One is on the well-heeled Gold Coast, with links to the likes of Rory McIlroy and Van Morrison.
The other is a landmark so mighty it inspired a much-loved classic children’s book.
Cultra, in County Down, and Belfast’s Cavehill have both been named as among the best spots to live in the UK, with glowing praise for their high quality of life.
Cultra, near Holywood, was yesterday named by The Times as one of the 30 most perfect places to live in the UK, the only location in Northern Ireland making its cut.
The Times placed it 14th on its countdown – ahead of well known English idylls such as Clifton near Bristol, Henley-on-Thames near Oxford and St Ives in Cornwall.
The newspaper pointed to Cultra’s proximity to star golfer Rory McIlroy’s home club of Holywood Golf Club as a big draw.
“Home to the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club, which holds regular regattas, this is one of the most sought after and well off suburbs in Northern Ireland,” it declared, saying the area appeals to “wealthy outdoorsy types, young and old”.
It also highlighted property prices and how a detached house could set you back £1m.
Cultra’s inclusion on the prestigious list came just a day after the Cavehill area of north Belfast was named on a separate rundown of the top places to live in the UK, this time carried out by The Sunday Times. The area was declared one of the best urban places to set up home, boasting the best of city life as well as great schools and transport links.
The newspaper also pointed to Napoleon’s Nose – which is said to have inspired Jonathan Swift to write Gulliver’s Travels – as a unique geographical feature.
“Few city addresses can boast a mountain at the end of the street, but in north Belfast, as the suburban sprawl comes to a juddering halt, is Napoleon’s Nose …,” it said.
“While still in the environs of Belfast, the area has a rural feel, with Cavehill on one side and views over Belfast Lough on the other.”
Cathy Martin: friendly folk and Mr 50 Shades
The name Cultra, literally translated from Irish, means behind the beach.
The beach is one of the most naturally beautiful coastal paths in Ireland, and it would be my first reason for celebrating this side of the Lough.
Those walking, running or cycling along it can travel all the way from Belfast to the coastal town of Bangor without having to access a main road, while also enjoying some cracking scenery with majestic mansions and plenty of friendly nods. There’s also a bit of WWII history at Grey’s Point Fort in Helen’s Bay, and those vistas of Scotland or across the Lough to Knockagh, Carrick Castle and Whitehead.
A quick stop at nearby Holywood will allow visitors to enjoy a fantastic array of eateries, cafes and a really family-friendly village culture; food is notable, particularly at The Anchorage, Fontana and the Dirty Duck, as well as the daily café culture enjoyed at Homebird, 81, The Yard and, of course, the Bay Tree for one of their famous spicy cinnamon scones.
And, speaking of spice, one of the village’s former residents is Mr Fifty Shades himself, Jamie Dornan. Another notable son of the area is global golf legend, Rory McIlroy, who still plays at his Holywood club when he returns home. Nice work if you can get it.
And, on the subject of work, Holywood is a great place for business too – it’s a thriving hub, especially for creative arts and advertising or communications agencies (including my own) which have moved to or set up here in increasing numbers over recent years.
Small, independently owned boutiques and studios abound, with more moving here by the month. Plus, it must be noted that residents ‘shop local’ too.
You’ll also hear plenty of stories in the Maypole Bar, locally known as Ned’s or Carty’s.
First licensed in 1857, it has had only three proprietors since it opened and still has the best Guinness in North Down (or so I am told!).
Maureen Coleman: We have community and heart
Having grown up not far from Belfast’s notorious ‘Murder Mile’ – a stretch of road from the New Lodge to Newington where much blood was shed during the Troubles – I’ve become used to defending this part of the city to other people over the years.
While some childhood friends were quick to move out of north Belfast to the more salubrious surroundings of the leafy Malone Road or the up-and-coming east with its riverside apartments, I stayed put, relocating a short distance from the Cavehill Road to nearby Fortwilliam.
From my home, I can see the imposing Cavehill, looming large over the city, with its distinctive Napoleon’s Nose. It’s a short 10 minute dander to Belfast Castle and the country park, with its panoramic views over Belfast Lough. Walk up Cavehill on a clear day and you can see the entire city sprawling out below you. Then there’s the playground for the children, the caves, the archaeological sites, the ecotrails and wildlife, not to mention Belfast Zoo. Where else could you find so much in one spot?
And that’s why I’m pleased to see that Cavehill has been named as one of the best places to live within the UK. According to the Sunday Times Best Places to Live guide, Cavehill is among the top 50 urban locations to set up home. The guide acknowledges that living in this part of the city was once feared (not entirely true, I roamed happy and free as a teenager around Belfast Castle) but is now aspired to.
It goes on that “few city addresses can boast a mountain at the end of the street” and a mountain which provided the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, let’s not forget.
We may not have the coastline of Cultra or the 10-bedroom houses. We may not boast the cafe culture of the east or south. But north Belfast has its own special appeal. We have community and heart. At my local shops at Fortwilliam, everyone knows my name, from Stanley, the butcher, to Linda, the newsagent.
It’s the people who make a place feel like home, after all. We just have the added bonus of Cavehill as a backdrop
Properties from Cultra and Cavehill.
The Coach House (Pictured Above)
Cultra Avenue, Cultra
Offers around £595,000
This may once have been a humble former coach house in a former life, but its beautiful period features act as a portal to another, more elegant, time. Its highlights include walled courtyard gardens, period fireplace and a claw-foot bathtub. The house is also within walking distance of the beach.
*Walled courtyard gardens
*Walking distance to the beach
*Freestanding clawed bath
Old Cavehill Road
Offers around £234,950
A prestigious large family home with traditional bay windows with a warm country style kitchen and brimming with period features. An equivalent house in south Belfast would most likely be much less affordable. The house boasts many original features.
*Floored roof space
Upper Cavehill Road, Belfast
Offers around £249,950
For those who love the feeling of being in the country yet can’t stand to commute, the Cavehill Cottage achieves the seemingly impossible. Sitting on a 2.75 acre site it has an extensive range of outbuildings and views across Belfast to the lough.
View this and more articles on the Belfast Telegraph.