Let's move to Wicklow Town... Historic seaside haunt
Good road and rail links make Wicklow Town popular with buyers
You've got a jail, reputed to be the most haunted in Ireland - a stone-walled hellhole where captured rebels from the 1798 Rebellion were among those incarcerated. If they managed to survive the awful conditions and the trials, they were transported on as convicts.
From when it opened in 1704 to when it finally closed in 1924, Wicklow Town Jail saw unfortunates thrown together in brutal conditions. Legend suggests their ghosts still rattle in its corridors at night.
So, who you gonna call?
Tomorrow night the people who run Wicklow Town Jail as a heritage centre are bringing in actors who will play the roles of nasty warders and tormented inmates of times past. They've also called in the husband and wife ghost hunting team of Angie and Keith Freeland to ferret out the residual spiritual inmates, and anyone willing to fork out €50 can stay here between 9pm and 3am.
Wicklow Town was always a spirited place, right from when it was first founded by the Vikings in the 8th century. The Norse called it Wykinglo, which roughly translates as "meadow of the Viking".
Just east of the national primary N11 route, and linked by dual carriageway and motorway to the capital 42km away, Wicklow Town has long been popular with house hunters from Dublin and beyond. Add to this, the regular commuter train services to the city and also connections with Arklow, Wexford and Rosslare Europort not to mention the odd fixer upper available for as little as €100,000 and you can see what the attraction is. That said, you would expect to pay between €250,000 and €300,000 for a decent three-bedroom semi-detached home
In Norman times the town was centred along Main Street, which runs parallel to the natural harbour and the fine stone beach. The ruins of a monastery dating back to Norman times can be found at Abbey Grounds. The Black Castle, founded by the Vikings, was destroyed in 1641 in an attack which led to the massacre of the parish priest and his congregation, it is claimed, in the vicinity of what is now known as Melancholy Lane.
At the northern end of the town, which according to the 2011 census, has a population of 10,356, lies The Murrough, a 15km-long coastal grassy wetland area stretching north almost to Greystones, and where the waters of the Broad Lough enter the sea via the Vartry River. This magnificent wildlife haven is also a popular walking area and as well as hosting the obvious water sports activities, there is a fine children's playground.
The town has also been boosted by completion of both the Wicklow Port Access Road and the Town Relief Road, which has opened up it up for local car owners and visitors.
In from the harbour, the land rises into rolling hills to the west, going on to meet the Wicklow Mountains in the centre of the county. The dominant feature to the south is the rocky headlands of Bride's Head and Wicklow Head, the easternmost mainland point of Ireland. The natural elevation of the town means more than the usual access to sea views for dwellers.
Considerable residential development has taken place to the west of the town along Marlton Road (R751). More recently, housing developments have been concentrated to the northwest of the town, towards neighbouring Rathnew.
The county town hosts the headquarters of Wicklow County Council and the offices of Wicklow Urban District Council. Industrial activity (light, medium and heavy) is accommodated in an industrial zone discretely located to the north of the town.
Social/Amenities: Wicklow county is known as the Garden of Ireland and is home to some of Ireland's most beautiful gardens, including Mount Usher, the National Botanic Gardens at Kilmaccuragh and Kilruddery Gardens. There are also the famous Powerscourt Gardens (voted the third best garden in the world by National Geographic), and Avondale House and Forest Park.
The mountains, lakes and coastal areas all offer a vast range of leisure options for Wicklow Town residents, including swimming, diving, climbing, walking, riding, fishing, golf (Wicklow Town GC and Blainroe), GAA (St Patrick's caters for 19 teams from nursery to minor level), rugby, soccer, hockey and tennis (Wicklow Town TC has Tiger Turf Advantage surface and Philips 1kw court lights).
Meantime, the Wicklow Boat Hire Kayaking and Tackle Shop, based on The Murrough, continues to develop water activity opportunities in the area.
The annual Taste of Wicklow festival, held in June, attracted over 5,000 people to the town, with more than 30 stallholders offering the best in local food in association with TV chef Neven Maguire. And the Secret Garden Music Festival at Kilpoole Hill in the same month had Damien Dempsey headlining.
Speaking of food, there's fine dining to be had in the Mystic Celt, on Church Street, where chef Paul Smith has a novel barter system for local organic vegetable growers who can trade in their extra produce for a voucher from the restaurant, and The Dairy restaurant at the long-established Phil Healy's pub on Fitzwilliam Square, is highly recommended on TripAdvisor.
The Square Steakhouse, on Market Square, does a great Surf and Turf, a prime fillet steak garnished with prawns in a garlic butter, while Halpin's Bridge Cafe, a combined cafe and restaurant on Bridge Street, won the Wicklow & District Chamber of Commerce's Best Eating Establishment Award in 2010. There's also good Italian fare at Casa di Pietra (with their new a la carte menu) and Donelli's (known for desserts such as Lemon Chiffon Tart or Decadent Raspberry Chocolate Torte), both on Market Square.
Transport: Bus Éireann (133) and Irish Rail both operate through the town. Bus Éireann provides an hourly (half-hourly at peak time) service to Dublin Connolly and Dublin Airport. Trains also operate to Rosslare Europort.
School: The brand new Wicklow Educate Together primary school complex, on the Town Relief Road, near the Rocky Road junction is on track for its mid-February 2016 opening. It will also have an Early Intervention Pre-School unit, including a sensory garden. Glebe National School, on Church Hill is also highly regarded, as is the Glebe National School, a co-ed Church of Ireland school. Colaiste Cill Mhantain, a secondary co-ed, is also very good.
Property: Eugene Dooley of Dooley Poynton Auctioneers says you can catch a fine three-bed semi for between €240,000 and €275,000, and these are selling easily, both new and second hand. Mid-range properties in the likes of Pebble Bay, or in Marlton Demesne, off the Marlton Road, are also going well.
At the higher end, which is very much dependent on the Dublin market, things are slower. "People in Dublin are not getting rid of their houses so easily, so this has slowed things down," he says.
At this top end of the market, in places like Seapoint, Ballyguile Mor, Dunbur Road, Churchhill, Keatingstown and Martin Court, you can expect to pay upwards of €425,000 for a large detached house. In the new development opposite Colaiste Cill Mhantain at Burkeen, a 1,900 sq ft dormer will fetch around €450,000.
"First-time buyer tend to have their homework done, are more discerning and deals are closing quicker," says Dooley.
Catherine O'Reilly, of Sherry Fitzgerald Catherine O'Reilly, agrees the market has improved after a quiet second quarter. She predicts a 6.5 per cent growth in sale prices by the end of the year. "Buyer sentiment is good, which is very important for us," she says.
At entry level, a three-bed semi in the town, in an older estate like Willow Heights, will go for between €230,000 and €270,000.
Sherry Fitzgerald Catherine O'Reilly has placed Auburn, a four-bed detached property in Blainroe Lower, at €525,000; Dooley Poynton has the three-bed 4 Wentworth Place bungalow for €320,000; while CD Auctioneers has priced the two-bed terraced 2 Brides Road at €154,950.
Wicklow Town area CV
Beautiful surrounding area
Good restaurants, pubs and cafes
Inner relief road and port access road
Housing stock limited
Could do with a good-sized hotel to aid tourism
Needs a strong major employer
Next Week: Adamstown