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Gaelic: Sord Cholmcille
County Dublin
North Street, Swords, Co. Dublin - geograph.org.uk - 381905.jpg
North Street, Swords
Location: 53°27’35"N, 6°13’5"W
Population: 36,924  (2011)
Post town: Swords
Postcode: K67
Dialling code: 01
Local Government
Council: Fingal
Dublin North, Dublin West

Swords is a town in County Dublin. It is variously defined as an expansive satellite town within commuting distance of Dublin proper, or as a large suburb of the capital.[1] It is about eight miles north of Dublin city centre. The name "Swords" may also be applied to the townland,[2] the civil parish or to the local electoral area. The town is the second largest in County Dublin and the seventh largest urban area in the republic of Ireland.

In 2012, Swords was named the third best town in Ireland to live in. The survey conducted by Retail Excellence Ireland took into account safety, retail, dining, entertainment, events, car parking and overall attractiveness of the town.[3] Since the mid-1990s Swords has seen improvements in shop fronts, public buildings and footpaths and the restoration of Swords Castle. In 2003 the Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) Survey scored Swords the worst litter blackspot in the country.[4] Following a huge improvement to litter in the town, in their 2011 survey Swords was declared the second cleanest town in Ireland.[5]


The town's origins date back to AD 560 when it was founded by Saint Colmcille (521–567).[6] Legend has it that the saint blessed a local well, giving the town its name, Sord, meaning "clear" or "pure". However, An Sord also means "the water source" and could indicate a large communal drinking well that existed in antiquity.[7] St Colmcille's Well is located on Well Road off Swords Main Street. Sord may also refer to a "sward", an 'expanse of grass'.[8] The most ubiquitous landscape indicators of Early Christian Settlement are the ecclesiastical enclosures. In Swords case the street pattern has been influenced by the circular alignment of the settlement. The mediæval town developed in a linear pattern along the Main Street in a north – south direction. Swords has one of the best examples of this settlement pattern in the Dublin region. The round tower, 85 ft in height, is also an indicator of early Christian settlement. At the northern end of the street stands Swords Castle, 200 yds north-east of the ecclesiastical site, which was built in the early 13th century. A short distance north of the Castle is an elevation known as Spittal Hill, where a hospital once stood.[9]

In June 2006, the R.N.L.I. Ireland officially opened its new all-Ireland headquarters at Airside Business Park, within greater Swords. The new Irish H.Q. was officially opened by President Mary McAleese. In attendance was Admiral Sir Jock Slater RN, a former British First Sea Lord then serving as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the R.N.L.I.

Historical society

Swords Historical Society was founded in 1982, and its volunteers have worked to record, promote and preserve all aspects of the heritage of the greater Swords area. The Society's Museum and Heritage Centre at the Carnegie Library on North Street is run by volunteers and is open weekdays from 1 p.m. to 4.30p.m. There is a collection of old photos and artefacts on display and their oral history project has produced the annual 'Swords Voices' publication. Now in its eighteenth year the publications have chronicled the memories of local people, thus creating a unique social history of the area.[10]

Main Street, Swords in 1940



The Ward River, from Meath, runs west to east to near the centre of the town, and then turns to run north, before flowing into the Broad Meadow Water or Broadmeadow River. The Broadmeadow, also from Meath, borders the north of the town. It runs from Dunshaughlin in the west and across the north of Swords, before receiving the Ward and flowing into the wide Broadmeadow Estuary, then into the Irish Sea past Malahide. The estuary is crossed by a railway embankment and bridge from Malahide.

Swords is surrounded by a green belt. Dublin Airport has prevented the town from expanding further south and the large Broadmeadow Estuary and town of Malahide limit expansion further east. To the north and west of Swords there is sparsely-populated, relatively flat, farmland.

Townlands and baronies

Swords Demesne is the name of the townland in the heart of the urban town of Swords.[2] It is one of 58 such geographic units in the civil parish of Swords. The parish is one of seven such parishes in the barony of Nethercross, although part of the parish lies in the neighbouring Barony of Coolock.[11] There are 10 townlands in the electoral division of Swords which is not co-terminous with the parish.

Urban layout

Swords Main Street at Malahide Road junction

The main retail area is located in the centre of the town, and includes the Main Street, with the Pavilions and Swords Central shopping centres, Swords Plaza and Swords Town Mall. Most civic faciities are also in this central area, with some subsidiary shopping and civic centres in surrounding housing areas.

