The beach, surf, great schools, great place for business, if you are looking for that elusive work/life balance, check out Tramore Co. Waterford.
Different ways of growing up
When I was a kid, we lived in a psychiatric hospital. Our Dad was the resident medical superintendent, and we had a house in the grounds. My sister was pretty embarrassed about it all, and she insisted that we wait for the school bus to pull away before we walked through the gate that had big pillars with ‘Psychiatric’ on one side and ‘Hospital’ on the other. Me, I hadn’t a clue what psychiatric meant and the nearest I could get to hospital was ‘hopsidal’, anyway, I thought everyone lived in one. Liz brought up her own family in Tramore, where she moved when she got married, and I was blown away by what a great place it must be to grow up in; I envied the way my niece and nephew could run out of their own house and right into their friends’ homes (our hospital had been pretty isolated), there was so much to do, everything was accessible and everyone knew everybody else.
Big Beach Country
Tramore has grown a lot since then, the late nineties and the early noughties saw an incredible amount of residential development, and the population now stands at over eleven-and-a-half thousand, so I wonder how much it has changed. My first meeting in Tramore is with estate agent Michael Griffin to get an idea of what Tramore is like now and what the residential market is doing. A very professional and serious-looking man greets me and shakes my hand, and I have a sudden and unexpected vision of a gangly teenager clutching a surfboard. ‘Griff!’ I squeal, startling him, for it is indeed Griff, my nephew Aaron’s old school friend and surfing buddy, somehow metamorphosed into a grown-up. But despite the suit and the odd few years since he was sixteen, it seems Griff is still a surf dude.
The beach at Tramore is great for surfing.
‘The real attraction in Tramore and the reason why so many of the young people who left Tramore to study and work abroad come back is the work/lifestyle balance,’ he explains. ‘I can leave work and be down on the beach with my surfboard in ten minutes. The beach is one of the best in the country, the copper coast and Comeragh mountains are on our doorstep, there is so much to do here if you like the outdoors. The return of young professionals from the US, Canada and Australia is also driving the development of the town, they come home to settle and to raise families, they enjoy the lifestyle and appreciate artisan producers like the new Seagull Bakery.’
One of the young people who has returned to Tramore is Cian Ó Maidín, CEO of global software company nearForm, and he has brought the company headquarters with him. ‘The obvious place for an international software company like nearForm to establish headquarters would be in Silicone Valley, but Cian is from Tramore, and that’s where he wanted to live and work,’ says Griffin. ‘Since the recession, people have become a lot more attuned to the importance of lifestyle as well as work, and Tramore is a great place to play as well as work, and that only has improved with heavy investment and redevelopment in the Promenade area.’
Storm Christine in 2014 took out most of Strand Road, and the Promenade was damaged, I take a walk down it and see that it has changed. The old council dump at the end is gone, replaced by a skateboard park and access to the back strand, where there is good birdwatching; there are new coffee shops, restaurants, surf schools and a yoga studio. People are walking their dogs, swimming, getting ready to go surfing, kids are roller-blading. The word that pops into my head is ‘San Diego’. There is a definite West Coast feel. I head to the T Bay surf school to find out more.
‘It all started in 1965 with a travelling surfer from Bray Co. Wicklow, called Kevin Carey,’ says Martin Cullinane, who runs the T Bay Surf & Eco Centre and café with his partner Sarah Jane, and grew up in Tramore himself. ‘This guy arrived and paddled out and the lifeguards on duty were blown away, asking ‘what is this guy doing!?’ Tramore Surf Club was founded in 1967 by, among others, Griff’s father and local photographer Hugh O’Brien Moran. O’Brien Moran started a beach league which attracted about forty kids a year and produced surfers who subsequently travelled the world representing Ireland. ‘Back in the early nineties, we still had very little in the way of facilities, just a bus shelter to change in,’ says Cullinane. ‘Now there are four surf clubs along the Prom, and the redevelopment has produced a huge buzz along here, people are constantly walking along, stopping for coffee and to sit and watch the world go by.’
To see what it’s like to be a kid in Tramore, I decide to go straight to the horse’s mouth; who better to tell you what Tramore has to offer kids than the kids themselves? Gaelscoil Philib Barún, named for the Gaelic Leaguer who set up a Gaeschoil in tin-mining town of Bunmahon in 1830, has campaigned for twenty-eight years for a new purpose-built school, having spent the last fifteen in Portacabins. The Minister for Education Richard Bruton arrived along on the ninth of June to cut the tape and officially open the new building.
‘It’s a great town for kids, the only problem is the difficulty of fielding a hurling team (in the Déise!) as there is so much else to do,’ says Headmaster Daithí de Paor. ‘Surfing is big, there an alternative lifestyle, West Coast flavour to Tramore, there’s also the beach, skateboard park, the newly-opened Greenway and a lot more. The redevelopment of the Prom and the new ring road around the town feeding in from the motorway have both made Tramore accessible and attractive to a lot more visitors. The facilities and infrastructure have taken a long time to catch up on the building boom of twenty years ago, but they’re getting there.’
My grandniece Caoimhe Ní Éalaithe is a pupil in the school, she brings in her friends Oisín Lodge and Eppie O’Meara to talk to me, Henry Brady, joins us, along with Eppie’s sister Devon O’Meara.
‘My favourite thing to do is the new Greenway, you can walk or hire bikes,’ says Caoimhe. ‘I like athletics and gymnastics, and The Pirates Adventure, also Run Amuck, which has Laser Blast and a pottery too, although you can’t make pottery, but you get to paint it. I like the amusements and the arcades and eating battered sausages on the Prom, and The Coast Guard for cakes.’
