(IRISH INDEPENDENT, July 17th, 2015)
The recent evolution of the north Kildare town of Celbridge is a good example of what happens when you have a plan, only you don’t stick to it, maybe even try to ignore it when it doesn’t suit. The result is some aspects are well thought out and followed through on, others seem to sort of just happen.
Thus, in March 2011, An Bord Pleanala overturned Kildare county manager Michael Malone’s decision to set aside key measures in the county’s draft development plan – designed to protect historic landscapes around Celbridge — to facilitate development company Devondale’s plans for a massive mixed-use development at Donaghcumper, on the old Dublin road, as an extension of the town’s centre.
It ruled the scheme – which also included a new bridge over the Liffey, which runs through the town – would constitute a “major intrusion” into the setting of the protected 18th century Palladian pile that is Castletown House and its surrounding parklands (285,400 visited house and lands in 2014), across the river from Donaghcumper.
Despite being Kildare’s most populated town Celbridge does not have a town council, and is covered by a Development Plan. Thus Kildare County Council, based in Naas, 20km away, has full control over zoning land in the area.
The birthplace of Arthur Guinness chugged along for centuries as a solid country village, flourishing occasionally as the large mill at its centre changed uses from flour to flax, to paper to textiles, until boom, in the 1980s it was westward ho! for metropolitan commuter folk and soon north Kildare was more like suburban Dublin. Celbridge, some 23km from the city centre, included.
Indeed, by 2006, only 24.4 per cent of the town’s then 16,980 population was actually born in County Kildare.
The population rose another 13 per cent over the next five years alone, to the 19,537 quoted in the 2011 census. Estate after estate also flew up, and the infrastructure has had to play catch up.
Green space and play areas were at a premium in many of these estates, and it is only now they have come to maturity that they resemble the brochures these new frontiers people bought into.
Fortunately for Celbridge the vast majority of its housing estates were completed before the bust of 2007 onwards, and so it has avoided the ghost estate phenomenon.
Nonetheless, unlike in the movie Field of Dreams and its “build it and they will come” dictum; here it has been more “they will come, then we will build it”. Thus, Aldi and Lidl have joined Tesco, and the new SuperValue shopping centre on the old approach road from Dublin, has been doing well.
New schools were, and still are, being built, or old ones expanded, and the town has all the signs of prosperity, especially with the likes of Intel and Hewlett Packard in nearby Leixlip offering plentiful employment.
The same one main street, however, had to deal with the huge rise in traffic volume, entering and leaving over one charming but narrow bridge. This has been alleviated somewhat by the Junction 6 exit off the M4 a few years back, allowing access from the west.
So, all in all, Celbridge’s current buoyancy and wellbeing represents a reward for the mighty efforts of a vibrant community.
They are out there fundraising for schools (six primary (all green flag), two secondary – plus a new third, Celbridge Community School, to be housed for the moment in Moortown and an interesting joint Kildare and Wicklow ETB and Educate Together venture), helping to win bronze in the 2013 and 2014 Tidy Towns, or manning the always busy Mill Community Centre.
This has everything from a full gym to space for all sorts of indoor sports and activities, including a mental health group and Silver Thread club for senior citizens. And free crèche space while you work out or attend your ceramics class.
It is a “buzzing” town, offering all kinds of clubs and activities for both children and adults – provided you have the money.
There is also a group of volunteer guides offering excellent free guided tours of the town, its walkways, its historic buildings and points of interest – check out the online Discover Celbridge brochure.
And there is much to take in on one of these tours of Celbridge (in Irish Cill Droichid, or Church by the bridge, historically anglicised as, Kildrought or Kildrout).
Arthur Guinness, founder of the Guinness brewery, was born here in 1725 and is commemorated by a plaque on the wall between the Mucky Duck and The Village Inn pubs on Main Street, where he was born. A tour well worth taking is the 16km walking tour, Arthur’s Way, its 16km length starting in his birthplace, going on to Leixlip, where he started his first brewery, and finishing at his grave in Oughterard cemetery, in Ardclough, just outside Celbridge.
Castletown House was built from 1722 for William Conolly, who was Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. With a yearly income of £25,000, he was reportedly once Ireland’s richest man.
Today the great house and some of the demesne lands are in State ownership.
Castletown’s parklands, by the banks of the Liffey, lead down to a quite spectacular view of the river at its widest and most imposing. A tour of the house is highly recommended. Admission to the parklands is free
From the house, looking across the riverbank, there are lovely views of the remains of St Wolstan’s Abbey (founded in 1202).
As you follow the lime-tree lined pathway back towards Castletown Gates, you will see Donaghcumper House and demesne across the river. The present house was remodelled in 1835 in the Tudor revival style.