The west of the urban area is mainly residential, with the neighbourhoods of Applewood, Rathbeale and Brackenstown to the north of the Ward River and Knocksedan, River Valley, Rathingle and Boroimhe to the south side of the river.

The main business and industrial areas are located to the east of the town centre, along the R132 dual carriageway. These include Balheary Industrial Park, Swords Business Campus, Swords Business Park, and the Airside campus (Business Park, Retail Park and Motor Park). The neighbourhoods of Seatown, Holywell and Drynam are also to the east of the town core.

Features and historical attractions

Some historical attractions are listed below. Many of these are promoted by Swords Historical Society.[10]

Swords Castle

Main article: Swords Castle

Constable Tower, Swords Castle

Swords Castle was built as the manorial residence of the 1st Archbishop of Dublin, John Comyn, around 1200 or a little later in Swords, just north of Dublin. It was never strong in the military sense, but covers a large pentagonal walled area of nearly 1.5 acres with a tower on the north, probably the Constable's residence, and an impressive gateway complex on the south. The warder may have occupied the quarters to the left of the gate, while to the right was the janitor's room with the priest's room overhead. The adjoining chapel, built in the late thirteenth century, was probably used as the Archbishop's private oratory.

Other buildings, recorded in an inquisition in 1326, have now vanished, including the great hall on the east side of the enclosure. The Archbishop abandoned Swords once a new palace was built at Tallaght in 1324 – a move no doubt encouraged by damage sustained during Bruce's campaign of 1317. The stepped battlements suggest some form of occupancy during the fifteenth century, but by 1583, when briefly occupied by Dutch Protestants, it was described as "the quite spoiled old castle". It was used as a garden in the nineteenth century and sold after the Church of Ireland was disestablished.

Swords Castle is undergoing a significant redevelopment and is intended to become a tourist attraction. The newly renovated castle was used as a film location for the production of TV series The Tudors in spring 2010.[12] Swords Castle and Courtyard is open to the public from Monday to Friday by appointment only by calling 01 890 5600.[13]

St Colmcille's Well

On Well Road, and also known as St Columb's Well. In a locked chamber. Reputed to be where Swords got its name when St Colmcille blessed the well of clear water, 'Sord' being the Irish for 'clear or pure'.

St Columba's Church, Belfry & Round Tower

St Columba's church and round tower

The round tower is the surviving remnant of St Colmcille's monastic settlement. The only remaining relic of the mediæval church is its belfry, from c. 1300, which is open to the public in summertime, when fine days afford the visitor a view of four counties from the tower's height. The original church is said to have fallen into ruin sometime in the seventeenth century. The new church of early Gothic style was built in 1811 on the foundations of the old.[14] The Sexton's Lodge is also of architectural interest and was built in 1870. The body of Brian Boru was said to have been brought there in 1014 to be waked after the Battle of Clontarf, while on the way to be buried in Armagh.[15]

Old Vicarage

Dating from around 1730, now apartments with part of original building retained.

Old Borough School

Main Street, now a public house. It was built in 1809 with fund awarded after the Act of Union from the Borough of Swords was disenfranchised. Designed by noted architect of the time, Francis Johnston. The story of the school is well documented.

St Colmcille’s RC Church

On Chapel Lane, a pre-Catholic Emancipation church built in 1827 on a site donated by James Taylor of Swords House. The graveyard contains many interesting headstones, including one for nationalist politician Andrew Kettle, who was known as "Parnell’s Righthand Man."

The Courthouse

Swords courthouse

North Street, built 1845 in Classical style, design by Alexander Tate.

Teachers' residences

North Street – built in 1890. Now part of Fingal Community College.

Carnegie Library

North Street, built in 1909. Redbrick building typical early 20th century. Now houses Swords Museum/Fingal Genealogy Centre.

Fingal County Hall

The award-winning modern Fingal County Hall by Bucholz McEvoy architects dominates the northern end of Main Street. It is built on the site of Swords House, the home of the Norman family of Taylors of Swords. Records show the family came there in the 13th century and built a 'Mansion House' in 1403.

Leisure facilities

Ward River Valley Park

The Ward River Valley Park is a linear park on the banks of the Ward River approaching town. It covers an area of 89 ha. (220 acres) between Swords town centre and Knocksedan Bridge. Features of interest include some 12th-century fortifications, woodland habitats, wetlands and rolling grassland. There are viewing points, picnic sites, sports pitches and tennis courts.[16]

Swords Town Park (with Swords Castle)

View of Swords Castle from Town Park

Swords Town Park is a small park situated in the centre of the town of Swords, along the Ward River.[17] It has tennis courts and a playground. Swords Castle lies within the park. It is the former residence of the Archbishop of Dublin and it is the only fortified residence of the Archbishop to survive in a reasonable state today (see above).

