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A HUNDRED YEARS ago, Ashtown wasn’t there. The area to the north of the Phoenix Park, between Cabra and Castleknock, was mostly agricultural land populated by cattle or crops.
It was in the middle decades of the 20th century that the residential districts either side of the Navan Road were built: tidy streets whose homes were mostly given generous gardens, front and back. This is the older side of Ashtown, between the park and the Royal Canal.
There’s also been a lot of new development in recent years – primarily across the canal in Rathborne and Royal Canal Park, but also at the western fringe of Ashtown by the Halfway House and Phoenix Park Racecourse.
While the commercial centre of Ashtown is probably the SuperValu and shops by the train station, this is actually on the western fringe of the area – which extends all the way east to Cabra, with Finglas to the northeast. To the west it borders Castleknock.
Take me there! But of course. Here you are just coming into Ashtown from the Phoenix Park gate.
So what’s the big draw? Ashtown is handy for the city centre and just outside the gates of the park, with all the amenities that brings. Its estates are typically well-spaced with generous green areas and gardens.
It’s a very settled area, with some older residents having lived there since the houses were new. But in recent years it has seen an influx of young couples and families, drawn by the good houses, gardens, and prices not quite as eye-watering as those in nearby areas.
What do people love about it? The location and amenities, says resident Kim Ward:
It’s so central to everywhere and there’s very good transport with the bus and train. There’s a good social life as well, loads of pubs and restaurants and it’s a really friendly neighbourhood. It’s right beside the largest park in Europe which always has a number of activities on and we have other facilities like a gym locally and a GAA pitch, running clubs.
The mix of residents is good too, says Sally McKenna:
I’d just say that it’s a very settled area – it’s an elderly area but there’s an influx of new people coming into the market which is good, and lots of school and childcare facilities nearby. Great to have the park so close. Cumiskeys and the Hole in the Wall are great institutions to have too.
And… what do people NOT love about it? It’s a small thing… but the junction into the park can be a bit of a nightmare, says Kim.
The thing I don’t love about Ashtown is the junction going into the Phoenix Park at Ashtown is absolutely ridiculous, it is a death trap. There’s no roundabout, there’s no structure, no one knows who has the right of way, the people going into the park or not going into the park. That would be the only thing I would hate about Ashtown.
Because it’s dominated by residential estates, it can lack that village feel, says Sally.
The Navan Road area falls between Ashtown village and Cabra so lacks that village vibe – and not enough cafe facilities in the area because of that.
What’s the story with house prices? There’s a lot of variation across the area. At the Dublin 7 end of the Navan Road, the average asking price of a property is €463,236. Further from town at the Dublin 15 end, it drops all the way to €271,691.
How long will it take me to the city centre? From the geographic centre of Ashtown, roughly where Baggot Road meets the Navan Road, it’s a 10-15 minute drive into town – or 20 minutes on the bike.
It’s well connected by Dublin Bus, being served by the 37, 38, 39/A and 70 routes along the Navan Road. (Which is also a major ‘spine’ of the upcoming BusConnects redesign.) There’s also the 120 and 122.
At the north-eastern edge of the area where it meets Cabra, the Luas runs from Broombridge station; while to the northwest is Ashtown railway station on the line between Maynooth and Connolly. A new station is due to be built at Pelletstown, between Ashtown and Broombridge.
Where should I get lunch? If you’re feeling virtuous, try the Lo-Cal Kitchen, a cafe in the Phoenix Park Racecourse development with a focus on healthy but substantial eats for breakfast, lunch and brunch.
Alternatives: For something more in the ‘fancy pub grub’ department, the Hole In The Wall is a good bet – or head to the Halfway House for your classic carvery. There’s also the Phoenix Cafe, a pleasant spot in the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre.
And what’s my new local? The aforementioned Hole In The Wall is a nice spot for a drink after a walk in the park – with a reputation for going all out in the Christmas season.
Schools and supermarkets? There’s a SuperValu in Rathborne. On the way into town though, there’s a Tesco superstore on the Navan Road, and a Lidl at Hanlons Corner. There’s also another Lidl in Glasnevin.
There are six primary schools in the area: Mary Help of Christians (Catholic, girls, 423 pupils); St Catherine’s Infant and Senior (Catholic, mixed and girls, 146 and 216 pupils); St John Bosco Junior and Senior (Catholic, boys, 230 and 442 pupils); and Pelletstown Educate Together (multidenominational, mixed).
OK, I’m sold. Give me one piece of Ashtown trivia to impress a local. Ashtown Castle, the large stone building in the Phoenix Park that is now home to a visitor centre, dates from the 1430s. However, it wasn’t discovered until 1978.
Puzzled? That’s not surprising. The walls of the castle were found within a larger structure, Ashtown Lodge, that was built around them in the Georgian era. It was home to the Papal Nuncio until the late 1970s, when it lost the battle against dry rot and was demolished – revealing the castle walls within.
Do you live in Ashtown? Share your opinion in the comments!