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30 Sept 2022

From big city to small city: Kilkenny beats the capital in lifestyle stakes

Why a compact city like Kilkenny is the perfect place to live for a happier, calmer and greener life

Kilkenny Castle

Why a compact city like Kilkenny is the perfect place to live for a happier, calmer and greener life

As escalating housing prices and lack of accommodation send people fleeing from our capital city, there is an opportunity for smaller towns to benefit. For too long the trend in Ireland has been either for mass emigration or migration to larger urban centres. 


People born in rural Ireland, once they finished secondary school generally left their hometown for 3rd level education and then stayed away because the jobs were in Dublin or other cities. Economic necessity meant that staying where you were from wasn’t an option. 


Now, in the wake of the pandemic there has been a re-assessment of priorities and with remote or hybrid working the possibility that the balance might tilt back in favour of smaller communities. A compact city like Kilkenny is perfectly positioned to benefit from this new development. 


With a population of 30,000 people, a vibrant sense of community and a burgeoning creative sector Kilkenny could serve as a model of how smaller places offer a chance to enjoy a friendlier and more sustainable life than the anonymity and expense of big cities. 


Speaking as a relative blow in, my own experience of moving to Kilkenny has been transformative. After years living in Dublin and Wicklow (and therefore commuting into Dublin daily) living and working in Kilkenny has reaffirmed my faith in smaller places and the way they make the quality of daily life gentler, happier and less stressful. 


Not for me anymore the grinding commute, stationary gridlock of the M50 or general hum of low-level aggression that can characterise city living. Now when I wake each morning, it is to green fields and open spaces, a brief 15 minute commute to work and an easy sense of camaraderie with fellow Kilkenny citizens. 


When I need to visit Dublin, it is easily accessible, thanks to the motorway and public transport, but I don’t think I will ever be tempted back to the capital again. Recent visits to Dublin have left me shocked by how shabby, dirty and dishevelled our capital has become post-pandemic. 


The streets are soiled, drug taking is conducted publicly and anti-social behaviour seems commonplace. Kilkenny by comparison is clean, well tended and largely peaceful. People here have a civic pride in their city which means they respect it. 


When I was younger I couldn’t wait to leave small town life for the bright lights, now I see why living on a more intimate scale offers immense benefits. Housing is cheaper, life is slower and there is time to breathe in and enjoy life. In a smaller place people take time to talk, have spontaneous interactions and seem genuinely interested in you. 


Quite simply, when life is happier it benefits the entire community. 


The charm of Kilkenny lies not only in its medieval heritage, accessible scale, beautiful setting and historic streets and lanes, it also resides in the warm and welcoming character of its people.


Whether it's the gesture  of greeting from another driver on a country road, the banter when you get your morning coffee or the easy way someone steps out of the way to let you pass, there is a humanity to life here that large cities like Dublin now seem to lack. 


It is not that Kilkenny isn’t without problems (housing remains an ongoing issue) but overall the quality of life here seems healthier, less competitive and calmer. 


With the recent announcement of major job creation by Abbott the economic outlook is positive for Kilkenny too. 


In my humble opinion, small is beautiful when it comes to living a greener, simpler and more serene life. 


Let’s hope that plans to develop Kilkenny city, like the recently announced Loughmacask neighbourhood masterplan will continue to prioritise sustainability, the quality of life and our natural amenities.


Sensitive development of the city will be vital to prevent urban sprawl. Now that I’ve found the perfect place to live, I don’t want it to change too drastically.  

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