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 gonna break this into two posts. This post will give you some information to see if living here 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).

You can use the table of contents above to help you navigate this post, or keep reading below.

Basics of Donabate

Donabate (Gaelic Domhnach Bat) is a small town of about 7500 people. It’s located 20 kilometres north of Dublin in Fingal County. It’s is on a peninsula, but the central part of the town is several kilometres from the coast. It 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 (or vice versa) takes about 25 minutes. A Dublin bus (33B) goes from the nearby city of Swords to the town of Portrane through Donabate (and vice versa). If you have a car, you can get to Donabate via the M1 and 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 most of the essential amenities that you’ll need.

Food and Dining

For food, there is the Supervalu grocery store, a butcher shop, and a couple of convenience stores. They have 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.
    • 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 keep this updated with any new restaurants/cafes in Donabate I come across.

Outside the main area of town, there is a cafe 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.

Smyth Pub Donabate, Ireland.

This is the Smyth Bridge Pub. It’s across from the train station. A 30-second walk down the road is Romayo’s so you can get some taco chips (fries with ground beef, cheese, and a spicy mayo called taco sauce) after a night of drinking. Not that I did this….twice.

Other Shops and Services

Donabate has a couple of beauty salons and barbershops (one’s called Sweeney Todds, 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 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).

Other Services

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

In my Finding a Place to Live in Ireland post I talked about how I had to move a lot in Ireland. 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.”

Church of Ireland in Donabate, Ireland.

This is the Church of Ireland in Donabate. I didn’t move to Donabate because of this, but I do love the bright yellow door.

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 works (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. I applied for the listing, met the people living there, and got the place. 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

Transit Issues

While Donabate has a 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 are taking the train to Dublin in the morning (during the 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. Or you’ll have to pay for a cab back, which can be pretty expensive. If you want to take a day trip someplace south of Dublin (like Dun 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 from a train station in Dublin (but not an unreasonable amount).

Donabate Train Station

Looking at the Donabate train station. Since this is a small train station the indoor waiting room is usually closed, except during the morning commute. Standing out here in the rain can suck.

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 isn’t 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 the late-night dining option here. 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. Some things you’ll need to go into Dublin (or to Swords) to get. One major service Donabate doesn’t have is a bank (but there is an ATM for withdrawing cash outside the grocery store). If you need to deposit money you’ll have to go to a bank in Swords, Malahide or Dublin.

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 the 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 30 minutes), or explore one of the other towns nearby like Malahide, Skerries or Balbriggan.

View on the train from Donabate to Malahide.

Since Donabate is on a peninsula the train goes across the water from Malahide to Donabate (and from Donabate up to Rush and Lusk). This is the view from the train window going from Donabate to Malahide (the town you can see ahead). Having this view each time I got on the train was one of my favourite things about living in Donabate.

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). 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 for a local beauty salon.

It’s Affordable

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 (or 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 ensuite 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.

Main Street of Donabate, Ireland in the snow.

Main Street in Donabate. It snowed a little bit back in February (something that’s pretty rare in Ireland). This amount of snow actually shut down all the public transit (so I had to stay home from work). Easiest snow days ever.

It’s Quiet

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) gets annoying. When you need to get to work or get home you want to be able to get to where you need to be. If I lived in Dublin, then 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.


I loved living in Donabate, and part of me wishes I had lived here 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 definitely recommend expanding your search to consider living nearby in Donabate, Ireland.

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Have you heard of Donabate, Ireland? Would you live here? Let me know in the comments below.