Belfast Telegraph

Hooray for Holywood as seaside town is rated the best place to live in Northern Ireland

Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Bursting with independent stores, some of the best schools around, and just a few miles from Belfast - it seems there's plenty to love about Holywood.

And the Co Down town on the shores of Belfast Lough has now been revealed as the best place to live in Northern Ireland by The Sunday Times.

The full list will be revealed this weekend, but Holywood has seen off competition from four other local places named among the best in the UK - Ballycastle, south Belfast, Enniskillen and Hillsborough - to claim the crown.

The town has been judged to offer the perfect combination of seaside and city, with vibrant Belfast just a short train ride away.

There's sailing, cycling and jogging, rugby, football and the golf club where Rory McIlroy started his career.

"The high street, with its brightly painted buildings, is unusually attractive and offers a high-quality range of food and drink," The Sunday Times Best Places To Live 2019 guide says.

"It's an all-in-one town by the sea," said Demelza Kelly-Flynn (38), who has been running the popular cafe Eighty One in the town's main street for the past six years.

"We're right by the sea and have very few of the big chain names. People who live here are keen to support the locally owned businesses.

"I grew up here, and though I moved away when I bought my first home, I had to get back.

"Trains and buses are right on our doorstep and it's now the perfect place for day-trippers.

"We see a lot of people coming in from neighbouring towns like Newtownards, Comber, Donaghadee and further afield."

Celebrity names such as McIlroy and Fifty Shades Of Grey star Jamie Dornan have helped put Holywood on the map, but Demelza feels there's much more to the town.

"We have a superb school at Sullivan Upper and the primary schools are great," she added.

The main street
The main street
An antiques shop
Stevie Orr in his butchers shop
Cafe Eighty One in the popular Co Down town
Nongnut Patrick, who works in Garry's Barbers

"You don't need to go far to find just what you want.

"My family love it here and have never moved away - we all now live in the same street and wouldn't dream of living anywhere else."

Across the main street, Stevie Orr has been operating his butcher's shop for the past 40 years.

"It's a town with no hassle, everyone mixes well and it's a five-minute stroll to the beach," he said.

"The only problem I can see is parking. We've lost two car parks in the past few years as apartments have been springing up and they're all selling quickly.

"That shows just how popular this town is to live in."

But according to local resident Tara Russell, that popularity has brought a few issues as well - including a hefty price tag for anyone wanting to live there.

An average property price of £269,000 marks it down as one of the most expensive places in Northern Ireland to set up home.

"The town isn't how it used to be," she said. "Yes, it's a popular place to live, but that can be a poisoned chalice. When I grew up it was a village, quiet and friendly. I can see the appeal, but in many respects it's not a town for local people any more.

"A lot of the people I went to school with can't afford to buy homes in the town they grew up in. I see problems with over-development."

However, Nongnut Patrick (39), who works in Garry's Barber Shop, believes she made the perfect decision when she moved to the town 15 years ago.

"My husband is from here and I've always found it a lovely, quiet place with no problems. It's easy to see how it has become so popular," she said.

Also in Co Down, Hillsborough returns to this year's list, praised for its immaculate village centre, Georgian houses, countryside setting and appealing pubs and restaurants.

South Belfast, the most favoured corner of the city; the beautiful traditional market town of Enniskillen, and Ballycastle, a lively, independently minded foodie hub on Co Antrim coast, completed the top five.

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