What’s In…Sallins?

Sallins,  Co Kildare, is undergoing a renaissance and it’s worth  a look!  How would you like to live on a houseboat moored between a craft brewery and a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant?

The endless M7 roadworks are driving the majority of us crazy, but like everything, there is always a silver lining somewhere. One unexpected benefit of the delays is Google Maps inventive rerouting, which may take you to places you have never been, and so couple of weeks ago, I found myself in Sallins, which I had never reason to visit before.

Sallins has one main street which runs straight through the village on the road from Naas to Clane, and crosses over the Grand Canal via a hump-backed bridge. The view of the canal lined with houseboats and barges, with Lock13 Gastropub and Brewhouse on one bank, facing Two Cooks restaurant on the other is so unexpectedly picturesque and intriguing, it’s worth a visit just to investigate.

The village is presently undergoing the biggest renaissance of its career, and it would seem to be all to the good.  3.5 km from Nass (on the other side of the M7), up to the beginning of the millennium Sallins was a dot on the map with a population of 854 in 1996, mostly employed in agriculture, the Sallins Meat Processing Plant,which closed in 1991, and Odlums Mills, which milled its last in 2014, and was later gutted by fire in 2017.  But between 1999 and 2002 Sallins was the fastest-growing area in the country with a population increase of 2,068 or 242%.  (The 2016 census showed a population of 5,849.)

One man at least foresaw saw the future early on, publican Joseph Flanagan of the iconic Silken Thomas pub in Kildare.  ‘In 1995 my Dad could see Sallins developing as a carbon copy of Kildare town, becoming a commuter-belt haven for those working in the city who didn’t want to live there,’ says Barry Flanagan, who runs Lock 13, which his father bought in 1995.  When Barry arrived to take over the pub in 2012 with his wife Ola (originally from Poland), the pretty harbour wasn’t as it is today.

‘Sallins developed very fast in the early noughties, although the infrastructure lagged behind; it couldn’t keep pace,’ says Flanagan. ‘Then it was hard-hit by the recession, and the canal was dirty, with abandoned shopping trolley in it and most of the remaining boats dilapidated.’  Determined to turn the town around, a year after becoming a ‘Sallinese native’, Flanagan set up the Sallins Business Association with James Lawless, FF TD for North Kildare since 2016, who at that time was running as a councillor for Kildare County Council.

From Wexford originally, Lawless arrived in Sallins in 2002.  ‘I knew what I wanted and did my research,’ reports Lawless. ‘We wanted a house within easy commuting distance of Dublin, but outside the city.  Sallins had a quaint village and the canal, but was close to the much larger Naas for shopping and had a good commuter train service to Heuston Station The Sallins & Naas station reopened in the late 90s and created a massive commuter culture in Sallins .  But although in when we arrived in 2002 there had been huge housing development and the population had exploded, the village had not developed at all. My wife often asked me to pick up a pint of milk on the way home, as there were no shops open in Sallins after 6pm.’

In 2005, an ambitious new development called The Waterways broke ground with a proposed shopping centre, hotel, office spaces, an apartment block and 100 plus houses, which luckily was mostly complete before the recession bit. Although commercial units still remain vacant, the homes were all taken and the anchor tenant Supervalu has been there throughout. ‘Sallins went through a phase of massive development before the recession, and in a way it was necessary for the village to have breathing space for the services to catch up with that expansion,’ says Lawless.

Ger Loughlin came to Sallins in 2001. Loughlin is from nearby Naas, and his partner Carolina from Germany, a summer spent working on the Shannon as a teenager gave Loughlin a lifelong love for rivercraft.  When all their friends decided it was time to buy houses in Dublin, Loughlin, at that time working for the Sunday Business Post developing their online presence, decided to buy a barge, the Roisin Dubh.. ‘We bought it outright, so we had no mortgage and we loved living on a barge, it’s like going on holiday and never coming back.’  The lack of mortgage must have helped when made redundant in 2002, Loughlin then spent the next decade touring in the UK and Europe with The Dublin City Workingman’s Band.  The ‘Mothership’ had an extension (a narrowboat tied to it) when the couple had children and later they bought another passenger barge.

Loughlin launched Bargetrip, a scheduled cruise and chartered excursion in 2015. ‘Sallins always attracted a lot of people at the weekends, and they would frequently ask me if there wasn’t somewhere they could go on a barge trip down the canal, says Loughlin. Last year six thousand people sailed down the Grand Canal with Bargetrip, this year, Loughlin is hoping to top eight thousand. Working in association with local businesses, Bargetrip offers Barge and Dine options with Lock 13 and afternoon tea cruises catered by Supervalue.  ‘Sallins started to change about six or seven years ago, not long after Barry Flanagan opened Lock 13,’ says Loughlin.  ‘It started the ball rolling for Sallins to become an attractive place for a day out from Dublin.  Craft beer aficionado Flanagan also started the Kildare Brewing Company in 2015 in two unused premises adjacent to the pub; he supplies only a handful of local family-run businesses as his interest was simply in ensuring excellent beer in his own pub.