Balheary Park

Balheary Park is north of the town centre near the confluence of the Broadmeadow River and the Ward River, which flow, respectively, on the northern and southern edges of the park. It meets Swords Business Campus / Balheary Business Park on three sides, and has some playing pitches which are used by St Colmcille's GAA club. In mid-2006, Fingal County Council built a skatepark and adjoining basketball courts/football court in Balheary Park. The park contains a bowl, a vertwall, a spine, some quarterpipes, and a section of boxes in the middle of the park.

Broadmeadow River Linear Park

The Broadmeadow Linear Park is a small park north of Applewood along the Broadmeadow River. Fingal County Council plan to extend the park eastwards to Balheary Park and westwards into the proposed Swords Regional Park.[18]

Proposed Swords Regional Park

A 65 ha. new regional park for Swords is to be formed north-east of Swords, stretching from the Rathbeale Road to the Broadmeadow River. The park will be immediately west of Oldtown and adjoining and ultimately extending into the Broadmeadow River Valley Linear Park. The Park will serve Swords and its hinterland, and will comprise active recreational and passive activities, commensurate with the Council's vision for the emerging city of Swords.[19]

National Show Centre

A little south of Swords, the National Show Centre is a modern exhibition and conference venue near to Dublin Airport.[20] It is owned by the Irish Kennel Club, who use it as their main venue for dog shows in Ireland.



  • Forest Badminton Club
  • River Valley Badminton Club


  • Swords Basketball Club


In September 2013 a local campaign group approached Fingal County Council about the construction of a BMX track in the town. Fingal County Council said it has identified an area of the Ward River Valley that would be suitable for a BMX track, which could be developed quite quickly into a basic facility and improved over time. Prior to any works happening, the first stop is the formation of a club which would be fully insured and act to manage the facility.[21]


Swords Boxing Club is located in the former Carnegie Library on North Street. The club was established over 50 years ago and hosts many tournaments.

Fingal Boxing Academy is affiliated with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, was the first boxing club in Ireland to train female boxers and has trained several national champions. The club is located in Rivervalley, Swords.


There are three GAA clubs located in Swords:

  • Fingallians, Lawless Memorial Park
  • St Colmcille's, Holybanks, Glen Ellan Road
  • St Finians, River Valley


There are several golf courses close to the town, namely Swords Open Golf Course, Forrest Little Golf Club, Roganstown Golf and Country Club and Balheary "Par 3" Golf Course. There are also several driving ranges in the area with the Drynam Golf Centre being the first Driving Range in the country with automated tees.


  • Swords Hockey Club, Ladies club based in ALSAA Sports Grounds

Martial Arts

  • Castle Taekwondo Club, Balheary Scout Hall[22]
  • Ilyo Tae Kwon Do and Kick Boxing Club, St Colmcille's GAA Hall, Glen Ellen[23]
  • Hokubu Dojo Shotokan Karate Club, Seatown Business Park[24]
  • Swords Judo Club, Loreto College, Rivervalley[25]
  • River Valley TaeKwon-Do Club, River Valley Community Centre, River Valley[26]
  • Shika-do Karate, Holywell Community Centre, Holywell[27]


Fingal Orienteers have mapped the Ward River Valley park, and the surrounding estates of Swords Manor, Brackenstown, River Valley and Knocksedan, and regularly hold orienteering events in the area.[28] They are also working on a new International Sprint Standard Orienteering map of the Applewood and Glen Ellan areas.


  • Swords Celtic FC, established in 1962, this club is the most successful in the town. The club has four Senior teams playing in the Leinster Senior League and over 30 schoolboy/girl teams playing in the NDSL Leagues. The main pitch and clubhouse are located at Balheary, Swords, the club also has two floodlight seven a side pitches.
  • Swords Manor FC, Brackenstown Road[29]
  • Swords Rovers FC, Balheary[30]
  • Rivervalley Rangers, established in 1981 and home to legendary local players such as Liam Walshe, Paddy Blake and Gerry Dunne.


