Meathwoman's Diary: Back to the beach with a 99 in hand
Long before city breaks and package holidays, a trip to Bettystown was the highlight of many people's summer. Excitable swim suit clad sun worshippers from all over the country descended to the east Meath town to get their fix of the sea air and carnival atmosphere.
For decades families packed into cars full of buckets and spades, picnic baskets and folding deck chairs and lined the sand at the famous spot with the local economy reaping the rewards of their place in the sun. But like the air being let out of an inflatable beach ball, Bettystown formally one of the top the holiday destinations became a near like ghost town.
The area once a picturesque postcard of jovial holiday makers basking in the sunshine became the poster child for derelict Ireland.
Chewed up and spit out by the Celtic Tiger and the NAMA legacy and struggling to keep up with the influx of an ever growing population, East Meath was left to sink rather than swim.
But its story is not defined by its challenges of it past. A trojan effort is being made to bring all of East Meath including Julianstown, Laytown, Bettystown and Mornington to its full potential and its starting to show.
Pressure is being placed on the owners of vacant sites in the area in an effort to restore it back to its former glory.
"Meanwhile The iconic Bettystown Court Hotel is in the process of being sold with hopes that it will reopen as a hotel to attract tourists and serve the area alike.
Pat's Supermarket and Macaris take away at the entrance to Bettystown Beach that were ravaged by a fire last year are being rebuilt.
A new library in the centre of the town is under construction. The 700 sqm library will be located in a landmark building with stunning views out over the sea and a major community meeting space overlooking a new plaza in the centre of the village. The project includes community rooms, lifeguard and beach warden space, public toilets, disability toilets and changing facility.
A controversial ban on cars on the beach that was implemented during lockdown in 2020 and has continued to this day has seen support from those who say the move has resulted in an improved experience for beach goers but has raised concerns from local businesses due to the lack of parking facilities. A debate that is sure to continue.
Liam Keane of Bettystown Tidy Towns had similar words of hope for the area.
"It's just to get the landowners, developers and council to look at it and say what can we do for the area because you can do a lot. It has been lacking investment through the years.
"Things are going in the right direction. The amount of natural amenities we have is unbelievable, we have a fantastic beach, seaside hotel, golf club with a links course, tennis club, in Laytown you have a pitch and put club, kite surfing and kayaking."
It might be a case of a lot done, more to do but I'll be there with my 99 watching it rise with the tide.