Clontarf, Dublin

Cluain Tarbh

Clontarf promenade

Location in Ireland

Coordinates: 53°21′54″N 6°12′36″W / 53.365°N 6.21°W / 53.365; -6.21Coordinates: 53°21′54″N 6°12′36″W / 53.365°N 6.21°W / 53.365; -6.21
Country Ireland
Province Leinster
County Dublin 3
Population (2006)
  Urban 31,063
Time zone WET (UTC+0)
  Summer (DST) IST (WEST) (UTC-1)

Clontarf (Irish: Cluain Tarbh, meaning "meadow of the bull") is a coastal suburb on the northside of Dublin, in Ireland. It is most famous for the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, in which Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, defeated the Vikings of Dublin and their allies, the Irish of Leinster. This battle, which extended over a wide area, is seen as marking an end to the Irish-Viking Wars.

Clontarf lacks a single "village centre" but historically there were two population centres, one on the coast towards the city and the fishing village of Clontarf Sheds further north on the coast at what is now Vernon Avenue, in addition to the estate centred on Clontarf Castle. Clontarf has a range of commercial facilities in several locations, mainly centred on Vernon Avenue. It adjoins Fairview, Marino, Killester, Artane and Raheny, and is in the postal district Dublin 3.

Clontarf "is a seaside suburb on the Dublin 3km (2m) -Howth 11km (7m) road. It is one stop on the DART from the city center, has a cosy village atmosphere and most roads lead down to the sea."[1]


The name Cluain Tarbh comes from the sound of the wind on the beach which is said to sound like the panting of a bull.


Clontarf's sea front is served by the 130, 104 and 32X Dublin Bus routes, and the inland parts can be reached from buses on the Howth Road, such as the 29A, 31 series and 32 series. The area's historic railway station, on the Howth Road, closed many years ago, but a new railway station, Clontarf Road railway station, a stop on the Dublin Area Rapid Transit system, is located between Clontarf and Fairview.


Clontarf is on the northside of Dublin City, northeast of the city centre along the coast. It is bounded to the west and south by Fairview Park and the suburb of Marino, to the north by the suburbs of Killester, Artane and Coolock and to the northeast by Saint Anne's Park and the suburb of Raheny. The southern boundary of Clontarf lies on one side of the estuary of one of Dublin's three main rivers, the River Tolka. The Naniken River runs through St. Anne's Park and reaches the sea at the Raheny end of the district, its mouth marking a civil parish boundary.

The new lights on Clontarf seafront

The Bull Island, also shared with Raheny, is connected to Clontarf at its northern end by an historic wooden bridge at Dollymount. While most of the island is city property, the (North) Bull Wall and breakwater, related road and path, and Bull (Wooden) Bridge belong to the Dublin Port Company, and are closed for a day each year to assert this. At the end of the breakwater is a statue of Our Lady, Star of the Sea (Realt na Mara), to watch over mariners and dockworkers.

Clontarf Island

There used to be an island, called Clontarf Island, off the coast of Clontarf near the mouth of the Tolka, as shown on maps such as that of John Rocque in 1753,[2] with a single dwelling, and at some periods (notably in the 19th century), bathing facilities. The island was also used as a refuge from plague in 1650. Construction work on the Great South Wall and Bull Wall in Dublin Port changed the flow of water in Dublin Bay, threatening its existence, though it was in fact eventually destroyed by a large storm in 1844.


oil painting of Battle of Clontarf by Hugh Frazer, 1826

Following the defeat of the Vikings and the Leinstermen at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, Clontarf enjoyed relative peace for over 100 years until the arrival of the Normans in 1172. Shortly afterwards, Clontarf was granted to Adam de Pheypo, a follower of Strongbow. He built the first Clontarf Castle.

A settlement at Clontarf has been dated to at least the 12th century, and in the 19th century remains from earlier times were thought to have been found. Clontarf features on the 1598 map "A Modern Depiction of Ireland, One of the British Isles" by Abraham Ortelius as "Clantarfe".

The manor and church of Clontarf were held by the Templars and subsequently the Hospitallers, and there was a Holy Well in the area, near what is now The Stiles Road, until recent times (another spring, named for Brian Boroimhe, of uncertain age, still exists, on Castle Avenue near the sea).

A manor house and small associated village was located on the slight ridge overlooking the sea where the Clontarf Castle Hotel is now situated. The manor house was rebuilt many times, with the current hotel dating largely to the early 19th century. The tower house on the site is a 19th-century replica of the original Templar structure on the site. The adjoining ruined church is the old Church of Ireland parish church, dates to the mid-17th century and includes what may be the earliest use of red brick in Ireland.

