Between the devil and the deep blue sea

Dalkey. View from The Great South Wall, July 2020.

By Francine Cunningham

The sea has always lapped around the borders of my life. Childhood summer trips to Buncrana,  Downings or Marble Hill, eating crisp sandwiches full of sand, or sitting in the car looking out at torrential rain falling on the beach. Followed by student days living in an old, damp house along the coast in south Dublin, watching the ever-changing light show over Sandymount strand.

Then there was life as a young journalist in Dublin, sent out to the arty, seaside resort of Dalkey to meet the late Irish writer Maeve Binchy. Charming as ever, she showed me around her little stone cottage with spiral staircase and writer’s desk in the attic, overlooking the sea. I promised myself one day I would live in such a place. [She sent a note back to my newspaper editor to say that I was ‘a nice, kind, sweet girl’ – just when I thought I was being a serious literary journalist!]  There was the interview, too, with the film director, Neil Jordan, at his home in Dalkey’s ‘millionaires’ row’, with its stunning views over Dublin Bay.  

Later still,  there were many visits back to Dublin from abroad, where we would wrap up for bracing New Year walks on Dollymount strand or Bull Island. Some days you could lean into the wind, before heading home with reddened cheeks, in desperate need of a warming pot of tea.   

So, when life unexpected brought me back to Ireland last year, I had some romantic notion about wanting to live beside the sea; to live life on the edge of an island. Then reality set in.

Did you know that there are only a few dozen houses along the coast of south Dublin that have direct views of the sea, without a busy road in between? Or that such houses typically cost over 2-3 million euros, and counting? My dreams of living in the picturesque Dalkey seem to be dependent on winning the lottery sometime soon.

Just when I was about to give up hope, we went for a weekend drive to neighbouring County Wicklow. It was an uncharacteristically sunny day when we happened to pull up in the coastal town of Greystones, some 24 kilometres south of Dublin city centre. With a population of around 18,000, it is bordered by the Irish sea to the east and the Wicklow Mountains to the west. We walked through a stone arch and arrived on a broad sandy beach with rolling waves and just a handful of people. It was so jaw-droppingly lovely. I was smitten. Now I just need to find a way to live there. 

Published by irelandbyaccident

An incoming foreigner and a returning expat share their notes on Ireland

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