(IRISH INDEPENDENT, May 15th, 2015)
Thinking of the two famous Brians associated with the northside Dublin suburb of Clontarf, it’s funny to consider that one was actually the ultimate southsider and spent very little time there, while the other, born and bred there, made his name also in southern parts.
Myth, legend and interpretation have shrouded the epic Battle of Clontarf, in 1014, and its aftermath, but as far as we can gather, on Good Friday in that year, Brian Boru, from Kincora in County Clare and the last great High King of Ireland, led his force of 4,000 Munster men, 1,400 Dalcassians (from the Kingdom of Thomond, also in Munster), and 1,500 Connacht clansmen into battle with the 6,000 troops of Mael Mordha, the king of Leinster, and his Viking allies, led by the king of Dublin, Sigtrygg Silkbeard.
The ensuing showdown raged along the banks of the River Tolca from Glasnevin to Ballybough, but as the Vikings summoned by Sigtrygg from as far afield as Iceland and Normandy to his aid had beached their boats on the strand of Clontarf, it was here that their final bloody rout was completed.
Brian Boru’s aim had been to unite all the warring Celtic kingdoms under one rule and one High King but although the greatest victory of his long career had effectively ended the Vikings as a military force in Ireland, he did not live long to enjoy his man-of-the-match performance. As he knelt praying in his tent the Viking Brodir, who was hiding in the adjacent woods, ran into his tent and slew the old king with his axe.
One thousand years later, on March 15th, 2014, Brian O’Driscoll, no longer king, but fiercely loyal to Munster leader Paul O’Connell, went into what would also be his last epic battle for Ireland, against France, and that day too victory was theirs as the Gallic forces were defeated on their own soil and Ireland were Six Nations champions.
This Brian did get to enjoy his final victory, as he and the fair Amy retreated into the bosom of their families, all paparazzi smiles and lucrative endorsement deals.
O’Driscoll’s storied career on the rugby field only flourished when he moved south of the Liffey to school in Blackrock College and college in UCD, from where he would lead Clan Leinster and Team Ireland to many glories.
The affluent seaside homeland of Brian O’Driscoll is, of course, a very different place to the fertile planes of coastal Cluain Tarbh, either meadow of the bull or deriving from the bellowing noise made by the sea as it rolled over the sandbanks in old Dublin Bay, that Brian Boru and his men would have drawn and shed blood upon.
Now it’s one of the most desirable places to live in Dublin, north or south, with its miles of seafront walks along Clontarf Promenade, spectacular views across Dublin Bay from Howth and Dublin Bay to Dun Laoghaire; the magnificent St Anne’s Park with its spectacular Rose Garden and playing fields; Bull Island, nature reserve and home to two fantastic golf courses, and the wooden walkway across to it along the Bull Wall with its signature art deco bathing shelters, also found along the promenade.
Then there’s Dollymount Strand, where you can walk the dog, jog, run, kite surf or just bathe. This is also where generations of city dwellers learned to drive. The strand runs along the east side of Bull Island.
Need we go on … Clontarf’s combination of close proximity to the city, selection of mature and large period properties and broad mix of dwellings, with everything from Georgian terraces and Victorian villas to Edwardian red-bricks and 1920s “arts & crafts” style bungalows and modern apartment complexes, mean it is the north city’s most sought after and fought over address.
Clontarf is bounded to the west and south by Fairview park and the suburb of Marino, to the north by Killester, Artane and Coolock and to the northeast by St Anne’s Park and Raheny. The southern boundary of Clontarf lies on one side of the estuary of one of Dublin’s three main rivers, the Tolka.
All that bracing sea air out their can make one peckish or long for liquid refreshment, so there’s any amount of good restaurants to fine dine in or public houses in which to slake one’s thirst. You can do both in Gilbert & Wrights pub, in Hollybrook Park, also home to the Michelin-Bib- Gourmand wielding Downstairs restaurant.
The long and winding Clontarf road is home to many popular eateries and taverns, including the cosy and buzzy seafood and tapas spot Hemmingways; Kinara Restaurant, multiple winner of Georgina Campbell’s Ethnic Restaurant of the Year gong, offering Pakistani and North Indian cuisine, or Bay Restaurant, which lists a nutritional guide for every dish, each made from seasonal, locally sourced produce.
Vernon Avenue’s restaurant quartier and includes Moloughneys, with its trademark fish, charcuterie and cheese plates, and Italian eaterie Picasso.
The Fahrenheit restaurant in the Clontarf Castle Hotel was recently awarded an AA Rosette, and fish landed at the nearby Howth Harbour and aged Angus beef are specialities there.
