Clonakilty in Co Cork has been named as the best town in the whole of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
It had to beat off stiff competition from Blackpool and Todmorden in England to win the title, which was bestowed by the town planning organisation, the Academy of Urbanism.
The judges included architects, planners and developers who took into account a whole range of factors including the environment as well as good governance and commercial success.
Clonakilty dates back to pre-Celtic times and later became home to the Normans, who built several castles in the area that still survive today. It has a population of only 4,700 but is a popular tourist attraction and is noted for both its traditional culture and its nightlife.
In presenting the award, the judges of the Great Town Award said: “The quality of the town centre and the town’s location close to the sea and beautiful beaches make it an attractive place to live, do business and visit.
“Clonakilty is a good example of those three elements coming together in a sustainable way that celebrates local distinctiveness, tradition, entrepreneurialism and a strong sense of local pride.”
Steven Bee, chair of the Academy said: “Clonakilty has a distinctive physical character derived from its setting and its Georgian and Victorian heritage. This was disturbed by traffic management in the mid-twentieth century, but is now being recovered, with significant social and economic benefits.
“The role of the town architect and town mayor in encouraging participation in the planning, and implementation of improvements have been key. Refreshed open spaces and improved links have restored the town’s character and pride, and stimulated tourism.”
The Viking Triangle in Waterford won the Great Place Award in the same competition, making it a double first for Ireland.