Living in Donabate, Ireland
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I lived in Ireland for almost two years. When people back home asked where I lived, I told them Dublin, and that was partly true. I lived in Dublin for a year. Then I spent the next ten months living in the town of Donabate. I’m going to break this into two posts. This post will give you some information to see if living in Donabate would be the right place for you. The next post will be about what to do in Donabate if you’re travelling in Ireland (what sites to see and where to stay).
Basics of Donabate
Donabate (in Irish Domhnach Bat) is a small town of about 7500. It’s located 20 kilometres north of Dublin in Fingal County. It’s on a peninsula, but the central part of town is a few kilometres from the coast. Donabate has a small train station, which is on the Dublin commuter line. The train goes south to Dublin (ending at Pearse Station in the city centre) and north to Drogheda or Dundalk. Going to Dublin from Donabate via train (or vice versa) takes about 25 minutes. The 33B bus goes from the nearby city of Swords to the town of Portrane through Donabate (and vice versa). This was run by Dublin Bus when I lived there, but is now operated by Go Ahead Ireland. If you have a car, you can get to Donabate via the M1, exiting off on R126. The town is a 15-minute drive to/from Dublin Airport.
The Main Area of Donabate
Donabate is a small town, but it has some basic amenities in town.
Food and Dining
For food, there is the Supervalu grocery store, a butcher shop, and a couple of convenience stores. Donabate has some dining options including:
- Romayo’s, a takeaway with burgers, fish chips, fried chicken, and pizza.
- New Indian Dinner and Pizza, a takeaway with Indian food and pizza. They have a pizza called the “Toronto Classic” which as a Canadian I had to try. It was good, but I can’t really say if it’s a pizza that is actually popular/well-known in Toronto.
- Donabate Chinese, a takeaway with Chinese food.
- Chung’s Chinese Restaurant, a dine-in restaurant serving Chinese food.
- Pasta Costello, a dine-in Italian restaurant.
- Scrumdiddly’s, a popular ice cream shop that will have a queue around the block in the summer.
- Cate’s Cafe, a coffee shop with breakfast and lunch options.
- Supervalu Grocery store has a deli where you can get sandwiches and salads to go (breakfast roll for the win).
- Update: In 2020 a new coffee shop opened up on the main street called Triangle Coffee. Of course, I’m no longer living in Ireland but I hope this local spot does well. I’ll try to keep this post updated with any new restaurants/cafes in Donabate I come across.
Outside the main area of town, there is a café at the Donabate Portrane Community Centre. The Waterside Hotel also has a dine-in restaurant.
This is Ireland so there are pubs here. Smyths Bridge House is across the street from the train station. Keelings, which also serves food, is on Main Street.
Other Shops and Services
Donabate has a couple of beauty salons and barbershops (one’s called Sweeney Todd’s, which I love because of the musical). There’s a flower shop, a post office, a boutique clothing store, two sports betting facilities, dry cleaners, and a gas station. Donabate also has a travel agency, and a real estate office if you wanted to buy a home.
Health and Wellness
Donabate has a medical clinic, two pharmacies, a dental clinic, and an acupuncture clinic. The Healing Room outside of town offers Reiki services. Then the Healing Well has different therapies and treatments like massage, and reflexology. Donabate Portrane Community Centre has a gym and offers classes like pilates. St. Patrick’s Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) club is where you could join a sports team like Gaelic football, or hurling (a fast-paced field sport).
For families, there are some daycares and schools including a Montessori. The Donabate Portrane Community Centre has a small public library. Donabate has three churches, a Catholic church, a church of Ireland, and a Presbyterian church. Two of those churches are named after St. Patrick because it’s Ireland.
Why I Moved to Donabate
During my time in Ireland I had to move a few times. When I first got to Dublin in 2016, I saw that Scrumdiddly’s (an ice cream shop in Donabate) was looking for staff. I was living on the northside of Dublin (in Clongriffin) at the time, so I got on the train to Donabate and went in to drop off my CV. Walking down the main street in Donabate I remember thinking, “this would be a nice place to live.”