  • Swords Tennis Club, Swords Town Park


Fingal Horticultural Show

The Fingal Horticultural Society holds their annual flower show in Swords every August.[31] It includes competition classes in Cut Flowers, Hanging Baskets, Pot Plants, Flower Arranging, Fruit, Vegetables, Cookery, Wine Making, Photography, Painting and Handcrafts, as well as special classes for children. The Fingal Horticultural Society also hold an annual Garden Competition, Allotment Competition and Pub Frontage Competition in Swords.

Flavours of Fingal Agricultural Show

The first Flavours of Fingal Show took place on the 21 and 22 July 2012 in Newbridge House near Donabate. The Flavours of Fingal Show combined the sights and sounds of an agricultural show. The farm section of the two-day show featured a program of livestock and sheep competitions, equestrian contests and other agricultural displays. Meanwhile, the historic walled garden of Newbridge House hosted the food producers section of the show and features an array of favourite local delights, cooking demos and all things food in Fingal. Also on offer over the course of the weekend were family and musical entertainment and a programme of walks, talks and festival antics.[32]

Dog shows

In 2012 over 80 dog shows were held in the National Show Centre.[33] The Celtic Winners Dog Show, held on St Patrick's Day, is the most prestigious dog show in the country.

Fingal 10k Road Race

The first ever Fingal 10k Road Race took place on 22 July 2012 around the streets of Swords. It was part of the Dublin Race Series and over 4200 people entered. Michael MacDiarmada was the winner in a time of 00:31:31 and Siobhan O' Doherty was the first woman over the line in a time of 00:35:30. The event went well and since it has been run ever year.[34]


Pavilions Shopping Centre


Swords is the home to a large retail and business park called Airside Retail and Business Park, on the southern fringe of the town, hosting many employers, including the European Headquarters of Kellogg's. Ingersoll Rand also has its corporate headquarters in the Airside Business Park.[35] East of the town, running parallel to Swords bypass, lies the large Swords Business Park, where The Hertz Corporation have a Shared Services Centre.

Swords also has a wide range of shops, banks, pubs and other businesses. These include one very large modern shopping centre, the The Pavilions Swords, off the R132, the recent extension of which has a multi-screen cinema; it also has branches of Penneys, SuperValu and Dunnes Stores. Several smaller shopping centres also exist.


The headquarters of the Dublin Airport Authority and Ireland's four largest airlines are located in or near Swords. The Dublin Airport Authority, who manage Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports, employ over 3,000 people and have their headquarters on the airport campus.[36] Aer Lingus,[37] Ireland's flag carrier, have their headquarters on the Dublin Airport campus. CityJet, part of the Air France-KLM group, has its headquarters in Swords Business Campus[38] and Air Contractors, part of the ASL Aviation group, has its head office on the Malahide Road in Swords.[39]

On Monday 27 January 2014 Ryanair, Europe's largest low-cost airline, officially moved into their new €20m, 100,000 sq ft Dublin Head Office in Airside Business Park, having outgrown their previous office based within Dublin Airport.[40] The building was officially opened on Thursday 3 April 2014 by Taoiseach Enda Kenny Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and the Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisin Quinn.


In 2007 Tesco opened their new €70 million distribution centre in Lanestown, between Swords and Donabate. With a building footprint of over 17 acres and a total volume of over two million cubic yards. the Tesco Ireland distribution centre is the largest building on the island of Ireland and the 8th largest building in the world. The building is over 550 yards long and could fit 16 jumbo jets. It employs over 600 people and can process 1.5 million cases a week. It has 106 loading bays and supplies 106 stores up to six times a day.[41]


Swords is the home to several international chemical producers and pharmaceutical giants, including Opec. Merck Sharp & Dohme (formally Organnon) employ over 500 people in their facility in Drynam, which manufactures women's health, anaesthesiology and mental health products.[42] Bristol Myers Squibb employ over 400 people in their Swords Laboratories bulk pharmaceutical plant on Watery Lane.[43] The Lonza Group employ 45 people in their European manufacturing facility for personal care and industrial biocides, also on Watery Lane.[44]

Food and Horticulture

FoodCentral, marketed as "Ireland's national food park," is being developed south-west of Swords.[45] When complete it will cover an area of 113 hectares.

