Coasts Of Ireland Offer Enticing Waterfront Home Options

International home buyers are starting to catch on to the appeal of the island nation.

This article is part of our latest special report on Waterfront Homes.


Ireland is known for its scenic landscapes that include rolling green hills juxtaposed with jagged coastlines and an abundance of castles and ruins. The country’s appeal as a destination for waterfront living, however, is somewhat nascent and lesser known, even though the country is surrounded by water.

“Many people don’t realize that Ireland has stunning beaches and coasts all over the country that are in or near postcard-perfect villages,” said Siobhan Byrne Learat, the founder and chief executive of Adams & Butler, a luxury travel agency based in Dublin. “They aren’t just places for tourists and strum with life all year long.”

These villages offer a tranquil setting for homeowners to relax, said Ms. Byrne Learat, and usually have markets and family-run seafood restaurants and stores. Historical attractions are also often part of the mix.

There are several advantages to owning a property in Ireland, she said. The way that the locals embrace newcomers — affectionately called “blow-in’s” — is one, along with the temperate year-round weather and outdoor lifestyle with biking, walking and horseback riding being common pursuits.

In addition, the country is easily accessible with its three large airports — Dublin, Shannon and Cork — and the national carrier, Aer Lingus, which offers connections to numerous cities in Europe, the United States and Canada.

International home buyers are starting to catch on to these appeals, according to Chris Graham, the founder of the London-based real estate branding consultancy Graham Associates, who said that a growing contingent from abroad is seeking secondary properties in Ireland.

“It’s a beautiful destination that’s perceived to be safe, which is what home buyers are seeking since the onset of the pandemic when they’re considering secondary properties,” Mr. Graham said. “The strength of the Irish economy and the favorable tax rates are also helping to bring in more of these buyers.”

Another indication of the rising interest: according to sothebysrealty.com traffic, searches for Ireland properties increased by more than 1,200 percent from January to September of this year, compared with the same period in 2021.

Although Ireland offers waterfront living throughout the country, the market for properties close to the ocean is particularly prominent in Dalkey, near Dublin, West Cork, in the southwest, and Connemara, in the northwest.

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Dalkey is an upscale seaside town located less than 10 miles southeast of Dublin and around a 40-minute train ride or drive away.

Rory Kirwan, a director at Dublin-based Lisney Sotheby’s International Realty, said that Dalkey had the charming atmosphere of a historic village and is famous for its namesake castle that dates to the 1390s. Castle Street, the main thoroughfare, is lined with pubs and restaurants, homegrown boutiques and other local businesses.

The area offers several points of interest when it comes to the water, according to Mr. Kirwan. They include Bulloch Harbor, Whiterock, a short rocky beach that’s a mainstay with swimmers and sunbathers, and Killiney Beach, a long stretch of soft sand. Dalkey Island, a 22-acre swath of land that’s uninhabited save for a handful of sheep and goats, also figures in. “You look at the coastline from a different perspective and get incredible views,” Mr. Kirwan said.

Diversions in Dalkey are focused on the ocean and include kayaking, paddleboarding and kite surfing. Dun Laoghaire Harbor, located near the town, is home to four yacht clubs including the National Yacht Club and the Royal Irish Yacht Club and is a go-to for sailing enthusiasts.

Locals and vacationers also have their pick of numerous coastal walks — the most traversed may be the hourlong route that passes through town, along the water and ends at the top of Killiney Hill. When it comes to dining, there are many restaurants, including several high-quality establishments. Many serve fresh seafood, such as DeVille’s, which has a following for its fish and chips.

Mr. Kirwan said that Dalkey was a popular home buying destination for Irish citizens who want a primary residence near a large city and international residents seeking seaside homes who are from the United States, England, Australia and all over Asia. “It’s a very international, convivial community,” he said.

The town’s housing stock is mostly single-family homes, but Mr. Kirwan said buyers will find a few apartment complexes such as Pilot View and Coliemore Apartments, both situated on the ocean.

Dalkey’s homes are set within and outside of gated developments and both command high prices. “These homes have the highest values, compared with other seaside towns in the area and Ireland overall,” Mr. Kirwan said. “This is a very desirable place to live.”