Clontarf Castle

Clontarf Castle was burned in 1641 by Cromwell's General, Charles Coote, apparently in revenge for the disloyalty of the then owner, George King. The castle, estate and district are then said to have been given by Cromwell to John Blackwell, who assigned his interest to John Vernon, Quartermaster-General of Cromwell's army in Ireland, although this is described in Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of 1837 as “conferred by the Crown on Admiral Vernon”. The Vernon family subsequently occupied the Castle for nearly three hundred and fifty years. See the entry on Clontarf Castle (After Cromwell) for further details.

In 1659, the population of Clontarf was 79.

Fishing, oyster-catching and farming remained the main occupations over the following centuries, with a major fish-curing industry at the Sheds, near the foot of Vernon Avenue (the Public House at the site still bears the name), around 1 km from the original village. In the 18th century, this developed into a secondary settlement, of fishermen and small farmers, living in basic cabins and with drying sheds for the fish. It is prominently marked on navigation maps for Dublin Bay dating to the 18th century. However, as with many such 'informal' settlements in Ireland, Clontarf Sheds became the site for a 19th-century Roman Catholic church - the Church of Ireland St. John's Church, and the Roman Catholic St. Anthony's are closer to the original settlement - and then outgrew the original village.

The 1837 Lewis report remarked that “ The land in this Parish is reported to be in the very highest state of cultivation...”

The 19th century

In the early 19th century, Clontarf had become a popular holiday resort for the citizens of Dublin, who came out from the city to enjoy bathing in the sea or in the hot and cold seawater baths erected by Mr. Brierly. A horse omnibus service from the city was started and Clontarf became a fashionable place to live - Samuel Lewis lists twenty-seven major houses, apart from Clontarf Castle, in which resided wealthy and important gentry.[nb 1] The Confirmation list for 1824 includes four titled ladies – Lady Charlemont, Lady Caroline Clements, Lady Maria Caulfield and Lady Emily Caulfield.

Clontarf and nearby districts, 1901

Clontarf had an important role in the career of the prominent Irish nationalist leader Daniel O'Connell who sought to hold on this location, symbolic because of its association with the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, a mass meeting calling for repeal of the Act of Union. The meeting was banned by then-Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, and despite appeals from his supporters, O'Connell refused to defy the authorities and he called off the meeting, as he was unwilling to risk bloodshed.

A key arrival at Clontarf was Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, son of Arthur Guinness II and his partner in running the brewery, who purchased various lands in Clontarf and Raheny, combining them to form St. Anne's Estate (the remnants of which form Saint Anne's Park).

By the late 19th century Clontarf was becoming urbanised, initially as a holiday resort for wealthy Dubliners, but rapidly as a suburb of the city. A tram line was laid along the coast, increasing activity in the area.

For a time, Clontarf was an Urban District incorporated in its own right but lost this formal status at the start of the 20th century. By the mid-20th century it was fully absorbed into the city and would now be considered part of the inner suburbs.


Easter Island statue on Clontarf promenade
St Annes park in Clontarf

Clontarf's most notable amenity is its seafront, with a promenade running continuously from Alfie Byrne Road to the wooden bridge at Dollymount. The seafront remains a highly popular spot for runners, walkers, sailors and cyclists. Among the features of the promenade are an Easter Island Moai replica statue, a diplomatic gift from the Embassador of Chile, which is located just across the road from The Sheds pub. Also on the promenade is Clontarf's privately owned open-air seawater swimming pool, once a popular recreational destination with hot and cold baths, but now derelict, with various developments being considered. There is also a public slipway, across the road from the Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club clubhouse.

Clontarf is also next to Saint Anne's Park, which it shares with Raheny. As well as extensive walks and green areas, the park contains numerous sporting facilities, such as playing pitches and non-sport amenities. These include an Arts Centre in the Red Stables, featuring artists' stores and studios, a coffee shop and markets on some weekends, along with a large rose garden which is located alongside the Gaelic Athletic Association pitches.

Clontarf also has access to the North Bull Island at the area known as Dollymount. The island contains the amenity of Dollymount Strand as well as two golf courses. The island is also famous for its wildlife, and the lagoon and mudflats between the island and the mainland is a favourite spot for birdwatching.

Clontarf is home to a wide range of businesses, many of which are members of the local Chamber of Commerce. There is a supermarket on Vernon Avenue, and there are, for example, a number of public houses, restaurants, convenience stores, bank branches, pharmacies and medical practitioners.


Methodist Church, Clontarf

Clontarf today has three Roman Catholic parishes (for more see Parish of Clontarf (Roman Catholic)), a Church of Ireland Parish of Clontarf, a Presbyterian congregation and a Methodist parish.

