Carrickfergus is celebrating after being named Best Market Town in Northern Ireland in a new study commissioned by Royal Mail.
And in a further fillip for east Antrim, Larne is ranked number six in the province’s top 10.
The UK-wide findings are based on a number of categories in each country including average earnings, house prices, access to services, crime figures, skill level of the local population and unemployment figures.
Data from the 2011 UK Census is also used.
Carrickfergus, Royal Mail stated, scored highly on work-life balance and affordability.
“This new study demonstrates the breadth of market towns providing attractive places for people across the UK to live and work in. For people who value a good work-life balance, there are plenty of market towns to choose from,” said a spokesperson for Royal Mail.
The study has been welcomed by East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson, who paid tribute to business people for their efforts.
Mr Dickson said: “This is a welcome recognition of all that Carrickfergus offers. This accolade highlights the skills of the local community and reflects the efforts of organisations such as the Carrickfergus Town Centre Partnership, which is chaired by my party colleague, Noel Williams, for the past two and a half years, in making Carrickfergus a competitive town that people want to visit.
“I would like to offer my congratulations to all of the local businesses and shop owners, whose endeavour no doubt played a massive role in taking Carrickfergus to the top of these rankings.
“Furthermore, I am also glad to learn that Larne has been ranked sixth on this chart. It is also a wonderful town with a vibrant population and attracts many visitors.”
Mr Dickson concluded: “I hope that this news encourages the people of Carrickfergus, Larne and the whole of east Antrim to continue their hard work in making their towns and villages appealing to all.”
Lurgan, according to the study, has affordable housing and a good work-life balance, in terms of short commuting distances and working hours, taking it to second place.
Comber is third due to good school scores, short commuting distances and working hours. Randalstown (4th) also makes the top four.
The Northern Ireland top 10 is as follows: 1 Carrickfergus, 2 Lurgan, 3 Comber, 4 Randalstown, 5 Bangor, 6 Larne, 7 Antrim, 8 Newtownards, 9 Banbridge and 10 Dungiven.