Fast forward to June 2017. I was residing in a shared house in Dublin (in Clarehall). My roommate told me that the owners of the house (a sublet) were coming back to do renovations. We suspected they were going to do some simple cosmetic work (like painting) to jack up the price of rent (and that’s what happened). I did like living there, but I had to move. Online I found a listing in Donabate, which is only a 3-minute train ride to where I was working in Malahide at the time. I applied for the listing, met the people living there, and got the room. I lived in Donabate from the end of July 2017 to when I left Ireland at the beginning of June 2018.
Now I’m going to talk about the cons of living in Donabate. I like to get the bad stuff out-of-the-way first.
Cons of Living in Donabate
While Donabate has rail and bus service, there is a downside I should mention. Unlike some other places in and around Dublin the train and bus services to/from Donabate only run every 15 to 60 minutes. This depends on the time and day of service. If you’re taking the train to Dublin in the morning (during morning commute), it can get packed. On Sundays and holidays, you should plan ahead because bus/trains run less than this during the week. There also isn’t a night bus or late night train to Donabate. If you’re having some drinks in Dublin (or even nearby in Malahide), you’ll need to leave early to get home. I believe the last train from Malahide to Donabate leaves around 1130 pm (please check IrishRail.ie for specific time schedules). If you want to take a day trip someplace south of Dublin (like Dún Laoghaire), it’ll take longer to get there since Donabate is north of Dublin. It’ll also cost you a bit more money than if you had come directly from a train station in Dublin (but not an unreasonable amount).
There is cab/taxi service in Donabate (Donabate Village Cabs) but it can be expensive if you’re using it to get to Malahide, Swords, or even Dublin. Donabate is located across the Malahide Estuary from Malahide. Since there isn’t a vehicle bridge here (there is a bridge for the train) any vehicle traffic has to drive around the estuary on the M1. This means cab fare can be a bit pricey, because they basically have to go the long way around. And driving will take longer than the 3 minute train ride from Donabate to Malahide. I only used taxi services while living in Donabate a few times, once on a late night out in Swords (after transit had stopped), once during a bus strike (so I could get to work), and the last time going to the airport when flying back home to Canada. That said any time I did use Donabate Village Cabs I had a good experience, but since it’s more expensive than the train or bus I wouldn’t want to rely on them for daily transit.
The Roads and Traffic
Roads in Ireland (except on the motorways) are narrow. In Donabate the main road has regular vehicles, delivery trucks, plus the bus (every 15- 30 minutes or so). Traffic could get a bit backed up for such a small town. On the R126 into Donabate, there is a spot where you can stay on the road, which curves left onto Main Street or turn right. There isn’t a traffic light here so turning right often backs up traffic. The sidewalks are also narrow and can get busy with people walking about. Some areas (those outside the center of town) may not have sidewalks so you might be walking on the side of the road.
It’s Not Very Exciting
Donabate is a small town, and if you’re looking for non-stop excitement and nightlife, then this might not be the place for you. Many businesses close around 5 pm or 6 pm (although the grocery store is open until about 10 pm). Some restaurants aren’t open for lunch, and even the pubs close by midnight. Romayo’s (one of the takeaway places) is open until 1 am, so that’s your only late-night dining option. I found it hard to meet people in this small town (aside from my roommates). I would have liked to join a local club or class to get to know people, but they usually took place when I was working.
Lack of Options
There’s a lack of options in Donabate. Yes, you have essential amenities, but there isn’t much choice. You’ll likely need to go into Dublin (or to Swords) to get some things. Swords Pavilions Shopping Centre is a mall with several retail and dining options, and is about a 15 minute bus ride away. The biggest major service Donabate lacks is a bank. There is an ATM (believe it was Bank of Ireland) for withdrawing cash outside the Supervalu grocery store, but if you need to deposit money or do any in-person banking you’ll need to visit a bank in nearby Malahide, Swords, or Dublin (depending on who you bank with). I banked with Permanent TSB and the closest branch to me was in Malahide.
