Celtic Coast

Wicklow to Cork

3 Days
  • History & Heritage
  • Food & Drink
  • Coastal Views
  • Beaches
  • Blarney Castle
  • Dunbrody Famine Experience
  • Powerscourt Estate & Gardens
Must-see

The Celtic Coast is a drive like no other, as you travel through the Garden of Ireland taking in some of the finest scenery in Ireland.  From the beaches of Dungarvan and the harbour at Rosslare, to the stunning stately homes in Wicklow, the Celtic Coast takes you on a journey through Ireland’s Viking past, the highlight of which is the Viking Triangle in Waterford.  This route takes in the counties of Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford and Cork, and positions you perfectly to continue exploring the Wild Atlantic Way, or to head north along the east coast and into Dublin and Meath.

Day 1

Explore Wicklow

Begin your trip in the Garden of Ireland and Wicklow.  A you travel through the hills and mountains of Wicklow, you’ll get a real taste of modern and ancient Ireland in equal measure, setting you up perfectly to continue heading South West to explore the cliffs and coastline of Waterford and Cork.

Marvel at Wicklow’s Stately Homes

When it comes to sheer grandeur, it’s hard to look past the stunning stately homes in Wicklow.  Begin your trip in the coastal town of Bray and make the short trip to Kilruddy House and Gardens.  If this is your first time visiting Kilruddy and you think you recognise it, that’s probably because you’ve seen it appear on the big screen.  Kilruddy House and Gardens has featured in Angela’s Ashes, The Tudors and My Left Foot and dates back to the 1820s.

From here, make your way to one of the jewels in the Wicklow crown, the Powerscourt House and Gardens.  With some 19 hectares waiting to be explored, it’s easy to see why Wicklow is know as the Garden of Ireland when you arrive at Powerscourt.  The view from the terrace is one to behold, and makes you appreciate the work that goes into maintaining the gardens at Powerscourt, and also the surrounding landscape as you look down to Triton Lake below, and Wicklow Mountains in the distance.  One of the highlights of Powerscourt House is the Powerscourt Waterfall, Ireland’s highest waterfall.  If you’re travelling with children, be sure to visit Tara’s Palace, a wonderful museum for children.

The last of Wicklow’s trio of magnificent stately homes is Russborough House and Parklands in Blessington.  With over 275 years of history, Russborough House has seen it all including two fires, two forced occupations and is even said to be haunted in parts, with a ghost said to be located between bedrooms 1 and 9.  Take time exploring the stunning grounds which overlook the Wicklow Mountains, and if you have time, take a guided tour of the House and marvel at some of the stunning artwork and artifacts on display.

Wicklow Mountains National Park

Famed for its mountainous terrain, Wicklow Mountains National Park lies in the heart of the county and is an area you simply must explore, although with over 20,000 hectares, don’t be expecting to see it all in one day.  Among the many popular walking trails are the trails of the popular monastic city of Glendalough.  The glacial valley is home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland with many lakes and monuments just waiting to be explored.  Founded by St. Kevin in the 6th Century, the area of Glendalough is a must see for anyone visiting Wicklow.

As well as walking and hiking in the Wicklow Mountains, there are an abundance of activities to keep you occupied should you decide to stay in Wicklow, with canoeing, kayaking, scuba diving, bouldering and fishing all popular at various times across the year.  You can of course drive through the mountains with Sally Gap and Wicklow Gap two popular scenic routes.

Wicklow’s Historic Gaol

While no longer an active jail, Wicklow Gaol tells the story of over 200 years of Irish history, giving you an insight into the history of prison life over the last 200 years.  The Gaol is located in Wicklow Town and the perfect place to finish your day exploring Ireland’s Garden.  The interactive tour takes you back in time to some of the most important dates in recent Irish history, while you can also explore the Gaol’s famous dungeon, recently opened again for the first time in over 100 years.  With events across the year, be sure to check out what is on at the Gaol when you are visiting Wicklow.

Glendalough

Glendalough

Explore the wonderful ancient monastic site of Glendalough.

