Belfast Telegraph

Which area in Belfast has been named best place to live in Northern Ireland?

East Belfast's Ballyhackamore takes top spot

By Andrew Madden

Do you think you live in the best place in Northern Ireland?

Well, the The Sunday Times has awarded that accolade to Ballyhackamore in east Belfast.

It was one of five spots in Northern Ireland named among the "Best Places to Live in Britain" by the publication.

A once unheralded corner of east Belfast, Ballyhackamore now has a host of brunch, dining and cocktail options on Upper Newtownards Road, earning it the nickname "Ballysnackamore".

The area has long been the base for a number of estate agents, with no less than six along its main stretch. There are also a large number of offices situated in the village area.

According to The Sunday Times, a starter home in the neighbourhood goes for around £95k, while a mid-market home costs an average of £168k. A family home typically sells for around £381k.

One prominent Ballyhackamore businessman is Jason Shankey, who operates his eponymous chain of salons across Belfast, and opened his first location in the east Belfast neighbourhood.

"I remember when I first opened my business in Ballyhackamore about 20 years ago the area was quite rundown and there wasn't much there, to be honest," he said.

"But, along with a few other business people, I just saw the potential in the area and gradually a few more businesses moved in, things picked up a little and more people started to visit," he said.

"Even back then, it was a peaceful area and it was quite mixed, so it had a good foundation. As more businesses opened, competition between them heated up and, with competition, there inevitably comes a rise in quality.

"So when you look around now, Ballyhackamore has some of the best quality restaurants, cafes, hairdressers, retailers and estate agents anywhere - everything is top class, really."

Mr Shankey said the success of Ballyhackamore is down in no small part to the work of the Ballyhackamore Business Association, which promotes the area and runs events year-round to bring in visitors.

Sinead York, who alongside her husband runs two businesses in Ballyhackamore and is a committee member for the Ballyhackamore Business Association, said the neighbourhood has a great foundation that has been built upon in recent years.

"It's just a lovely mix of people, very community-orientated and peaceful. People round here would do anything for each other," she said.

"One thing I have noticed is that shop fronts here don't stay vacant for very long, Ballyhackamore is in very high demand."

Stephen McBride, operator of the Ballyhackamore.net website, said the journey Ballyhackamore has been on is "remarkable".

"Over the last 30-odd years, I've witnessed this previously unremarkable little village area grow to be one of the most sought after areas to live in Belfast, if not the whole of Northern Ireland," he said.

"From its humble beginnings with one Chinese restaurant (and I still remember the excitement when that opened) to its current plethora of trendy coffee shops and top class restaurants, it's been quite a journey."

The four other Northern Ireland locations featured on the list are Holywood, Newcastle and Strangford in Co Down and Portrush in Co Antrim. The full Sunday Tim es Best Places to Live guide is published this Sunday.

The cost of living in top spots ...

Ballyhackamore, Belfast. Family home: £381,450  (£1,460 pcm)

Holywood, Co Down. Family home: £615,560 (£780 pcm)

Newcastle, Co Down. Family home: £238,730 (£620 pcm)

Portrush, Co Antrim. Family home: £202,490 (N/A)

Strangford, Co Down. Family home: £303,000 (£770 pcm)

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