Here’s a story. One evening I was sitting in bed watching a movie on Netflix, and I saw a mouse on my duvet. It ran off into the unknown, but before it went, it left me a “present.” I knew that mouse “presents” have bacteria that are harmful to people. My bedding would need to get cleaned and sanitized. My apartment had a washer, but no dryer (an electric dryer is hard to find when renting in Ireland). If I washed the bedding, it would take a full day (likely more) for it to dry on my drying rack. I had to take the bus to Swords to go to Penny’s (a department store) to buy new bedding. Oh did I mention this was the night before I was going to start a new job and I needed to sleep? It would have been great if there was a place to buy bedding in Donabate, but there isn’t.
Pros to Living in Donabate
You Can Easily Get to Other Places in the Area
While in Donabate I never felt isolated because of the train and bus. As long as I looked online at the schedules ahead of time, I was able to get to where I need to go. I could take the bus to Portrane and get to the beach in 5 minutes. Coming from a landlocked province in Canada the fact I was so close to the ocean in Donabate was amazing. I could get on the bus to Swords (about 15 minutes) and go shopping at the mall or see a movie. I could get on the train to Dublin (about 25 minutes), or explore one of the other towns nearby like Malahide, Skerries or Balbriggan.
Relatively Easy To Get To Dublin Airport
Dublin Airport is north of Dublin, as is Donabate. I actually found it easier to get to the airport from Donabate compared to the places I lived in north Dublin. While there is no direct public transit to the airport from Donabate it is relatively easy to take public transit. I would take the train to Malahide (direct and only a 3-minute ride). Then I’d hop on the the Dublin Bus 102 from Malahide (stop just outside St. Sylvester’s Church) to the airport. This is a local bus with airport service so the buses have luggage storage. While the bus makes several stop along the way the ride usually only took about 20 minutes and was much cheaper than taking a cab (and cheaper than the 747 bus that goes into the center of Dublin). Plus buses and trains in Ireland have free Wi-Fi so I would just charge my phone and scroll through Instagram on the ride over.
People Are Friendly and There are Community Events
The people in town that I would talk to like at the pharmacy or grocery store were always friendly. People in Ireland are generally pretty nice, though they like to joke around too. Don’t take things too seriously when you’re in Ireland. There were several events I got to attend when living in Donabate. I went to the Bleeding Pig Festival (a local film festival), a concert at the Catholic church, a local play, and a fundraising sale at a local school. I actually won a raffle prize there and got a gift certificate to use at a local beauty salon.
The price of rent in Donabate is much more reasonable than in Dublin. I never lived in Dublin’s centre because the rent is too expensive (and is likely only getting more expensive). If I wanted something I could afford in Dublin, I’d be sharing a bedroom with one person (likely more). In Donabate I lived in a nice condo with 4 other people. I had a private bedroom, and my other roommates had their own en-suite bathroom, so the main bathroom was basically mine. There was a good-sized kitchen, dining, and living room. And I was a two-minute walk to the grocery store and Main Street, and about a 5-minute walk to the train station.
I loved that this is a quiet town. I ended up working in the centre of Dublin for four months, and I can’t tell you how frustrated I got. Traffic, noise, people standing around being idiots and taking photos (I criticize, but I did it too when I first got to Dublin). It gets annoying when you need to get to work or just want to go home. If I lived in Dublin I’d be bumping into people and getting frustrated trying to go about my day. Donabate isn’t a tourist hotspot, so most of the people here are locals. One of the peaceful places I liked to visit in Donabate was a park that was a ten-minute walk from where I lived. More about that in my next post about Donabate.
I loved living in Donabate. Part of me wishes I had lived there right from the beginning of my time in Ireland. Living in a small town took a bit of getting used to, but I came to really appreciate life in Donabate. If you are looking to live in Dublin I’d recommend expanding your search to consider living in Donabate, Ireland.
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Things To Know
While I’m no longer living in Donabate I’ve tried to make sure this post stays updated, and is as accurate as can be. If you’re looking to move to Donabate you can check out the Donabate Village Facebook Page for more information about the community and local events. If you’re looking to stay at a hotel while you find a place to live in Donabate I’d recommend staying in nearby Malahide.
Would you live in Donabate?