2 Cooks Sample Table d’Hote Menu
2 Courses €34 / 3 Courses €40 (Wednesday & Thursday Only)
Goats Cheese Tart 12
Confit Tomato, Pesto, Aioli
Chicken Ballotine 12
Corn, Egg, Dumpling
Prawns (€3 supplement with Wed & Thurs Deal) 14
Roasted Fennel, Pickled Carrot, Orange Dressing
Stone Bass 28
Pistachio Risotto, Courgette
Pork 28
Black Pudding Croquette,Pickled Pumpkin
Lamb (€2 supplement with Wed & Thurs Deal) 29
Aubergine, Broad Beans, Dukkah
Guineafowl 28
Leek, Confit Potato, Macadamia

The attraction intensified in early 2016, when chefs Nicola Curran Zammit, a native of Carlow, and Josef Zammit form Malta opened their restaurant and wine bar, Two Cooks. The restaurant has attracted awards and plaudits from the food critics since it opened only three and a half years ago.  ‘I wanted to be a chef since childhood’, says Curran Zammit. ‘It was the only career I was ever interested in.’  Apprenticed to Paddy Brady in the Westbury, Sous chef to Richie Wilson in the Morrison, she opened Mint in Ranelagh with Dylan McGrath, and worked in London, Australia and France befoe meeting Zammit working on the opening of the Westin in Westmoreland Street. Five years ago the couple started to look for a place to start their own business.

‘We looked at a lot of places, but came back to Sallins again and again’, says Curran Zammit. ‘It was just so pretty, and the view of the harbour from the upper windows really sold it to us. There was nowhere with a similar offering to us in Sallins, and we thought it could work as a destination restaurant.’ The couple really believed in Sallins and their venture; they sank everything into it, eschewing investors to walk their own path, and were rewarded with accolades, a Bib Gourmand, Best Chef, Best Restaurant in Kildare, and Best Casual Restaurant in Ireland.  ‘Sallins has a really big demographic of young professionals, who are now having kids and settling here, the children are going to school and Sallins is becoming more and more vibrant, ‘ says Curran Zammit. ‘It’s very exciting.’

‘It’s all coming together for Sallins’, says James Lawless. A new playground Lawless has campaigned for since 2014 is opening in few weeks on land donated by the parish, 30 acres of land has just been assigned to parklands, sports facilities and playing fields, and a new Greenway which will reach from Dublin to Shannon along the canal banks is planned. The new  ‘ Something in the Water’ Festival will kick off June 21st with music, art, watersports and poetry,  and dredgers and weed cutters are keeping the canal clean and clear.  There are reports that any derelict buildings have been bought up for redevelopment and rumours of development of the old Odlums site.

The hated M7 roadworks will benefit Sallins twofold, by the provision of the new Sallins exit from the motorway it will make the village far more easily accessible, and it will also remove the very heavy traffic from the main street.  ‘Once the roadworks complete at the end of this year and the traffic eases, we will be looking at a plaza, new street furniture, an embankment and a footbridge to link with the Greenway, ways to make our village more attractive. There is a lot of optimism in Sallins now, in two years time, it will be a wonderful place. It’s an ideal place to live and commute to Dublin to get the best of both worlds and a great place for a day out.’

‘I see a huge growth in tourism in Sallins in the future’, says Barry Flanagan of Lock 13. ‘But it is also very attractive as a place to live, with a rural quality of life, everything within five minutes walk and surrounded by walks, studs, the Curragh Racecourse, and with the canal running through it.’

There have been two new estates built in Sallins, and a 3 bed semi costs €315,000 to €340, 000 new’, says Sharon Nolan of Nolan Properties in the village. ‘There is good value in the second hand market, where a 3 bed semi in one of the older estates in need of some start from around €250,000. The original village is tiny, so period properties rarely come to market, although one of the Railway Cottages went for €190,000 last year.  Rental prices are very strong, driven by Sallins ideal placement as a commuter town.

‘Or you could just buy a barge,’ comments Ger Loughlin. ‘€100,000 will buy you a well fitted-out houseboat, with the floor space of a good sized one bedroom apartment, and if you get bored you can just sail off somewhere else.’

Amenities and Attractions:

The canal is a big attraction, and the Barge Trips area very popular, Sallins GAA has grounds in the centre of the village which include a championship sized pitch and club house. There are three pubs including Lock 13 Gastro Pub and Brewhouse, a café, Café Grange and the Two Cooks Restuarant and Winebar, all within 150metres of each other. Sallins has a Supervalu, a Lidl, and a service station.

Festivals and events:

Sult na Sollán,  a community group that was set up  in 2009 to promote Irish music, culture and the Irish language in Sallins runs monthly trad sessions in the Railway Inn on the third Friday of the month and the Sallins Tradfest (Feile na Sollán) every October.  The ‘Something in the Water Festival has music in three venues, arts, poetry and watersports on the 21st June.

Celebrity Connections.

Gavin Duffy, star of Dragons Den, lived in Sallins as a child and went to St Laurence’s National School.  Fashion blogger Kelly Doolan is from Sallins, Wolfe Tone is buries there. Hamish, The Dog who Took the Train from Sallins  (real name Tyson) is a native.

What’s In…Sallins?

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