Carrickfergus has been named the best market town in Northern Ireland.
Beating off competition from other market towns such as Cookstown and Comber, the County Antrim town came out top in a survey by Royal Mail, joining picturesque locations like Langholm in Scotland and Egremont in Cumbria, as well as Denbigh and Mold in Wales.
Based on criteria in each of the devolved nations the survey includes average earnings, house prices, access to services, crime figures, skill level of the population and unemployment figures. Data from the 2011 UK Census is also used.
An estate agent at the Carrickfergus branch of UPS, Darren Barr, said house prices were low in the town. “It has probably always been a more competitive place to buy a house than other suburban areas around Belfast.
He said properties in Carrickfergus could be up to £30,000 cheaper than similar homes in Greenisland – a location which is typically regarded as more desirable than Carrickfergus.
“With the A2 road, we are 10 miles away from Belfast so you can get to Belfast within 20 minutes at off-peak times.
“Our convenience for Belfast really makes it a good place to live.”
And he said the area also benefited from being close to one of the most scenic parts of Northern Ireland – the Glens of Antrim.
Carrickfergus also features a famous castle – and this week, tourism in the area received a boost after a £1m grant to replace the castle tower’s roof was announced. The castle is a popular draw for coaches carrying tourists.
Iain Greenway, director of the Department for Communities Historic Environment Division, said: “This is a major milestone in the history of Carrickfergus Castle, one of our best-known and most-visited historic monuments.”
The high-ranking Northern Ireland market towns finding favour with the Royal Mail are all clustered around Belfast.
Carrickfergus took the top spot for high scores on work-life balance and affordability. Lurgan’s affordable housing and good work-life balance placed it at number two while Comber was at number three due to good school scores and short commuting distance.
Ranking forth and fifth respectively are Randalstown and Bangor.
A spokesperson for Royal Mail said “This new study demonstrates the breadth of market towns providing attractive places for people across the UK to live and work in.
“For people who value a good work-life balance, there are plenty of market towns to choose from. Royal Mail connects communities and businesses across the UK, delivering to nearly 30 million addresses.”