Belfast Telegraph

Carrickfergus pips Lurgan and Comber to title of best market town in Northern Ireland

By Margaret Canning

It's a familiar folk song but now the words 'I wish I was in Carrickfergus' ring truer than ever as the Co Antrim town was named best market town in Northern Ireland.

The town has beaten other market towns like Cookstown in Co Tyrone and Comber in Co Down to come out top of the rankings in a survey by Royal Mail.

Carrick, with its famous castle, joins picturesque locations like Langholm in Scotland and Egremont in Cumbria, as well as Denbigh and Mold in Wales, in the Royal Mail rankings.

The findings are based on criteria in each of the devolved nations, including average earnings, house prices, access to services, crime figures, skill level of the population and unemployment figures. Data from the 2011 UK Census is also used.

Darren Barr, an estate agent at the Carrickfergus branch of UPS, said house prices were low in the town. "It has probably always been a more competitive place to buy a house than other suburban areas around Belfast.

"With the A2 road, we are 10 miles away from Belfast so you can get to Belfast within 20 minutes at off-peak times.

"However, in rush hour, you are still looking at an hour's drive.

"Our convenience for Belfast really makes it a good place to live."

He said properties in Carrickfergus could be up to £30,000 cheaper than similar homes in Greenisland - a location which is typically regarded as more desirable than Carrickfergus.

And he said the area also benefited from being close to one of the most scenic parts of Northern Ireland - the Glens of Antrim.

Carrickfergus also features a famous castle - and this week, tourism in the area received a boost after a £1m grant to replace the castle tower's roof was announced.

Iain Greenway, director of the Department for Communities Historic Environment Division, said: "This is a major milestone in the history of Carrickfergus Castle, one of our best-known and most-visited historic monuments."

The castle is a popular draw for coaches carrying tourists.

But some residents have said that the castle is not adequately connected with the rest of the town as it's separated by the marina highway.

The high-ranking Northern Ireland market towns finding favour with the Royal Mail are all clustered around Belfast.

Carrickfergus took the top spot for high scores on work-life balance and affordability.

Lurgan's affordable housing and good work-life balance placed it at number two - while Comber in Co Down was at number three due to good school scores and short commuting distance.

Randalstown in Co Antrim also makes the top four - while Bangor is ranked at number five.

Others in the top 10 include Dungiven in Co Londonderry, and Larne, Newtownards and Banbridge also make it into the top ten.

A spokesperson for Royal Mail said "This new study demonstrates the breadth of market towns providing attractive places for people across the UK to live and work in.

"For people who value a good work-life balance, there are plenty of market towns to choose from. Royal Mail connects communities and businesses across the UK, delivering to nearly 30 million addresses."

Belfast Telegraph

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