Historically Clontarf has had a strong Protestant community for many years, with the Church of Ireland parish being one of the most populated Anglican parishes in the country up to the 1950s. In the 1911 census, 39% of the population of Clontarf were Protestant, 25% being Church of Ireland, 8.5% Presbyterian and 5.5% Methodist. Relations between all the faith communities have always been good in Clontarf and mixed marriages were part of life even in 1911.

Sport and social organisations

Rugby and cricket as well as Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and soccer are popular in the suburb, here we see a Clontarf rugby team compete in red and blue stripes (colours shared by various Clontarf sporting organisations), with Clontarf cricket club in the background

Clontarf has many clubs whose members take part in sporting activities, including rugby, soccer, golf, cricket, sailing and Gaelic games.

Clontarf has a strong rugby club, their senior XV reaching two all Ireland league finals under former coach Phil Werahiko. The Clontarf Cricket Club Ground, based at the same premises as the rugby club, was the host for the final of the 2005 ICC Trophy cricket tournament. It has hosted various cricket internationals, most recently against the Australia in the summer of 2010, and is the home ground of the Ireland cricket team in the Republic of Ireland. Ireland are due to play another ODI against England in August 2011 at the ground.[3]

The Clontarf Cricket Club senior 1st XI have won the Leinster Senior Cup in 2007 and 2008.[4]

Clontarf is home to a number of GAA clubs that compete in the Dublin county championship in Gaelic football, ladies football, hurling and camogie. Founded in 1961, Clontarf GAA are based on Seafield Road and play their home matches in St.Anne's Park in Raheny.[5] Scoil Uí Chonaill CLG are located on the Clontarf Road and have been competing since 1953.[6]

The area also has two tennis clubs - Clontarf Lawn Tennis Club on Oulton Road and Clontarf Parish Lawn Tennis Club on Seafield Road, recently re-developed and attached to the Church of Ireland parish. Tennis is also played at the private Westwood Club, on the border between Clontarf and Fairview.

Clontarf Taekwon-do Club based in Belgrove Boys' school has been in existence since 2013. The Club competes at National, International, European and World level in Taekwondo.

Sailing has long been associated with Clontarf with its local Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club, one of the oldest yacht clubs in Dublin Bay, celebrating its centenary in 1975.

The Clontarf Scout Troop was established in 1931. Clontarf also has two Boys Brigade companies - the 12th, attached to Clontarf Church of Ireland, and the 39th, attached to the Presbyterian parish, and a Girls Brigade company (5th Company Clontarf Presbyterian) attached to Clontarf & Scots Presbyterian Church. This company was 100 years old in 2008 and was the first active company in the world to reach this age.

Clontarf is also home to the famous Central Remedial Clinic (whose swimming pool has some public access hours) and to the Incorporated Orthopaedic Hospital of Ireland (since 1876), as well as a major centre of the Irish Wheelchair Association.

There is no current local newspaper but past journals included "Clontarf's Eye."


Local primary schools are Belgrove National School (NS), Greenlanes NS (Church of Ireland) and Howth Road Mixed NS (Presbyterian).

At second level, the area is served by Mount Temple Comprehensive School, Holy Faith School (for girls) and, on the border with Raheny, St. Paul's College, Raheny (for boys). St. Joseph's CBS. Secondary School, Fairview, is near by and close to the Dart.

Special education facilities exist at the premises of the Central Remedial Clinic and the Irish Wheelchair Association.

Governance and Representation

Clontarf is in the jurisdiction of Dublin City Council. It is a civil parish comprising many townlands.

Clontarf is in the Dublin North–Central Dáil constituency and is one of the main components of the Clontarf Local Electoral Area for City Council elections.

Points of note

Clontarf was the original home of the Grove Social Club disco which ran from 1967 to 1997. It started in 1967 in Mount Prospect Avenue in Clontarf, Belgrove Football Club (from which the club got its name). It moved to St. Pauls College, Sybil Hill Road, Raheny, in 1975 when the old pavilion was burnt down.

Along the coastal promenade, there is a circular rain shelter, which forms a cap over a former lead mine, which ran out under the shallow waters of the bay, as recorded in Cosgrave's "North Dublin"; it was closed due to persistent flooding.

Notable people

See also


  1. Among them were Thomas Gresham, founder of the Gresham Hotel and W.C. Colville, owner of major property holdings in the centre of Dublin


  1. "Dublin tourism".
  2. The Neighbourhood of Dublin, Weston St. John Joyce, 1920
  3. "Ireland international cricket grounds: Castle Avenue". Retrieved on 17  December 2008.
  4. "Clontarf Cricket Club". Retrieved on 17  December 2008.
  7. Retrieved on 22  May 2009
  8. Retrieved on 22  May 2009
  9. "Maureen Potter dies aged 79". RTÉ.ie. Retrieved on 17  December 2008.
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