“If you’d like to make the great escape to glorious south Kerry by the sea …” the video voiceover begins, calling out to all those people who have been dreaming about their summer holiday since they got home – and are considering a permanent move to a rural location.
Like to escape? Who is Aidan Murray, manager of the Sneem Digital Hub, kidding? "Let me be your concierge to this," he continues, moving aside to let the sparkling scenery steal the show.
So what is a Kerry concierge? It’s a free service, says Murray, for people who are thinking about moving to the village (population 288, according to Census 2016) on the shining Iveragh peninsula. It aims to help individuals and families who want something other than city life to make the transition.
Dressed for the video, says Murray with a laugh, in a jacket borrowed from a colleague who had worked as a concierge at the nearby Parknasilla Resort and Spa, he will do the legwork and the research, finding suitable homes to rent or to buy.
“Give me a buzz,” says Murray, “and I’ll take that workload off you”: checking out the schools, matching hobbies and interests to the available sports and leisure facilities, community activities, and so on.
“We’re trying to reverse rural depopulation,” says Murray. “People make assumptions based on their own surroundings,” thinking that what is the norm in their town will transfer with them. Sometimes that means they don’t realise that pupil-teacher ratios are much lower (it’s 1:13 in Sneem, he says) and that starting their child in a local school might not only benefit them, but also help to sustain that school.
With a focus on housing, a large part of Murray’s work will involve using his local knowledge to arrange viewings of “properties that are for sale but don’t appear on any websites”. As well as secret treasures, there are holiday homes empty for half the year, and there are a few commercial units in the town centre being done up, some with accommodation overhead.
Monthly rents in the village are about €600-€800, and buyers can expect to pay between €180,000 and €250,000 for houses ranging from three-bed semis near town to three- or four-bed detached houses on about an acre farther out. There are two housing developments scheduled for completion within six months, with expected selling prices of about €215,000; and of course higher-priced houses come to the market too.
The video shows people cycling, rowing, golfing, scouting walking and relaxing inside and outside cafes and pubs. It also gives a snapshot of the thriving GAA club made famous by six-time All-Ireland winner John Egan (whose son, also John Egan, plays soccer for Sheffield Utd and Ireland).
But it’s not all play and no work: the digital hub, a non-profit enterprise that opened in the former dance hall in April 2019, is currently being extended and will be able to facilitate from six to 26 people working in a connected space with breakout spaces, privacy booths and an enviable 1GB fibre broadband connection.
Some summer visitors who used the hub to work remotely said this was much better than their business headquarters in Dublin or Cork, Murray says. The facility allows 24-hour access, which suits those working across different time zones, and internet security is also being upgraded.
The hub is on a 15-year lease, for €1 a year, from Louis Moriarty, who also owns the Sneem Hotel and is sponsoring the concierge initiative by giving people who want a taste of the town – a kind of try-before-you buy – three nights' accommodation for the price of two, until the end of November. Rooms start at €110 per night, before the discount.
The hub is also offering a winter rate of €100 a month – "sure you'd spend that on heating your spare room"– and financial support comes from private donations as well as grants from Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development.
“Everything you want is here,” says Murray. “Just give me a shout.”
For information, email email@example.com. The Sneem Digital hub is part of the national hub network, connectedhubs.ie