Or you could just nip over to Beshoffs on Vernon Road for a good old fresh ray and chips
The first pub you’ll meet on the Clontarf Road as you come out from Fairview is The Yacht, voted Carvery of the Year in the Unilever Food solutions top 10 for 2010. Further up, at the bottom of Vernon Avenue is Connollys, known as The Sheds to locals. “The Sheds” refers back to when Clontarf was a small fishing village and the sheds used for drying and curing fish in the 17th century
This popular hostelry is also home to the Viking Theatre and just started its run there is Conor McPherson’s Port Authority, the cast of which includes Rex Ryan, son of the late 2FM broadcaster Gerry Ryan.
Harry Byrne’s on the Howth Road is descended from an 18th century Coaching Inn and with its beautiful red-bricked Victorian exterior and original wooden interior, has retained its charm.
Graingers Pebble Beach bar on Conquer Hill Road has live music in the pub on most Friday nights. According to local legend, The Vernon, named after the great landowners who lorded it over Clontarf for centuries, was renamed when a former owner visited Pebble Beach golf links in California and decided to take a little bit of LA back to Clontarf.
Not to forget, another noted Clontarf native was Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, born at 15 Marino Crescent in 1847.
As befits the upmarket area it has long become, rugby, cricket, golf, tennis and sailing dominate the sporting scene locally, even if the local GAA club, with its clubhouse on Seafield Road, does provide Dublin’s dashing wing back Jack McCaffrey.
The rugby and cricket clubs actually share the same premises on Castle Avenue. The rugby club have recently begun construction work on a new all-weather pitch.
Golfers are spoiled for choice, with Clontarf GC, on the Malahide Road, and St Anne’s and Royal Dublin (adopted home of the great Christy O’Connor) both out on Bull Island.
Sailing has long been associated with the area and Clontarf Yacht and Boat club dates back to 1875.
Any number of primary and secondary schools, including the famous St Paul’s College and Mount Temple Comprehensive, famous alma mater of Bono and the U2 lads.
Dublin City centre is only a short hop away and the Dublin Bus 130 route is excellent. Depending on what part of Clontarf you’re in, you may also be able to go up the Howth Road or Fairview to avail of many other routes. Then of course there’s the DART line.
Exact percentage rise or fall figures for the property market in Clontarf are hard to come by, but estate agents covering the area, like Aisling Delaney of Delaney Estates, Stephen Watson of Savills, and Conor Gallagher, of Gallagher Quigley, all broadly report the same thing: if it’s in Clontarf it sells. Viewings are down but prices are holding.
“Viewers, although there are less than last year, are serious, ready to make a decision,” says Delaney. “They tend to be people wanting to move back, maybe have been away and want to raise their families here.”
Gallagher reports dealing with buyers who are not afraid to take on renovations or extensions, and are looking for properties with large front and back gardens, and room to improve. At the top end, a period Victorian pile, such as 32 St Lawrence’s Road would start at €1,200,000, and you would expect to pay something similar for a period house or large dormer on Seafield Road or Mount Prospect Avenue.
Much depends, of course, on size, condition and age in terms of prices but broadly speaking mid-range three or four-bedroom properties in Clontarf would be asking for upwards of €400,000.
Properties on Kincora Road or Kincora Court, would start at around €420,000, but places on Oakley Park, Dollymount Grove or Blackheath would fetch little less than €700,000, in good condition.
Sherry FitzGerald have put the three bedroom mid-terrace 48 Mount Prospect Drive on the market at €495,000, while Gallagher Quigley are looking for €670,000 for 48 Hampton Court. The four-bed detached 2 Yew Lane (Delaney Estates handing) is starting at €795,000.
You will have to fork out €1,250,000 or so for 19 Baymount Park, whose large corner site near St Anne’s Park has allowed the present owner to double the size of the original home. And you will pay something similar for the five bedroom, three bathroom Victorian red brick 32 St Lawrence’s Road (Savills).
A small 500 sq ft cottage or ex-council house on Conquer Hill, in not great condition, might go for €200,000, whereas you’d pay twice that for one in better shape. For example, 5 Pintail House in the Redcourt Oaks development, a B3 energy rated two-bedroom apartment, at the end of Seafield Road East, is quoted at €425,000.
- Seafront and scenery
- Excellent sports facilities
- Plenty of good schools
- Proximity to the city centre/airport
- Good restaurants and pubs abound in Clontarf
- House prices are not for the fainthearted
- Cyclists and pedestrians compete for the promenade
- Flooding along the seafront has been an issue