Priced out of Skerries? Nearby Balbriggan has a lot to offer

Harbourside town has good quality housing, but its main street needs new businesses

Balbriggan’s origins came from its harbour, with the town growing out from around the industry that fed off the sea. The Hamilton family’s construction of the harbour itself in 1763, and the inner dock in 1829, were the critical moments in that development and opened the town up to further trades. By 1837 the town had grown to a population of more than 3,000, with two factories producing cotton being the main employers.

The Sack of Balbriggan in 1920 by the Black and Tans, in which 49 houses, a factory and four public houses were destroyed, was perhaps the most infamous incident in the town’s history during the War of Independence. While the Balbriggan Long Johns, made famous in John Wayne films, were created in Balbriggan and manufactured by the Smyth and Co mill. Queen Victoria was a frequent purchaser of the garment.

During the Celtic Tiger the town was the subject of investment, both in terms of new-build homes at the north end of the town and a refurbishment of Georges Square at the southern end, which drew in buyers who were priced out of towns such as Skerries as the population swelled to the 20,000-plus it is today. The current upturn has led to the same trend occurring with buyers who are finding Skerries or Swords prohibitive in price looking towards Balbriggan.

"We're selling our house in Swords and looking to buy in Balbriggan," says house-hunter James Wadsworth, a pastor of Balbriggan Baptist Church and father to a young family. "In Balbriggan, we'll be able to afford to jump onto the next step on the property ladder, which makes sense as we're looking to increase in size by one bedroom. We can do that for a slightly higher price than what we're going to get for selling our property in Swords."

What housing is available?

The variety of housing stock, and the competitive prices relative to other areas of north Dublin, are major draws to Balbriggan. The southeast of the town offers the most sought-after property, especially around Hampton Cove, where a number of period homes are located.

To the northern end of the town there is a wide selection of newer built three- and four-bed homes and also apartments, with a two-bed in Brackenwood estate selling towards the end of last year for just under €180,000.

The entry point to the market is a one-bed apartment for circa €100,000, with a two-bed apartment in Trimleston starting at €165,000. A two-bed terraced house at Hampton Court goes for about €180,000. Around the €200,000 mark, one can purchase a three-bed, three-bath semi-detached home at Bremore Castle. Up at €250,000 one can buy a detached home, with three bedrooms in Chieftain's Close. For €400,000, a four-bed, three-bath, over 122sqm, can be bought on Moylaragh Road. And at the top end of the market there are period homes, on their own land, priced in excess of the €1 million mark.

Any new developments coming on the market?

Glenveagh Taylor Hill, being sold by Knight Frank, brings a selection of 135 new homes to the market, with two-, three- and four-bed homes available. The project, launched on Saturday, February 24th with 20 units, will cater for "the continuing demand for new homes, and especially a shortage of quality four-bed homes in Balbriggan", according to Mary Halligan, director of O'Connor Property Consultants. Again, the price points are good, with starting points of €245,000, €270,000 and €335,000 for the three sizes.

Castleland Park is also being developed and will consist of three-bed, semi-detached and terraced homes being developed by Joseph Wade Developments, with prices ranging from €215,000 to €235,000.

Getting there

Balbriggan is well connected to the city centre via regular bus and train routes, and the M1 is a short distance from the town, meaning commuters can reach Dublin city in 45 minutes off-peak, as well as the shorter commute to Swords, Dublin Airport and, to the north, Drogheda. The M50 turnoff at Coolock/Santry opens up access to the business parks along the ring road.

Open space

The Balbriggan coastline is stunning with three beaches close to the harbour that are all interconnected and are a wonderful recreational resource for the town. Ardgillan Castle and Demesne and its dog-friendly coffee shop are also a short drive from the town, offering walks around the grounds and various gardens. The views from the castle are quite spectacular and overlook the Balbriggan coastline and also south to Dublin city.

Sport is also exceptionally well served by the town, with Balbriggan Golf Club, Balbriggan Cricket Club and Balbriggan Rugby Club all located at the south end of the town. There is also a tennis club in the town and four soccer clubs: Glebe North, Balbriggan FC, Hyde Park and Ringcommon Wanderers. GAA is served by O’Dwyers, completing a near-perfect selection of sporting offering for the town.

A multicultural town

Balbriggan is one of the most ethnically diverse towns in Dublin (in 2011 the CSO reported that 31 per cent of the town was non-ethnic Irish), with buyers and renters from across a range of Irish, Eastern European (notably Polish, Latvian and Lithuanian), African, South Asian and also a growing Syrian population. Many of these are now new-Irish citizens and have been based in the town since the influx of foreign nationals during the Celtic Tiger period. Some media reports towards the tail-end of 2017 indicated there was some social unrest in the town; however, our research shows the town’s various populations are extremely well integrated, with a diverse and growing community.

Eating and shopping

The main street of Balbriggan, comprising Dublin Street, Bridge Street and Drogheda Street, was and still is the commercial centre of the town, with a number of prominent businesses operating along its thoroughfare. The Bracken Court Hotel is located at Georges Square and is a notable sight on entering the town from the south, with Balbriggan Community College located further along the road to the north. The three best eateries in the town are all located in this vicinity. The Brick Room, on Railway Street, offers tapas dishes and crepes as well as Irish and European food, dished up by a Brazilian chef. The Twisted Olive is at the south end of the street and opens for lunch and dinner with a European-influenced menu. Libero Pizza and Pasta is regarded as the best evening dining option.

The town also offers two shopping centres, the larger being the Millfield Shopping Centre, located west of the town centre, which includes a Tesco, O'Brien's Sandwich Bar and Costa Coffee, as well as a bookshop and art gallery. The Castlemill Shopping Complex at the north of the town has Dunnes as its main draw, and a number of smaller businesses that cater for the population in Chieftain's Way and the surrounding estates.

One drawback of Balbriggan at present is the number of empty commercial premises in and around the main street. A number of businesses closed during the recession and since the upturn in the economy a large number of these buildings have remained empty and, as a result, the main street lacks the buzz of Swords or Skerries. Locals blame the cost of renting units in the town for driving off potential businesses from opening and it is here that both the problem and the opportunity lies for the town. Lower rents would encourage uptake on those vacant lots and potentially open up the town to new trade, with restaurants and coffee shops catering to the cuisines of the new-Irish population of Balbriggan potentially being a huge draw.

Balbriggan is already attractive for those looking to access the property ladder, but a revitalised town centre, through the assistance of Fingal County Council, would improve the outlook of the town, increasing its appeal, both for residents, potential future residents and also those visiting north Dublin's tourist trail.

For sale

Two-, three and four-bed semi-detached homes at Taylor’s Hill. Ranging in price from €245,000 to €360,000. Agent: Knight Frank.

Four-bed, three-bath, semi-detached home at 37 Moylaragh Road, for €300,000. Agent: O’Connor Property Consultants.

Four-bed, three-bath, detached home at 4 Dublin Road, for €450,000. Agent: O’Connor Property Consultants.

For rent

Two-bed, two-bath, terraced house at 36 Barons Hall Park, for €1,450 per month. Agent: Horan Estates.

Three-bed, three-bath, detached home at Hamlet Avenue, for €1,800 per month. Agent: Keane Thompson.