Our House: From Milan to Sallins
After nearly ten years in Italy Hugo McCafferty and his wife, Sandra returned to Dublin. However, after 2 years in the south of the city, they decided to head for Sallins in Co. Kildare.
Hugo and Sandra’s three children were born in Milan, northern Italy where Sandra grew up. They’d built a life over there and were quite content. However, when an unexpected opportunity for work arose in Ireland they took a risk and decided to give life in Dublin a go.
“There was some culture shock returning to Ireland. I think when you’re away you can idealise Ireland a bit and then when you come home it’s a bit more gritty”,” says Hugo.
Initially, they moved to south Dublin, but after a while, they began to realise that they wanted more space to live in. It can be difficult finding the right house in the city at the moment, so they began to look at alternatives.
“If you were buying a laptop, you’d shop around, you’d identify the make and model that suits your needs, you’d compare prices and you’d probably buy online for the best price. With houses at the moment, I think people aren’t doing the same. Everyone is so panicked about trying to buy a place that they are compromising on value. I didn’t want to do that.”
They realised that if they were to find value then they’d have to move out of Dublin. Hugo is originally from Rathfarnham and had never lived outside the Pale in Ireland so when they found a place in Sallins, Co. Kildare, it was almost a leap of faith in moving out there.
They couldn’t be happier with their decision and what they found in Sallins was a pleasant surprise.
“Things are a lot more normal out here in Sallins. People are friendly, they say hello to you on the street. Maybe they don’t do that so much in Dublin anymore,” says Hugo.
Moving out of the city means a longer commute, but Hugo actually spends the same amount of time getting to the office as he did when he lived in the city. He’s lucky enough to work right in the city centre so it’s easy to get to work in the morning.
It’s a six-minute walk to the train station where he gets the train to Heuston, which takes about 35 minutes. Then he either uses Dublin Bikes or the LUAS to get to the office. All in all, it’s an hour door to door.
“It’s exactly the same amount of time, just the distance is a bit longer. Sallins is very well served by the train so it’s very easy,” says Hugo.
They were also impressed with Sallins’ diversity. There’s a lot more ethnic diversity in comparison to south Dublin. The immigrant communities are living in the commuter belts, not in south Dublin where they’re priced out of the market.
Sandra is originally from Bogota in Colombia but was adopted to Italian parents and grew up in Milan. While she is very much culturally Italian, she wanted her children to have a clear identity and fostering their sense of Irishness was her main reason for moving to Ireland.
“It was important for us to give our children a good sense of being Irish, to connect with their culture,” says Sandra.
And there’s plenty to connect with in Kildare. Sallins is becoming a hip enclave. Just around the corner form Hugo and Sandra’s home, there are numerous barges moored on the canal dock with people living in them. People seeking an alternative living solution are turning to living on the water. It’s something we’re used to seeing in London or Amsterdam, but it has really taken off in Dublin and the surrounding area.
“The canal network is stunning,” says Hugo. “I was out running and I made it as far as Hazelhatch and back and I couldn’t get over how beautiful it is. If the canals were in any other country they would be invested in and used as a tourist attraction. While I think they are maintained, they are overgrown and underused,” he says.
“Although that’s fine by me. You can go out on a Sunday morning and bump into very few people along the way. It feels like a well-kept secret.”
The Grand Canal Way is a walking route on the canal-side roads from Lucan Bridge near Adamstown in Dublin to Shannon Harbour about 124 km in length. I’m determined to run it. I think if I could get a group together, we could do it in 3 days,” says Hugo.
“The canal reminds us of Milan. They have the Navigli there which is all that remains of the once extensive canal network in the city. They built roads over them when they were rebuilding after the war, but they’re still there under the city. The canal is very important to the Milanese, they consider it the heart of the city.”
Sallins is a rural location, but it’s very far from being provincial. In fact, it feels more cosmopolitan than parts of Dublin. It’s a vision of a positive and integrated Irish future.
“We’re a mixed-race family,” says Hugo, “and we’re very proud of that, so for us, it is important that the children are in diverse, open-minded environments and we’ve found that here out in Co. Kildare. You would think that would be the opposite, but here there are many foreign nationals, and they seem integrated.”
It’s not long that the McCafferty family are living in Kildare so the weekends are still spent exploring the area.
“There are some lovely big country estates with stately homes that you can roam around at the weekends,” says Sandra.
“And Kildare is beautiful. You have this big sky and in Ireland with all the clouds racing by and the constant changes in the light, it’s never boring to look at!”
Growing up in Rathfarnham, Hugo remembers an area that was on the edge of the city, right before the Dublin Mountains started to rise. To him, Sallins has the same feeling.
“It feels like the edge of Dublin. That’s what I remember growing up, was living in an estate, where the kids called into each other’s houses and spent entire summers outdoors. Here the local kids call around and ask if ours are “coming out to play”. It’s great.”
The thriving town of Naas is just down the road where you can find pretty much anything you could look for and if you do want to head into the city, it’s only 30 to 40 minutes away, depending on the traffic. It’s a beautiful town that seems to have shrugged off any of the negative effects of the recession
“In Dublin, if you don’t live literally around the corner from someone, they think you are ‘miles away”. We were used to living in a big city like Milan where you would have no problem driving an hour to see a friend. Things are changing in Dublin so we’ll all have to get used to more time in the car.”
This is Hugo and Sandra’s house, but it feels like a home to them. They’re looking forward to spending many years there watching their family grow and putting down roots.
About the Our House series
Our House is a 6-part series created in partnership with Ulster Bank. Focusing on a range of different people in Ireland and how they choose to live their lives we look at the relationship between people’s homes and the way they live.
How we live depends on where we live and the home that we buy is an investment in the lifestyle that we will have for years to come. With the property market changing so much, we meet people who have embarked on their own journey to own their home and live a certain way.
Every home starts with a house and the first step on the way to owning that house is your mortgage. Ulster Bank is in the business of helping people realise their home ownership dreams and are there to help you through the process every step of the way.
Whether you’re taking your first tentative steps to home ownership, or established and looking for a change of lifestyle and a new home Ulster Bank is there to make the process as smooth as possible.
Debbie Boyle, a Mobile Mortgage Manager with UlsterBank, says: "At Ulster Bank, we know that buying a house is so much more than a transaction - it's a putting down of roots. For many young couples and families, the place they choose to buy their home will become the area their children grow up in, go to school in, a place where all their family memories are made. That's why at Ulster Bank, we do all we can to help make the actual mortgage process easier - because we know that the decision being made is a huge one. So the more headspace we can clear for our customers, so they're free to focus on the next place they'll call home, the better".
To talk to Ulster Bank about your mortgage click here.