The 20 best places to live in Ireland: What they are like and what they cost

The judges announce the longlist in the Irish Times Best Place to Live in Ireland 2021 contest

The judges have chosen their 20-strong longlist in the Irish Times Best Place to Live in Ireland 2021 competition, which is supported by Randox Health.

Over the course of the summer, more than 2,400 members of the public nominated 470 locations in every county in Ireland. While number of nominations was a factor in our selection of the 20 locations below, the quality of the place itself was the chief consideration.

Each place on this list 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.

Every stage of the contest is documented here. The winner will be announced in late September.

Derry city

Population 110,734
Average house price £125,000 (€146,000)
Nominated by Greg Johnston
Total nominations 93
What the pitch says "This city has risen from the ashes of the Troubles to be a jewel in the north west. With little investment from government, local enterprise has driven a culture of cafe, pub, nightlife, tourism and hotels, establishing a unique festival calendar which has become the envy of the island. Derry/Londonderry has a ways to go, but she will get there."
What The Irish Times says "Derry offers a good quality of life and the 'best of both worlds' in there is access to the amenities and opportunities provided by a city but also beaches and countryside nearby. The people are often cited as one of the best things about the city. They are extremely proud of their city and loyal to it, but also friendly and welcoming to outsiders."

Galway city

Population 79,934
Average house price €325,000
Nominated by Henrietta Broderick
Total nominations 9
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."

Waterford city

Population 53,504
Average house price €202,150
Nominated by Micheal O Foghlu
Total nominations 47
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."

Cabra, Dublin 7

Population 22,740
Average house price €355,995
Nominated by Kath King
Total nominations 2
What the pitch says "I had a list of things I wanted in a home: a back garden, a driveway, close to the city, public transport, supermarkets, a good bakery, hospitals, schools and GAA. Cabra is within 2km of the Phoenix Park, and Grangegorman lies on its edge. There is a sense of community; people smile and wave when you walk down the road. Cabra has everything I could ever want."
What The Irish Times says "Cabra is a large settled suburb with an abundance of amenities (parks, sports facilities, schools). It is relatively affordable, has all the essential shops, and is very close to Dublin city. Transport is good, sports facilities are good, houses are a decent size and have big gardens."

Malahide, Co Dublin

Population 16,550
Average house price €726,950
Nominated by Timothy O'Regan
Total nominations 320
What the pitch says "I believe Malahide is the best place to live in Ireland due to the many options available in the place. There is a wide range of member-led clubs, and you could literally eat lunch or dinner out in a different place every day for a month. It is an easy commute into Dublin city, but feels very like its own town with a great community spirit."
What The Irish Times says "Malahide is a naturally beautiful location, with a well-kept centre. Though property is expensive, the place also offers numerous free amenities and wealth of natural features, such as the castle park, beach and coastal walks. A pretty, comfortable place, it has the feel of a village and the scale of a town, just far enough from the city."

Blackrock, Co Louth

Population 5,000
Average house price €278,125
Nominated by John Horan
Total nominations 11
What the pitch says "Nestled in the crook of Dundalk Bay, Blackrock in Co Louth boasts a wonderful vista of the Cooley Mountains, and use of the sea as an amenity has increased during the last year, with people enjoying swimming, paddle boarding, canoeing, windsurfing and kite surfing. It was Ireland's Tidiest Small Town in 2019, and support for the various charities is unflinching."
What The Irish Times says "It's an old-fashioned holiday destination with chip shops, ice-cream and tea stops, yet regular bus and train services from Dundalk to both Dublin and Belfast make it a modern commuter town. It has a very active tidy towns group, and the local community takes an obvious pride in the area."

Bray, Co Wicklow

Population 32,600
Average house price €408,031
Nominated by Nikki McLaughlin
Total nominations 55
What the pitch says "Bray people are helpful, happy and have a hearty love of life. The mountains and the sea give it the prettiest of backdrops. Bray provides all manner of activities, from the wonderful Bray Wanderers, Bray Emmets and Bray Lakers to soccer, martial arts, Irish dancing and boxing clubs. The blue flag beach and a Victorian promenade attract families from all over Ireland and abroad. And it's free! We feel lucky."
What The Irish Times says "Bray's natural landscape makes it special. With its parks, walking routes, cycling opportunities and fresh sea air, it's clearly a great place for a growing family and young teens. The efficient transport system makes it handy to get in and out of Dublin for those working in the wider economy – or there's a co-working space for techies."

Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim

Population 4,062
Average house price €121,421 (€144,846 when a recent group sale is excluded.)
Nominated by Lola Gonzalez
Total nominations 12
What the pitch says "Carrick-on-Shannon is the best place to live because of its natural beauty and tranquillity. I'm a migrant who arrived six years ago to lovely Leitrim and I felt its magic from the first day. I was charmed by its unspoiled beauty. I was swayed by the spirit of its people. It's a slow pace of life but so much better for the soul. A great part of Ireland to connect with nature."
What The Irish Times says "The river and the surrounding scenic countryside make it special. For its size it has a very vibrant atmosphere, complemented by a good community spirit. People in Carrick are welcoming to newcomers and visitors, and the Kurdish community in the town speak about how so many locals went out of their way to make them feel at home."

Celbridge, Co Kildare

Population 20,288
Average house price €348,154
Nominated by Nuala Walker
Total nominations 10
What the pitch says "Celbridge is welcoming, where old or new friends can meet and chat on the Main Street. The village has a mix of small shops – books for children, sports goods, vintage costume, butchers, sweets, beauty products, hairdressers, barbers, seamstresses, florists. Since the early 1970s the population of Celbridge has grown from 1,000 to over 20,000, and is surrounded by some well-designed housing estates. Tidy Towns keep the village beautiful. Celbridge is the best place to live in Ireland."
What The Irish Times says "Celbridge is close to Dublin but the old village/main street gives it its own, long-established identity. Castletown House – its grounds come right up to one end of the main street – is a big bonus. This is a busy town with a young population whose inhabitants travel in and out of Dublin a lot – which is easy to do."

Clonakilty, Co Cork

Population 4,592
Average house price €289,860
Nominated by Marcus Bateson
Total nominations 9
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."

Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh

Population 18,130
Average house price £106,472 (€124,000)
Nominated by Reggie Ferguson
Total nominations: 21
What the pitch says "Enniskillen is beautifully situated on an island joining upper and lower Lough Erne in County Fermanagh. It is a mellow town which provides its residents and visitors with a mix of shopping, culture, restaurants and bars to cater for all needs. The town has increasingly come to appreciate the bounty of Lough Erne, has a good, well-priced housing supply, and is a very good place to live."
What The Irish Times says "A really welcoming, vibrant town, with picturesque scenery. Facilities are good – restaurants, food shops – there are plenty of schools and a good supply of houses, although pries are rising as it becomes more popular."

Gorey, Co Wexford

Population 9,822
Average house price €284,411
Nominated by Malcolm Byrne
Total nominations 8
What the pitch says "Gorey, nestled between scenic hills and beautiful countryside, is just 5km from the sea. This is a community with a rich arts scene – a 341-seat community-owned theatre; a six-screen cinema; lots of galleries and art shops; a vibrant music scene; the Gorey School of Art – and sporting organisations of many codes. Although the town has more than doubled in population in the past two decades, it has never lost its warm welcome to visitors and strong sense of community."
What The Irish Times says "Buzzing with life and a visibly young population, Gorey is a busy town with lots going on. It has a real community feel and a wealth of opportunities for recreation and local involvement. A great affordable option that combines urban access and rural living."

Killarney, Co Kerry

Population 14,504
Average house price €265,945
Nominated by Sandra Dunlea
Total nominations 31
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."

Monaghan town, Co Monaghan

Population 7,678
Average house price €189,000
Nominated by Eibhlin M Mulroe
Total nominations 19
What the pitch says "The last year was a time like no other in living memory. Despite all the adversity, fear and uncertainty of living through a pandemic, the local community took to our parks, lakes and local footpaths to keep fit, talk to neighbours (at a distance) and, most of all, look out for each other. Monaghan people have always found ways through the most difficult challenges. So why is it the best place to live? It's the people that make it."
What The Irish Times says "A thriving, friendly market town with many families out and about on the streets. The people clearly care about the place, and that's reflected in the well-kept streets, houses and shops. Monaghan is at the cheaper end of the property market – a place that's getting back on its feet again."