Out the gates, and past the beautiful old stone Church of Ireland Christ Church and the ivy-clad walls of its graveyard, on your left , and walking up Main Street, you will soon come across the lovingly-maintained five-bay Kildrought House, built in 1719.
Just across from it the old Royal Irish Constabulary Barracks now houses Michelangelo’s restaurant, the best in the town.
Celbridge is full of history and fine buildings.
Celbridge Abbey and its tranquil grounds regularly welcomed Jonathan Swift, when it was home to Esther Van Homrigh, the Vanessa he would eventually leave heartbroken. The abbey was later home to Lord Chief Justice Thomas Marley, grandfather of Henry Grattan, who also knew the area well.
Also worth noting is the large but elegantly proportioned old stone workhouse on the Maynooth road that now houses the Colortrend paint factory
Another fine sight is the colourful array of canal barges docked at Hazelhatch, 2.8 km from Celbridge on the R405. There is a walk along the Grand Canal here in the direction of Sallins, taking in the restored Village at Lyons, with its fine buildings, restaurants and cookery school on the banks of the canal.
Celbridge GAA club won their first county senior football championship in 2008, and took three county hurling titles in a row, from 2009 to 2011, and struck again in 2013. They were also county senior camogie champions last year. They club also claimed a county double last year at Under21 level in both hurling and football and have a busy underage section.
Celbridge Town and Ballyoulster United both play in the Leinster Senior League.
Food and drink
There are several decent pubs to recommend, including the large but well laid out Abbey Lodge, overlooking the Liffey and which also offers an extensive bar food menu; the aforementioned Mucky Duck and Village Inn, and, for a quieter pint, the quaint Speaker Conolly pub near Castletown Gates.
Di Mario’s, near Tesco on the Maynooth Road, is a family-friendly pizza and pasta place.
The Espresso Project on Main Street was named in an Irish Times article listing the top ten coffee shops in Ireland, focusing on what the writer, Daniel Gray, describes as an “ever evolving pursuit of the perfect espresso”. Coffee lovers also have the Baobab Cafe on English Row, which also has a roast works where you can watch your coffee being roasted as your enjoy your hot waffle.
Train station outside the town at Hazelhatch, offering Arrow service to Dublin Heuston. Dublin Bus 67 and Bus Eireann 120 services.
Celbridge has six primary schools, Primrose Hill (co-ed, COI), St Brigid’s (girls, RC), Aghards also known as Scoil Mochua (mixed, RC), Scoil na Mainistreach (boys, RC), North Kildare Educate Together National School (mixed, multi-denominational), and St Patrick’s, currently located in the GAA grounds on the Newcastle road (mixed, RC); two secondary schools; St Wolstan’s CS for girls (the only all-female community school in Ireland) and Salesian College for boys.
There is also a residential special school, Saint Raphael’s, (co-ed, RC) for children with a learning disability. This also has a swimming pool, which is open to locals (lessons only).
According to Philip Byrne of local estate agents REA Coonan, property prices are down maybe 5 per cent on late last year, as the new mortgage borrowing measures start to bite. However more second-hand property has become available , he says, mainly in the foot of the success of the Chelmsford manor development at Ardclough, a mix of large four-bed detached and three-bed townhouses.
“There’s plenty of demand,” says Byrne, “even if maybe viewings are down.”
At the top end, a five-bed detached home in Chelmsford or Temple Manor would come in around the €550,000 mark. Moving down, a four-bed semi in Old Mill, for example, would go for around €380,000, and a three-bed there for around €50,000 less. A smaller detached home in the older Castletown estate, near the front entrance to Castletown House, would go for around €350,000.
A good example of a mid-range development is St Raphael’s Manor, west of the town centre, where a four-bed semi would go for €300,000, and a three-bed for €260,000. The two-bed townhouses there would come in at just shy of €200,000. An older, less energy efficient three-bedroom semi in the likes of Park Grove would go for around €250,000.
REA Coonan has priced 52 Thornhill Meadows at €250,000; DNG Celbridge is quoting €335,000 for 49 Celbridge Abbey;€469,950 is the asking price for 2 The Close, Temple Manor (Team Lorraine Mulligan); while 3 The Avenue, St Wolstan’s Abbey (DNG Celbridge) is quoted at €585,000.
Next Week: Let’s Move To SWORDS
- Maynooth University on your doorstep. Especially useful with Celbridge’s total school population of over 5,000
- Celbridge Elm Hall and the K Club (in nearby Straffan) golf clubs close at hand
- Country town “feel”, with numerous excellent walking trails, yet Dublin city and towns like Leixlip, Maynooth and Naas are all nearby
- Hazelhatch train station is 5km from town centre
- Located on one of the most important InterCity lines in the country, with services to Cork, Limerick and Galway, but they don’t stop here
- Traffic often heavy and parking poor on main street