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NAAS TODAY IS almost a byword for the commuter town. If you’ve driven into or out of Dublin from pretty much anywhere, you’ve seen signs to Naas. Kids around the country know it by the giant ball on the motorway.
Historically speaking, it’s always been a place with a lot going on. At its heart is an old town centre with a medieval core. Its Irish name, Nás na Ríogh, means ‘meeting place of the kings’ and the town has a long and what you might call ‘colourful’ story. It hosted several horrible massacres, multiple instances of abducted royal wives, and a particularly nasty battle in the 1798 Rebellion – as well as meetings of the medieval parliament.
Geographically, the Naas of today has been shaped extensively by commuters. It was home to Ireland’s first motorway – the M7 Naas Bypass, opened in 1983 to deal with traffic problems that drove pollution levels higher than Dublin’s. And the town has seen explosive growth in recent decades as new housing developments attract young families working in the capital.
But far from being a dormitory town, Naas remains very much a living urban space with an active community life. It sits just south of the M7 – north-east of Newbridge and south-west of Celbridge – and is often grouped with Sallins, just across the motorway.
Take me there! OK, here you are on Main Street at the heart of the old town.
So what’s the big draw? A family-friendly town just 15 minutes’ train journey from Dublin with phenomenal transport links. Not just A Nice Place To Shop, as the sign had it, but well supplied with all kinds of amenities. Plus only a stone’s throw (in driving terms, anyway) from Kildare Village, Newbridge, the west Dublin shopping centres, and also the Blessington Lakes and Wicklow mountains for a bitta nature.
What do people love about it? Naas is “a large town with a small town’s character,” says a spokesperson for Naas Tidy Towns.
It is very personable and has fantastic clubs and societies. There are numerous golf courses within a 15 kilometer radius, there are two racecourses, a racetrack, and it has its own hospital. There are excellent bars, restaurants, hotels and the local theatre has some really good shows. Every year the Punchestown festival brings a great sense of occasion.
And… what do people NOT love about it? Despite the bypass, the traffic can still be an issue.
One drawback is the traffic. Naas was the first town in Ireland that required a bypass. That bypass was upgraded 12 years ago and is being upgraded again this year.
What’s the story with house prices? Above the national average, but on the whole way cheaper than buying in Dublin. The average asking price in Naas is just over €302,000 – roughly €100k less than the average in the capital.
How long will it take me to get into Dublin? If you’re commuting to Dublin, the drive is just over an hour outside peak times. Buses will get you there in 45 minutes if the gods smile upon you.
On the train, however, it’s a different story: just over a quarter of an hour into Heuston Station if you pick the right train.
Where should I get lunch? PS Coffee Roasters is an independent coffee shop run by two brothers on Poplar Square, which also serves salads and an appetising range of baked goods.
And what’s my new local? Tommy Fletcher’s on Main Street is an old-school pub with a notoriously old-school proprietor – famous for once allegedly threatening Ronnie Wood, and possibly the rest of the Rolling Stones, with expulsion if they kept singing in the bar. Keep the tunes to a minimum and you’ll be OK.
Alternatives: Kavanagh’s is a local institution with a beer garden and a varied clientele. If you’re looking for something fancier, the Lock 13 gastro pub in Sallins has a selection of good craft beers and food to match.
Schools and supermarkets? Naas is home to one of the world’s largest Tescos (OK we’re making that up, but it’s very big) just by the motorway. There’s also a big SuperValu at the station and another in the town; two each of Lidl and Aldi; and another Tesco too. Basically if you’re looking for groceries Naas has you sorted.
There are nine primary schools: Naas Convent (Catholic, mixed); St David’s (Church of Ireland, mixed); Scoil Chorbain (Catholic, boys); An Linbh Iosa (Catholic, mixed); Scoil Bríd (Catholic, mixed); Killashee (multidenominational, mixed); Gaelscoil Nas na Riogh (interdenominational Gaelscoil, mixed); Naas Community (multidenominational, mixed); and in Sallins, St Laurence’s (Catholic, mixed).
There are four secondary schools: Coláiste Naomh Mhuire (Catholic, girls); Gael Cholaiste Chill Dara (Catholic Gaelscoil, mixed); Meánscoil Iognáid Ris (Catholic, boys); Naas Community College (multidenominational, mixed); and Piper’s Hill College (interdenominational, mixed).
Anything else I should check out? The walk along the towpath is an underappreciated local option, says the aforementioned Tidy Towns rep. Look out for the wildlife:
One of the hidden gems in the town is the lovely walk that exists from the harbour along the canal. Along this tranquil stretch there exists a colony of otters and every once in a while a kingfisher will appear.
OK, I’m sold. Give me one piece of Naas trivia to impress a local. The Perpetual Motion sculpture looks like concrete, but it’s actually a huge nine-metre-wide hollow steel ball, with a 50mm layer of concrete sprayed around the outside to simulate a road surface.
(There are persistent rumours among local kids that someone got trapped inside it. This, to the best of our knowledge, is not true.)
Do you live in Naas? Share your opinion in the comments!