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HOWTH IS VERY old by Dublin standards. It’s been a fishing village for hundreds, probably thousands, of years – certainly since it was invaded by the Vikings in the early ninth century. (And well before Dublin city was officially ‘settled’ in 988 AD.)
Thanks to its position on the bay, it’s seen its share of conflict over the years. Local pub the Bloody Stream is named for the aftermath of just one of the battles that dot its history as different groups fought for possession of the strategic headland.
And the village continues to be a highly desirable location to this day. Both tourists and seagulls flock to the harbour in large numbers, and property here is more expensive than almost anywhere else on the Northside.
So in a way it’s surprising that Howth continues to be a mixed community, with a working fishing harbour existing side by side with a sizeable cohort of rock stars, golfers, and families. The harbour remains the heart of the village, with the commercial centre stretching up the hill along Abbey Street.
Take me there! OK, here you are on the main street facing up the hill towards the church.
So what’s the big draw? Howth has a reputation as being sort of the Southside of the Northside – and this isn’t completely unfounded. It’s on the Dart, there are lots of posh houses, and it’s got a pier.
But residents are much more likely to talk about the warm and welcoming community; the relative wildness of the headland and its fauna (“gannets, seals, puffins, curlews, seagulls”, one resident told us); and the wealth of independent local businesses. It’s an attractive and safe place to live with plenty going on.
What do people love about it? It’s a warm community, says resident Sarah McDonnell.
Howth has a vibrant and inclusive community spirit. We have generations of old fishing families and then blow-ins like myself and all are welcomed in with open arms. There are also lots of have and have-nots in Howth, yet everyone coexists with no snobbery or rubbish like that which I found living elsewhere.
The eating and drinking, says Helen Lahert: “We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out or going for a jar in the small, locally run restaurants and pubs.”
The location, says Tracey of Howth Tidy Towns:
Stunning walks and hikes, water activities and adventure sports… It’s sort of like living on an Island and their is a tremendous community spirit and great pride in the peninsula.
And… what do people NOT love about it? The avian inhabitants, says Orla Horn.
The size of the seagulls and how they hover too close for comfort when you’re trying to enjoy a single of chips!
The roads also get a mention:
Traffic at the weekends – which will get a lot worse for residents with the extensive additional apartments due to be built over the next 3 years. Public transport will not be able to solve the geographical limitation of one way in and out to the Peninsula via Sutton cross.
What’s the story with house prices? Seriously steep. The average asking price of €615,871 according to Daft.ie is the highest on the Northside by a mile – way above its nearest local rival Clontarf (€545k) – and on a par with some of the most heralded Southside neighbourhoods like Killiney (€632k) and Ballsbridge (€631k).
How long will it take me into town? Outside peak times, it’s about 30 minutes into town in the car. Rush hour adds to that significantly, of course.
But the Dart will have you at Tara Street inside half an hour reliably. There’s also the 31 bus which takes 40 minutes or so.
Where should I get lunch? If you’re looking for something small and a coffee, head for The Grind – which claims, credibly, to serve the best coffee in the village. There are also sandwiches, breakfasts and a notorious selection of pancakes.
And what’s my new local? Climb to the top of the hill and look into the aptly-named Summit Inn.
Schools and supermarkets? The nearest supermarket of size is the SuperValu in Sutton. Beyond that, there’s a Lidl in Baldoyle, a Dunnes in Donaghmede and a large Tesco at Clare Hall.
Three post-primary schools are also between Sutton and Howth: Sutton Park (Church of Ireland, mixed, 345 pupils); Santa Sabina (Catholic, girls, 669 pupils); and St Fintan’s High School (Catholic, boys, 705 pupils).
OK, I’m sold. Give me one piece of Howth trivia to impress a local. You know how Molly Bloom is famous for saying ‘Yes’? Well, Howth is the place where it happened. In the famous soliloquy that closes out Ulysses, she remembers a day with her husband-to-be Leopold, the two of them “lying among the rhododendrons on Howth head… the day I got him to propose to me yes”.
Do you live in Howth? Share your opinion in the comments!