Wicklow County Council fails to acquire access to land leading to popular beach

Magheramore beach site sells for €700,000 at three times the asking price

An access road to one of Ireland’s most scenic beaches and a parcel of clifftop land overlooking the beach at Magheramore in Co Wicklow has been sold in an online auction for €700,000.

Wicklow County Council failed to acquire the property.

Totalling just 20 acres, it was sold by BidX1 auctioneers for more than three times the asking price of €210,000. The beach between Blainroe and Brittas Bay is also a famous film location, and is widely considered the best place for surfing on Ireland's east coast. It is very popular with families because it has no shelf and is very safe for children.

With confirmation of the impending sale in late May, regular beach users feared access may be restricted by a new owner – leading to calls for the State or the county council to purchase it.


A spokeswoman for the local authority confirmed it bid for the land and access route but was unsuccessful. This suggests it was a private purchase.

Sinn Fein TD John Brady confirmed that in light of the sale, "which is of concern", there would be a move to protect access to beaches in Co Wicklow in a revised county development plan.

The auctioneers declined to indicate who bought the land which was sold by a couple living in Dublin.

After bidding opened on Friday at 8am, five bidders were involved, but when bids exceeded €550,000, two bidders remained in the race to purchase the holding.

There is a right of way from the main road to the beach, while it is also located in a special area of conservation, known as a SAC. While there is no planning attached to the property, inquiries ranged from people interested in using it for forestry, its development as caravan park and its continued use “as is”, BidX1 confirmed.

Over recent decades access to some beaches along the east coast has been restricted in cases where there has been a change of ownership and developments such as caravan parks or private housing have arisen.

The Magheramore property was owned originally by the Columban Order of Sisters before its original sale in the 1980s, and several sales since. At one point in 2014, a notice that “private property trespassers will be prosecuted” was erected.

Catherine O'Reilly of Sherry FitzGerald auctioneers in Wicklow town said the sale was "the most talked about story in Co Wicklow" in recent weeks and €700,000 was "a massive price" for such a small area though it is a spectacular location.

She confirmed there was a lot of discussion locally about the right of way, which some believed existed but others disputed this. As far as she could understand, “the right of way is not registered”.

“There has been a lot of discussion on what could be done to protect the beach, other than providing formal access and carparking,” she added.

The vendors had made various proposals to Wicklow Co Council including building on the site, but all were knocked back by the local authority, Ms O’Reilly said.

Wicklow Sinn Féin TD John Brady warned any attempt to restrict public access to Magheramore beach “will not be tolerated and will be bitterly opposed” after auction signs were placed at the access route.

“It is critical that this site is sold with the knowledge that there is a public right of way to the beach through it,” he added.

“Generations of people have enjoyed Magheramore beach which is a beautiful cove just outside Wicklow Town. In 2006, a barrier was placed across the entrance to restrict vehicular access to the beach, and attempts have been made previously to stop all public access. The path to the beach is a well-established right of way.”

The sale was an ideal opportunity for the council to purchase it and develop a carpark to cater for the growing number of people using the amenity, Mr Brady said.

Currently, people must park along the main road – the cause of some trouble as some motorists park irresponsibly, he pointed out – though in recent years an adjoining landowner has opened up a field, including a mobile coffee shop, where people can park during summer months.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times