detached houses predominate. Values have more than doubled in the past four years. A three-bedroom semi at Kincora Drive, which sold in 1995 for £125,000, fetched £300,000 this year. A mid-terrace house on Mount Prospect Park sold through Sherry FitzGerald four years ago for £95,000 was resold recently for £240,000 and a Haddon Road mid-terrace advertised at £170,000 in 1995 made £380,000 this year.
Gunne Residential sells many of these middle-range properties. A nice three-bedroom semi on Seapark Road is currently guiding £250,000 and a modern redbrick four-bedroom semi on Howth Road is asking £300,000. A pretty three-bedroom mid-terrace on Kincora Road is priced at £200,000.
The apartment market is strong in Clontarf and many older residents move into a complex for security reasons. Again, prices have risen. A two-bedroom apartment on Mount Prospect Avenue selling for £60,000 four or five years ago will fetch £160,000 today. A two-bedroom unit at Alverno, on the corner of Castle Avenue, sold last July for £180,000.
People are coming across from the southside to buy in Clontarf, according to local agent Brian Hennessey of Sherry FitzGerald, who forecasts a bright future for the suburb. "Clontarf has a seaside resort atmosphere, it's two miles from the city centre and has easy access to the airport and the M50 motorway. The houses are all good quality."