Rostrevor, Co Down

Population 7,743
Average house price £204,353 (€238,000)
Nominated by Julie Gibbons
Total nominations 4
What the pitch says "This beautiful village has an unbelievable sense of community as well as a plethora of international artists and musicians and creative, dynamic people making it a cosmopolitan and constantly evolving environment in which to live. It has been a secret from tourists due to the Troubles, and residents have kept it to themselves."
What The Irish Times says "Beautiful, with an amazing public park offering walks and a mountain trek. Proximity to the sea, the presence of the park, its closeness to a train to both Dublin and Belfast and the friendliness of everyone makes it a good contender. Property prices are low compared with the south of the Border."

Tullamore, Co Offaly

Population 14,607
Average house price €210,375
Nominated by Roger Guiney
Total nominations 7
What the pitch says "This is Ireland's Friendliest Town, declared the Entente Florale delegation in 2016. We've known it for years but keep it quiet. We tick all the boxes; great schools, library, parks and playgrounds; best of sports facilities and leisure centres, nationally ranked athletics facilities, golf courses and stadiums; Gothic castles, monastic abbeys, ancient oaks, bluebell forests and greenways. We're near everything and connected to everyone."
What The Irish Times says "The town has everything one might want in terms of services and it is an excellent location for someone who needs to travel across the country for work. It lacks no amenity or facility and ticks all the boxes as a great place to live."

Abbeyleix, Co Laois

Population 1,770
Average house price €209,885
Nominated by Robbie Quinn
Total nominations 6
What the pitch says "Abbeyleix has a strong track record of inclusivity. As a community, we are committed to social inclusion and fair sharing of our resources. We are committed to the principles of sustainable development since the bypassing of our town in 2010 and we have made great strides in this area. We gave a warm welcome to the residents of our direct provision centre in 2019, and won the national AsIAm Inclusive Community Award in recognition of Abbeyleix becoming an autism-friendly community in 2019."
What The Irish Times says "Abbeyleix is a beautiful town with a vibrant community, all the essential services and is in an excellent location. The town is busy and yet there is a peaceful atmosphere. There is a sense that the pace of life there is slower and quite relaxed and yet for a small midland town, it is full of life and energy."

Ballinakill, Co Laois

Population 445
Average house price €138,108
Nominated by Martine Madden
Total nominations 16
What the pitch says "Ballinakill, Co Laois – the village of the woods – is set against the backdrop of bluebell carpeted trees, a beaded string of ponds and lakes, and the cut-stone twin steeples of out two churches. Ballinakill people are warm, welcoming, and with an eye to the future. We are at the centre of everything and not far from anywhere. Our schools are growing. Our cottage industries from hat couture to soap-making are blossoming. The secret is out."
What The Irish Times says "Located in beautiful countryside, Ballinakill is litter-free with lovely walks, heritage cottages, and an impressive old church of Ireland. It has some other unusual assets: the Lutyens planned gardens at the edge of the village, and a heated outdoor 30m pool staffed by volunteers."

Clonbur, Co Galway

Population 916
Average house price €172,133
Nominated by Teresa Lynch
Total nominations 46
What the pitch says "Clonbur is a beautiful village situated between the two great lakes Lough Corrib and Lough Mask overlooked by Mount Gable. We are 40 minutes from Galway city, Knock airport, Westport, Wild Atlantic Way. Surviving both a recession and a pandemic, we have retained many services due to the hard work and collaboration of both the community and the businesses. We have carried on the work of our predecessors and continue to strive to make Clonbur 'a great place to live and a great place to visit'."
What The Irish Times says "This well-kept village is even more impressive than the pitch. In a beautiful part of north Connemara, it lies between the two lakes of Lough Corrib and Lough Mask, with woods right beside the village, lovely views everywhere and one of the nicest public playgrounds in Ireland."

Glaslough, Co Monaghan

Population 453
Average house price €138,792
Nominated by Ann McGhee
Total nominations 246
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."

Populations are based on the 2016 census. House prices are an average of the past 50 transactions in these locations as listed in the Property Price Register. Galway and Waterford cities' averages come from the most recent Daft.ie House Price Report. In Northern Ireland the averages are from zoopla.co.uk

Conor Goodman

Conor Goodman

Conor Goodman is acting Managing Editor, Features, and an Irish Times journalist