Royal County still popular location for house buyers
From its time as the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland, Co Meath has derived the reputation as being the Royal County, a reputation that has done no harm at all to its housing market. Before the turn of the century the county's capital, Navan, attracted new home owners to its furniture factories with the allure of being 'only an hour from Dublin'.
This, and its convenience to the burgeoning businesses around Dublin Airport, laid the foundations for the county providing popular locations in the expanding commuter belt surrounding the greater Dublin area. And the introduction of the new M3 has halved that commuting time again, making towns like Navan and Trim just about a 30 minutes' drive from Dublin.
And now with the average price of a family home here at €201,140, down just over 45pc since the peak of the boom, according to the Daft Report for the first quarter of 2011, home hunters are once again considering Co Meath as an affordable location, where value-for-money and a good lifestyle are still available.
The second largest county in Leinster, Meath has a population of 162,831 according to the 2006 census. Co Meath has several well-established towns including Athboy, Ashbourne, Dunshaughlin, Julianstown, Ratoath and Kells, while Navan and Trim both prove the jewels in the county's crown. A well-developed busy shopping town with its own theatre and arts centre, along with government offices and county hall, Navan experienced the greatest population explosion during the past decade.
Trim, the former county town, is renowned for its castle and ancient ruins, as much as for its quaint shops and pretty buildings, while the circuit court still sits here.
Meath is also home to several villages that have managed to retain a sense of traditional style, including Summerhill, Kilmessan, Moynalty, Nobber, Kilbride, Duleek and Bettystown.
Prime pasture land, raised bogs, a 12km coastline, beautiful scenery and a wealth of historic monuments means it's also a tourist hot-spot on the international map. The Brú na Bóinne archaeological park, a Neolithic necropolis comprising one of the largest and best-preserved passage graves in Europe, attracts more than 250,000 visitors annually.
Other world-famous landmarks in Co Meath include the Hill of Tara, seat of the High Kings until the sixth century, along with abbeys and castles found in Bective, Donaghmore, Athlumney and Dunsany.
And despite Co Meath's close proximity to Dublin, the county incorporates two Gaeltacht areas at Rath Cairn and Baile Ghib.
Well served by road networks, the main routes to Co Meath include the M3/N3 and M1 that connect it with Cavan, Belfast and Dublin. Meath is also well served by rail, with the Dublin to Drogheda line serving the coastal villages of Laytown and Bettystown in East Meath, while Navan is served by the Dublin-to-Belfast line connecting at Drogheda.
In terms of housing options, there's plenty to choose from in Co Meath. From apartments and duplexes to three-bed semis and large, detached country residences, there's something for most budgets according to local estate agents.
According to the most recent Daft report, one-beds are available for an average of €112,000, while two-beds cost €142,000, three-beds €193,000, four-beds €270,000 and five-bed homes average €358,000.
Prices vary according to location, with three-beds in popular Navan available for less than €200,000. In Trim, a nice three-bed semi costs nearer to €150,000, while even better value is to be had in Kells where three-bed houses go for around €140,000.
In the coastal towns of East Meath, three-bed homes close to the beach have asking prices ranging from €160,000 to €195,000.
In Dunshaughlin, which is just 15 miles from Dublin, prices are similar to Navan, with one-beds asking around €115,000 and two-beds asking in the region of €150,000. Larger detached homes in rural settings have higher asking prices, ranging from around €300,000 to €450,000 depending on the size of the land around the house and its development potential.