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From the illustrious Kennedy clan to the city of Boston’s rich Irish heritage, the Emerald Isle’s influence on the United States is practically unquantifiable. More Americans claim Irish ancestry than any other, except for German. In fact, according to the last U.S. Census, more than 34 million Americans claim either full or partial Irish ancestry. That’s seven times the current population, 4.8 million, of Ireland itself. 

Retirees who are considering Ireland as a possible place to settle might be motivated not only by typical reasons – safety, beauty, cultural riches, outdoor recreation and general quality of life – but also by a keen interest in their own cultural heritage. Here are some of the top places to consider for retirement.

Key Takeaways

  • For those who are approaching retirement and considering relocating abroad, Ireland has recently become a more economically appealing prospect.
  • With English as the first language and many of the modern amenities of a first-world economy, but at reasonable prices many find Ireland an appealing place to settle.
  • Here we recommend five cities and towns that fit different retirement lifestyles: from the bustling urban center of Dublin to rural Kilkenny.

Dublin

When tourists visit just one spot in Ireland, it’s usually Dublin, the country’s largest city. And for good reason. It’s not just the tourist attractions, for example, the sacred Book of Kells at Trinity College, Dublin Castle and such rollicking nightlife spots as Temple Bar. What truly makes Dublin unique is its storied literary and political history and irrepressible spirit. If you're moving from a large cosmopolitan city and seek a similar urban atmosphere, Dublin is the only place in Ireland where you’ll find it, albeit on a far more intimate scale than Chicago or Boston. While the greater Dublin area is home to 1,273,000 residents, you’ll find that the center city feels much smaller and manageable, making it also attractive to those accustomed to smaller town life.

If your retirement savings (see 5 Essential Retirement Savings Accounts) have put you a comfortable level, know that the high-end housing market in Dublin is a bargain compared to London or New York City. Even among current listings of luxury real-estate specialists such as Christie’s, you can find an elegant, 4-bedroom Dublin townhouse for less than $2,280,000 (2 million euros) – unheard of in many other northern European capitals. If you’re in the market for a mid-range property, the average asking price for center city Dublin is $295,000 (258,000 euros). 

Kilkenny

In the rural southeastern corner of the country, Kilkenny is historic, gorgeous and serene. It’s also affordable, as it's one of the many areas of the country that has not yet fully recovered from the deep recession. Among the area’s jewels are Kilkenny Castle and Gardens, as well as the quaint towns that line the River Barrow. If you’re looking for a quiet spot to buy a well-priced cottage, Kilkenny may be it.

Galway

While Dublin might be Ireland’s top tourist city, Galway is probably the most beloved, with a bustling downtown and plenty of top-notch cultural attractions. The rugged beauty of the West Coast is best personified by the dramatic Cliffs of Moher, where you'll find travelers and photographers from around the world.

Killarney

In a country so full of lovely hiking places, County Kerry’s the Ring of Kerry is one of the most beautiful – and it passes through a few of the south coast’s most desirable retirement spots. Golfers flock to Killarney, a small, cozy city that boasts a compact, walkable downtown, plenty of excellent dining and a well-known golfing scene. 

Cork

With a population just under 120,000, Cork City offers the dining and cultural attractions of a much larger metropolis. Yet its location means that the stunning southeastern coastal area of West Cork, dotted with small harbors and inlets, is only a short drive. In Cork, you'll find housing rental prices are more affordable than many cities back in the U.S. – though that doesn't extend to the buyer's market. Compare the housing prices for two middle-sized cities in both countries: For apartments both within and outside the city center, the purchase price per square foot in Cork is around double that of Minneapolis. (For a central city apartment, figure on about $135  per square foot in Cork vs. $153 in Minneapolis.) 

If you’re looking for a village feel, nearby Kinsale boasts a postcard-perfect harbor and wonderful dining and pubs. And take note, the village of Kinsale is considered the gourmet capital of Ireland. 

The Bottom Line

Beautiful landscapes, seascapes, historic castles, Celtic culture and fine whiskey: Ireland has it all. Though prices have risen significantly since the collapse of the Irish housing market (see The Story Behind The Irish Meltdown), they are still far cheaper than the average home price in a booming U.S. city such as Austin, Texas (where the average 2015 home listing is $334,800). You’ll find smaller cities and towns throughout Ireland to be even more affordable.

If village or rural life appeals to you – along with access to renowned golf courses – look into the charming, west coast towns of Waterville, Doolin, Ballybunion and Dingle. Think rolling green fields; quaint cottages; unspoiled beachfront and authentic, friendly villages.