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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

The Best Places to Live in Northern Ireland by The Sunday Times

Portstewart, County Londonderry (Image: Stacey McGonigle)

Portstewart, County Londonderry (Image: Stacey McGonigle)


Portstewart, Co Londonderry, has been named the best place to live in Northern Ireland in the annual Sunday Times Best Places to Live guide.

The Sunday Times judges said:


“Year-round community spirit is the beating heart of Northern Ireland’s most graceful seaside town. Beach cleans, litter picks and the volunteers behind the annual Red Sails festival are just a few examples of the local pride that’s always on display. The two-mile sandy beach is at the centre of life here, but there are also decent shops, cafés and restaurants and an interesting cultural scene at the Flowerfield Arts Centre.”



Two other locations in Northern Ireland are featured in the comprehensive guide.


Published by The Sunday Times, the guide includes 72 locations across the UK and is released today, Friday, March 15. An abridged version will be published as a magazine supplement on Sunday. The full list of Northern Ireland locations is as follows:


Please note: apart from the winner, they are not ranked but published in alphabetical order.


• Winner: Portstewart, Co Londonderry


• Donaghadee, Co Down

• Ormeau, Belfast



Helen Davies, editorial projects director and Best Places to Live editor, says:


“This guide is a celebration of towns, cities and villages that are each a fantastic place to live in 2024, from Dunkeld to Knutsford, Falmouth to Leeds. Wherever you are on the property ladder, there will be somewhere to suit you.

“These are all places where you can feel grounded as well as upwardly mobile: they have a mature sense of community, lively, supportive high streets and an eye to the future, whether that is eco-friendly measures, transport and regeneration, or imaginative inclusion of new housing.”


The Sunday Times’s expert judges have visited all the locations and assessed factors from schools to transport, broadband speeds to culture, as well as access to green spaces and the health of the high street.



The chosen locations come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny Scottish island of Kerrera and the remote Welsh village of Presteigne to big, lively cities such as Belfast, Leeds and Liverpool


There are more new entries than ever before in this year’s guide.

“What makes our guide unique is that we actually visit all the places we choose and talk to locals to find out what life is really like there,” Helen Davies, the guide’s editor, says. “That means we can see what people really love about the places they live. That might be fast commutes and high-achieving schools but also clean water to swim in, lively town centres with useful shops, the possibility of earning a living and being part of a friendly community.



“We do consider affordability, though high house prices are no barrier to inclusion- as long as they provide value for money. Different people may be looking for different things, but what all our best places have in common is that people love living in them and are proud to call them home.”

The guide has again been sponsored by the mortgage lender Halifax, which has provided an average house price for each location.


“Where you want to live is a very personal decision. We know it can be daunting whether it’s deciding where to buy your first home or making a move as your circumstances change. There can be lots to think about around what is right for you and your family. With a great range of locations suited for different budgets and family situations, alongside a great mix of both rural and urban locations, this is a great place to start,” says Kim Kinnaird, Halifax’s homes and protection director.



Broadband speeds were provided by Thinkbroadband.com, the UK’s leading independent guide to broadband.

Previous winners of the Best Places to Live in Britain title are: Stamford, Lincolnshire (2013); Skipton, North Yorkshire (2014); Newnham, Cambridge (2015); Winchester, Hampshire (2016); Bristol (2017), York (2018), Salisbury, Wiltshire (2019), Altrincham, Cheshire (2020) Stroud, Gloucestershire (2021), Ilkley, West Yorkshire (2022) and Wadhurst, East Sussex (2023).


Portstewart, County Londonderry (Image: Stacey McGonigle)

Portstewart, County Londonderry (Image: Stacey McGonigle)


Winner: Portstewart, Co Londonderry


Year-round community spirit is the beating heart of Northern Ireland’s most graceful seaside town. Beach cleans, litter picks and the volunteers behind the annual Red Sails festival are just a few examples of the local pride that’s always on display. The two-mile sandy beach is at the centre of life here, but there are also decent shops, cafés and restaurants and an interesting cultural scene at the Flowerfield Arts Centre.



Donaghadee, Co Down


Life revolves around the water in this scenic and sociable hotspot on the Ards peninsula. It helps that Donaghadee is reputedly the driest spot in Northern Ireland, but the picturesque harbour is usually awash with paddleboards, kayaks, sailing boats and the hardy swimmers of the Donaghadee Chunky Dunkers, who have raised more than £65,000 for charity in the past decade. The sense of community is as strong as the town is charming with its lighthouse, multicoloured houses and a centre packed with useful independent shops and friendly cafes, pubs and restaurants showcasing local produce.

Ormeau, Belfast


Family-friendly BT7 remains Belfast’s most liveable neighbourhood, with just the right amount of buzz in its cafes. Importantly, the schools are great, and nowhere in the city can beat it for outdoor space. Dogs and kids can let off steam in Ormeau and Cherryvale Parks, while cyclists and joggers can canter along the towpath.

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