Eppie is nearly nine and loves pizza in the Italian restaurant on the prom. She is on the school basketball and camogie team and plays violin and fiddle, both, I hear later to an almost professional standard. Oisín plays violin and fiddle too. I ask what the difference is; I’ve always wondered. ‘The fiddle is basically the same as the violin,’ he explains, ‘you just play it a lot faster.’ Aha! That was pretty much what I thought. Oisín likes basketball and swimming in the sea and getting pushed over by the waves.
The older children, Devon and Fiona, are both keen swimmers, it seems like most kids in Tramore grow fins. Devon looks forward to the two swimming camps she attends every summer, Fiona, like Henry, goes to Splashworld weekly and likes the diving boards at the Guilamine and Newtown Cove. Devon loves horse riding and soccer, Fiona prefers painting, cooking and Zumba. Just hearing about it all is tiring me out when Headmaster Daithí pads quietly into the room to collect the kids who are now happily bouncing off the walls, while I try to rescue my interview notes from Oisín and Caoimhe who are determined to prove to each other that I have the worst handwriting in the world. ‘Time for hurling now’, he announces hopefully.
Henry likes the amusements and Run Amuck too, although he’s more interested in Laser Blast than painting pottery. He goes to Splashworld once a week, but also loves the beach and swimming in the sea, soccer and bouncing on his trampoline.
Copper Coast Mini Farm
Still reeling from the energy levels I’m off to the Copper Coast Mini Farm where it’s out of the frying pan and in to the fire, because here there seem to be at least a hundred very excited small kids running around shrieking. Dairy farmer Laurence Curran set up the mini farm in 2002 subsequent to a visit to a similar enterprise in Gorey with his then three year old animal-mad daughter Muirenn. ‘I was thinking about an alternative enterprise and there was nothing like it in the area,’ he says. ‘Tramore was growing rapidly and I saw a market for school tours and birthday parties.’ With help from the local enterprise board and Leader funding he extended the facilities and added a playground in 2014; the mini farm now also has a café, pony rides, face painting and go karting. ‘The girls love the baby animals, the boys go mad on the toy tractors and go-karts,’ says Laurence. Muirenn has been involved in the enterprise all along, she is leaving school this year and is hoping to take over the mini farm after college.
Good Food, Good Business
But Tramore is not just a great place for kids, there is plenty to attract adults and businesses too; my sister Liz Healy has lived there for 39 years, brought up her family in Tramore, and with husband Michael set up artisan food company Healy’s of Waterford in the community enterprise business facility, Dunhill Eco Park, in 2008. Michael’s handmade pâtés have been famous in Tramore for decades, and Liz is a first- class baker, known locally as The Queen of the Pavlova. They supply local cafés and businesses and have stalls at both the Clonmel Farmers Market, where they also sell Seagull Bakery sourdough bread, and the Kilkenny Farmers Market, where Prince Charles recently dropped in to take a look. He is apparently very nice and down-to-earth, but doesn’t like goat’s cheese. ‘We love Tramore and would never move,’ say the Healys. ‘It’s a brilliant place for children, adults and retirees alike, very safe and friendly with lots to do.’ They love to spend time on the many walks and the new Greenway.
One of the businesses they supply is the café in the Tramore Coastguard Cultural Centre, set up six years ago in a derelict coastguard station on the Doneraile, with fantastic sea views. The centre has an art gallery and host music events; Mary Coughlan and Eleanor McEvoy have played there. The café was launched in 2013 to generate funding for the running of the building, and is run by Pam Eustace. ‘Everything is locally sourced from small producers, and we have been very busy from the start’, says Eustace. ‘We get a large footfall if the weather is good, people like to access the newly-restored Doneraile cliff walk, and then sit in our garden overlooking the sea enjoying a well-deserved cake or two.’
A more recent start-up is the sourdough specialist Seagull Bakery, opened by Ballymaloe-trained local artist Sarah Richards in September 2016. Sarah stared baking as an extra weekend income, supplying restaurants such as Paul Flynn’s The Tannery in Dungarvan and La Boheme and Momo in Waterford, and selling from a stall in Tramore market. She decided to take the plunge last autumn and open a shop in the town, starting out working sixty-hour weeks with three part-time staff. ‘Initially I worried that I would not have the hours for the three staff, but now we have a staff of nine,’ says Richards. The business has been so successful that Sarah has trained bakers who had other professions to start with, including a chef, chemical engineer and furniture maker. The front-of-house barista was once a blocklayer and the kitchen porter has a chemistry degree. ‘People trust my product, it’s one hundred percent natural and excellent for kids,’ says Richards.
Tramore Beach and promenade with the Doneraile in the foreground
Tramore is a vibrant town with something to offer just about everyone, kids to retirees, amazing natural amenities, and definitely one to watch for the future.
Sports and amenities
Four surf Schools, sailing school, golf club, tennis club, bridge club, racecourse. GAA, AFC, cycling club, athletics. For kids, Splashworld, Run Amuck, Pirates Adventure, Amusement Park. Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens is Tramore’s newest attraction and there are plenty of trails and walks. Tramore Coastguard Cultural Centre has regular art exhibitions and musical events, July sees The Promenade Festival, Tramore Scooter Festival, the Irish Sea Bass Festival and the Amusement Park Party; Tramore raceweek is in August.
Primary: Gaelscoil Philib Barún, Glor Na Mara National School, Educate Together National School, Holy Cross national School.
Secondary: Tramore’s girl’s and boy’s secondary schools recently merged and moved to a large new state-of-the-art secondary premises, Ard Schoil Na Mara