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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019
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Your guide to Clontarf: Sea air and space in the Northside village that lost an island

What you need to know about the childhood home of Bram Stoker.

Your Neighbourhood is a series of local area guides from TheJournal.ie, presented by KBC. We’re bringing you the best of city neighbourhoods combined with the latest property data.  

ABOUT A THOUSAND years ago, the path of Dublin’s history was changed in Clontarf. Brian Boru’s Irish forces defeated the Viking-ruled kingdom of Dublin in 1014, putting an end to the growth of Norse power in this country. 

Then an area of countryside outside Dublin, Clontarf was settled not long afterwards, and it didn’t take long to put itself on the map – literally in the case of this 1598 map of Ireland, on which ‘Clantarfe’ is one of only a small number of settlements deemed worthy of inclusion. 

It was a fishing village for hundreds of years, known mostly for its oyster beds. But in the 19th century, some of the city’s wealth began to spread north as well-heeled Dubliners saw the area’s potential as a holiday resort. A number of large homes sprang up, and the promenade became a fashionable spot to take a stroll.

Clontarf continued as a seaside destination into the 20th century, and construction continued at pace, with successive waves of building design that can be seen across the neighbourhood today – from Victorian villas to modern estates. (A recent proposal to build 65,000 homes on land reclaimed from the sea did raise eyebrows, though.) It’s kept its reputation as a well-heeled suburb bounded by seaside and parks.

Take me there! OK, here you are on the seafront where Vernon Avenue meets the Clontarf Road.

So what’s the big draw? Clontarf is an attractive seaside village, with a long history and a unique geography thanks to the Bull Island nature reserve. It’s got cafes, schools, and sports clubs. It’s on the Dart. And it’s about as close to the city centre as you can feasibly get while also having a nice beach. 

What do people love about it? The location and the community, says Deirdre Tobin of the Clontarf Residents Association. 

The area has a great sense of space. The promenade and Dollymount Beach are wonderful amenities for locals. We have St Anne’s Park on our doorstep and are twenty minutes from the city centre in one direction and Howth in the other. Even though Clontarf has grown exponentially from its fishing village days, it retains a friendly vibe and a great sense of community.

The seaside, says resident Ellen O’Malley of Love Clontarf. And the food.

There are so many benefits to living in Clontarf it’s hard to pick one that stands out specifically! But growing up next to the sea has to be one of the best things. There’s something very calming about seeing the sea every day, whether it’s on a run, a walk, a drive or from the bus into town. Clontarf also has some of the best restaurants and pubs in Dublin (in my opinion), meaning you don’t have to go far to enjoy a nice evening out. 

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Sunday afternoon in Clontarf

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And… what do people NOT love about it? Parking can be an issue, says Deirdre.

Because it is an old suburb and a lot of it was built before two cars per house became the norm, parking can be really tricky on some roads. So it’s great to see cycling infrastructure in the area being improved. 

And for those not fortunate enough to own a property… it’s a high barrier, says Ellen.

The only negative about Clontarf for me would be the fact that housing prices are so high. As someone who has lived there my entire life, it’s unlikely I can aspire to live there when the time comes to put down a deposit on a house!

What’s the story with house prices? Substantial. Clontarf has the dubious distinction of being the second most expensive area anywhere north of the river. The average asking price for a property is €545,325 according to Daft.ie – putting it on a par with Portobello and heart-of-the-southside Milltown and Dartry.

How long will it take me into town? It’s about an hour’s walk from the end of Vernon Avenue to Henry Street. The bus though will get you there in 20 minutes off-peak, with services 31/A, 32x, 104 and 130 all serving the area.

The Dart runs along the western border of Clontarf and will have you at Tara Street in seven minutes flat. 

Where should I get lunch? Stop by Ebb & Flow for serious coffee and a selection of sambos. 

Alternatives: Kennedy’s is a long-established northside deli and food store which opened a Clontarf branch a few years ago. Or walk over the wooden bridge to Happy Out – Bull Island’s only cafe.

And what’s my new local? Harry Byrne’s is a large local of long standing, with an impressive Victorian bar. 

Alternatives: The Sheds is another big place on the seafront with strong sporting links.

Schools and supermarkets? There’s a SuperValu up by Killester Dart station. In the village, Nolan’s provides a high-end grocery offering. Aldi and Lidl are just across the Tolka on the East Wall Road. 

The biggest local primary school is Belgrove (Catholic, boys and girls, 1361 pupils total). There’s also Greenlanes (Church of Ireland, mixed, 287 pupils) and Howth Road NS (Presbyterian, mixed, 102 pupils). 

There are two post-primary schools: Holy Faith (Catholic, girls, 638 pupils) and Mount Temple (Church of Ireland, mixed, 892 pupils). 

OK, I’m sold. Give me one piece of Clontarf trivia to impress a local. Clontarf used to have two islands instead of one… but one of them sank under the sea. Clontarf Island, as it was known, lay about 150m off East Wall. It was used as a refuge during the plague of 1650, and later as a seaside retreat – one man who had built a house there was killed with his son in a storm in 1844. 

Over the years, the sea took its toll on the small and sandy island, and by the 1880s it was gone. Read more here.

Do you live in Clontarf? Share your opinion in the comments!

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About the author:

Michael Freeman

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