The Keeling's Group, who employ over 1700 people, have their headquarters in FoodCentral and use a lot of land around Swords.[46] The Keeling's Farms division annually grow 2,500 tonnes of soft fruits/berries from 5 hectares of glasshouse, tunnel and field crops in Swords. They grow Bramley apples in 139 acres of orchards and lettuce in 8 acres of glasshouses. Inside FoodCentral they have the only pepper growing facility in Ireland. Their 5 hectare high technology glasshouse produces 1,500 tonnes of red, orange, yellow and green peppers annually.[47] The Keeling's Multiples Division have a 12,500 square metre refrigerated facility in FoodCentral. They operate a large banana ripening facility for Chiquita which ripens over 3 million bananas each week. They also have separate ripening rooms for "Ready to eat" lines, such as peaches, pears, plums and avocados.[48][49]

Total Produce,[50] Ireland's largest Agribusiness[51] have two large facilities in Swords. Their facility in Swords Business Park includes a distribution and ripening centre for Fyffes[52] Cape, Outspan, Green Ace and TOP Fruit products. Their "Uniplumo" facility on the Rathbeale Road,[53] has nearly 12 acres of glasshouses for growing plants, flowers and tomatoes.

Notable residents

  • Eleanor Ambrose, Catholic heiress, is from Swords.
  • Eddie McLoughlin, Irish international Judoka, won two All-Ireland senior titles (2013 & 2014),[54] is from Swords.
  • Conan Byrne, footballer, is from Swords.
  • Ed Byrne, comedian, is from Swords.
  • Jason Byrne, comedian, lives in Swords.
  • Duncan Campbell, video artist, won 2014 Turner Prize, grew up in Swords.
  • Paul Flynn, Dublin and Fingallians GAA player, lives in Swords.
  • Ronan Keating, singer-songwriter, lived in the Highfields residential development on the town's southern side. He now lives in Malahide, east of Swords.
  • Richard Montgomery, hero of the American revolution, born in Swords.
  • Blessed Francis Taylor, former Mayor of Dublin, martyr, born in Swords.
  • Kodaline, a popular band, come from Swords


  1. http://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/homes/loyal-residents-of-dublin-suburb-keep-demand-and-hype-high-31500623.html
  2. 2.0 2.1 Placenames Database of Ireland Swords Demesne
  3. Retail Excellence Ireland Survey 2012
  4. Irish Business Against Litter Survey, 2003
  5. Irish Business Against Litter Survey 2011
  6. Sidwell, Keith (1995), Reading Medieval Latin, Cambridge University Press, p. 70, ISBN 0-521-44747-X 
  7. http://swordsdublin.net/_dublin_history.html
  8. Hickey, Raymond, 2005: Dublin English: evolution and change
  9. Barrysparks Local Area Plan – Environmental Report Fingal County Council
  10. 10.0 10.1 Swords Historical Society
  11. Placenames Database of Ireland Nethercross
  12. Swords Castle – The Tudors Evening Herald
  13. Swords Castle – Visiting Information Fingal Tourism
  14. St Columba's Round Tower Fingal Tourism
  15. http://homepage.eircom.net/~aroundswords/swordshistory.htm
  16. Ward River Valley Park
  17. Swords Castle and Town Park
  18. Broadmeadow Linear Park (Section 3.1.2)
  19. Swords Regional Park (Section 3.1.3)
  20. National Show Centre
  21. Swords BMX Track
  22. Castle Taekwondo Club
  23. Ilyo Tae Kwon Do and Kick Boxing Club
  24. Red Dragon Shotokan Karate Club
  25. Swords Judo Club
  26. [1]
  27. [2]
  28. Fingal Orienteers
  29. Swords Manor FC
  30. Swords Rovers FC
  31. Fingal Horticultural Society
  32. Flavours of Fingal
  33. Irish Kennel Club Show Dates search Cloghran
  34. Fingal 10k
  35. "Contact Us." Ingersoll Rand. Retrieved on 18 January 2011. "Global Headquarters 170/175 Lakeview Drive Airside Business Park Swords, Co. Dublin Ireland."
  36. Dublin Airport Authority
  37. Aer Lingus
  38. CityJet
  39. Air Contractors
  40. Ryanair Official website News Article
  41. Tesco Ireland Distribution Centre
  42. MSD Ireland
  43. Bristol-Myers Squibb Ireland
  44. Lonza Swords
  45. FoodCentral
  46. Keeling's Group
  47. Keeling's Farms
  48. Keeling's Multiples
  49. Chiquita Bananas
  50. Total Produce
  51. Total Produce – Top Irish Agribusiness Companies
  52. Fyffes Swords
  53. Uniplumo (Ireland)
  54. "Eddie McLoughlin, Judoka, JudoInside". http://www.judoinside.com/judoka/83881/Eddie_McLoughlin. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 

Outside links

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