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Cluain Tarbh
Clontarf promenade
Clontarf promenade
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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
 • Urban
Time zone UTC+0 (WET)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-1 (IST (WEST))

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.

It is also a civil parish in the ancient barony of Coolock. While Clontarf lacks a single "village centre", 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. 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."


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.

Night view, Clontarf
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, 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.


'Battle of Clontarf', oil on canvas painting by Hugh Frazer, 1826
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 - - 395705
Clontarf Castle

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. The Confirmation list for 1824 includes four titled ladies – Lady Charlemont, Lady Caroline Clements, Lady Maria Caulfield and Lady Emily Caulfield.

Dublin 1901 NE B
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.


Clontarf Road, Clontarf, Dublin - - 347164
Easter Island statue on Clontarf promenade
Clontarf Park Gates
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 - - 695959
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.

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

  • John Rawson, Viscount Clontarf, a leading statesman in the reign of Henry VIII and last Prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem
  • Sir Patrick White, High Court judge and the principal landowner here in the 1540s and 1550s
  • Members of the Boland family, including Irish revolutionaries Harry Boland and Gerald Boland, also lived at 15 Marino Crescent in the early 20th century.
  • Bank of Ireland's Chief Executive, Richie Boucher
  • Former Dublin Lord Mayor Gerry Breen
  • Aid worker, Sharon Commins who was kidnapped in Sudan in July 2009 was born and lived in Clontarf.
  • Actress Maria Doyle was born in Clontarf on 25 September 1964.
  • Joe Duffy, of RTÉ
  • Hollywood actors Barry Fitzgerald (real name William Shields) and his brother, Arthur Shields, lived at no. 13 Vernon Avenue.
  • Fiddler Paddy Glackin
  • Mezzo-soprano Bernadette Greevy
  • Arthur Edward Guinness, 1st Baron Ardilaun, of Guinness brewing fame, was born in St. Anne's House (the house lies in the Clontarf part of the estate, while the majority of the park is in Raheny), as was his elder brother Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh.
  • Cian Healy, Irish Rugby International
  • Film director Neil Jordan (although he was born in Rosses Point, Co. Sligo)
  • Ray Kennedy (journalist), RTÉ journalist & newscaster.
  • Academic Declan Kiberd
  • Professional golfer Christy O'Connor Snr
  • Brian O'Driscoll, the former Ireland Rugby captain
  • Prionnsias O'Duinn Conductor for RTÉ Concert Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra of Ecuador
  • Actress and comedian Maureen Potter lived in Fairview and Clontarf until her death in 2004. She is buried in St John the Baptist's cemetery on Castle Avenue. The inscription on her gravestone reads "In Loving Memory...Super Trouper".
  • Jim Ronayne, former Dublin Gaelic Footballer and All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Medal Winner
  • Noel McCaffrey, former All-Star Dublin Gaelic Footballer and All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Medal Winner
  • Gerry Ryan, RTÉ 2fm DJ
  • When Erwin Schrödinger moved to Dublin, he lived in Clontarf, on Kincora Road.
  • Actor, singer and television presenter Bryan Smyth
  • Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, was born at 15 Marino Crescent in 1847.
  • Actor Don Wycherley
  • Mattress Mick (Mattress Salesman), most famous for his wacky mattress ads.
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