Most properties have a minimum of three bedrooms, he said, and were constructed in the 1950s and 60s. Others date to the Edwardian or Victorian eras, and a few are recently built contemporary residences. Prices to own start at $840,000 and span up to $10 million or more — particularly the properties on Sorrento Terrace, a street that stands out for its spectacular sea panoramas and palatial estates.

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Part of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, a more than 1,500-mile-long scenic coastal road, West Cork is a region in the southwest and within County Cork.

Roseanne De Vere Hunt, a director at the Dublin-based Sherry FitzGerald, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, who specializes in Ireland’s coastal homes, said that West Cork has more than a dozen picturesque villages.

Examples include Kinsale, originally a medieval fishing port that’s now full of art galleries, high-end restaurants and winding streets with brightly colored houses. The town, home to the 17th-century Charles Fort, has been described by locals as the gourmet center of Ireland. “There are many fantastic places to get a great meal here, and savoring oysters with an ale is a longtime local pastime,” Ms. De Vere Hunt said. “The Irish regard Kinsale as one of the loveliest places in the country.”

The area stands out for its harbors and many long sandy beaches — Red Strand Beach, near Clonakilty, and Barley Cove are local favorites. West Cork is an active destination, according to Ms. De Vere Hunt, and counts surfing, swimming — even in winter — and beach walks as the top ways that locals spend their leisure time. Golf is also an option with more than 30 courses in the region.

When it comes to housing options, prospective buyers can pick from apartments in the towns, 18th and 19th-century farmhouses set in the countryside and waterfront single-family homes with their own boathouses.

Prices start at $150,000 for a modest two-bedroom apartment in good shape or a small farmhouse that needs to be renovated, Ms. De Vere Hunt said. Her company is selling a late 18th-century farmhouse near Clonakilty, for example, for just under $150,000 that has three bedrooms and one bath and is in dilapidated condition. Waterfront properties in West Cork cost at least $1 million but can sell for multiples more.

Buyers in the region include Irish residents who are seeking primary or secondary homes, United States residents and people from countries in mainland Europe such as Germany, France and Spain.

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Set within County Galway in northwest Ireland, Connemara is a region that encompasses the seafront, the Twelve Bens mountain range, bogs and lakes. The playwright Oscar Wilde famously described it as “a savage beauty.”

Unlike the rest of Ireland that’s known for being green, Connemara’s landscape is characteristic for its myriad hues including oranges, purples, grays and browns, said Sinead O’Sullivan, the co-owner of the Galway-based real estate agency Matt O’Sullivan. The coastline is rugged, secluded and features small, uninhabited islands. “When you drive or walk along the roads, you can see the white dots of sheep in the hills, crumbling stone walls dating to the early 19th century and cascading waterfalls,” she said. “But you could be going for miles before you see another soul.”

Connemara’s main towns include Clifden, a vibrant destination with markets, pubs and stores, and Ballyconneely, marked for its sandy beaches and golf course, Connemara Championship Golf Links. There’s also Roundstone, a small fishing village that’s renowned for its water views and two beaches, Dog’s Bay and Gurteen Bay.

Most properties in the area are single-family homes, either in the villages or pocketed in the sprawling terrain. Ms. O’Sullivan said that they were a diverse mix, from new construction energy-efficient properties to 19th-century cottages complete with their original outhouses and other historical features.

Connemara is an affordable place to buy a waterfront home, compared with the rest of Ireland, she said. “The more rural you are, the lower prices can be,” Ms. O’Sullivan said. A three-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot home on a plot of land that’s between a half-acre to an acre — the average in the area — costs between $150,000 to $400,000, depending on its condition and location. These properties have gardens, and owners can enjoy the benefit of privacy and the luxury of space. Waterfront properties in towns such as Clifden are decidedly pricier.

In the wake of the pandemic, many Dubliners have bought vacation or primary homes in Connemara, according to Ms. O’Sullivan. Internationally speaking, buyers include people from the United States, France, Germany and England.

TamiJoy Miller, originally from Walla Walla, Wash., and now a full-time Connemara resident, is an example. Ms. Miller said that she used her five-acre property in the village of Ballinakill — an 1850s stone cottage that faces a lake on one side and Atlantic Ocean on the other — as a vacation home for several years. When the pandemic hit, she decided to make it her primary residence. “I wanted to live in a more remote setting, and Connemara is an undisturbed, natural place,” she said. “I love the serenity of the sea, the friendly locals and the open spaces. I’m lucky that I get to call it home.”

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