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Powerscourt Estate & Gardens

Powerscourt Estate & Gardens

The jewel in Wicklow's garden crown, explore the beauty of the Powerscourt Estate.

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Wicklow Gaol

Wicklow Gaol

Experience 200 years of Irish prison life in this interactive tour of Wicklow Gaol,

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Day 2

Wexford to Waterford

Your second day exploring the Celtic Coast will take you through Wexford and into Waterford where you will spend the night before your final day of this great route.  The homeland of the Kennedy family, Wexford will give you a great insight into Irish history and heritage, while the coastal town of Rosslare and the Hook Peninsula are areas that you simply must explore.  You’ll finish the day in the historic city of Waterford, a town steeped in history from the Viking times with plenty for you to explore in this historic site.

Discover the Ancient Capital of Leinster

As you travel south from Wicklow, make Wells House & Garden in the town of Gorey your first stop.  This Victorian House is simply stunning, with tours allowing you to get a sense of the Victorian times in Ireland.  With woodland walks, a playground and courtyard, this is a great place to start your day.  Relax with a game of chess or explore the wildlife at the Irish Wildlife Sanctuary.

From Gorey, make the town of Enniscorthy your next destination, and take a walk through the village of Ferns.  Known as the Ancient Capital of Leinster, a tour of the village will highlight some distinct periods in Irish history, with the early Christian and Norman eras firmly having left a mark on the area.  With a Norman castle (Ferns Castle) and Augustian Abbey waiting to be explored, a short stop in Ferns is well worth it as you continue your journey to find out more about Ancient Ireland.  Be sure to visit St. Edan’s Cathedral, famous for being the smallest cathedral in Europe.  From Enniscorthy, head south towards Wexford Town.

Explore 9,00 Years of Irish History

As you travel towards Wexford Town, make the Irish National Heritage Park in Ferrycarrig your first stop.  This outdoor museum takes you on an amazing and unique journey through Ireland’s past, with some 9,000 years of ancient history recreated at the park.  Located along the banks of the stunning River Slaney, the Heritage Park takes you back to 7,000 BC and prehistoric Ireland, as you get a sense of our homeland in Stone Age times.  The park also dipicts how Ireland would have looked during the Bronze and Iron Age times, while also sharing some great insights into early Christian life on the island.  For a real sense of the ancient past of Ireland, a trip to the National Heritage Park is a must.

From here, make your way into Wexford Town where you can enjoy guided tours of the historic town and even grab some lunch.

Rosslare Beach and Harbour

One of the undoubted highlights of Wexford is the town of Rosslare, home to the blue flag Rosslare Beach.  Take a break from exploring Ancient Ireland and relax in the sun (Rosslare is said to be the sunniest place in Ireland when it decides to come out).  Windsurfing is a popular watersport in this area, while there are also a number of golf courses for visitors to enjoy.  From the town of Rosslare, make the short trip to Ballygeary, the home of Rosslare Harbour.

Marvel at Wexford’s Abbey’s

Depart from Rosslare and head west towards the Hook Peninsula and pay a visit to Tintern Abbey.  The Cistercian Abbey dates back to the 13th Century, and while some of the building is in ruins, other parts have recently been restored.  From here, take some time exploring the Hook Peninsula, being sure to head to the very tip of the peninsula and marvelling at Hook Lighthouse.  The lighthouse is one of the oldest working lighthouses in the world and was described by Lonely Planet as the “granddaddy of all lighthouses”.  The lighthouse has been guiding people into Wexford for over 2,000 years although the existing building dates back some 800 years when the monks built a new lighthouse.  Climb the 115 steps to the top of the tower for an amazing panoramic view of Wexford.

From Hook Lighthouse, head north along the banks of the River Barrow towards the town of Campile, where you can explore another Cisterian Abbey site at Dunbrody Abbey.  The Abbey and Castle dates back to the 12th Century and the grounds themselves have some great walking routes and a popular hedge maze, one of only two full size mazes in Ireland.  From here, head north to the town of New Cross and experience the story of The Great Famine at the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience.  You can call it a night in New Ross or make the 30 minute drive to Waterford City and get ready for your final day exploring Celtic Coast.

The Kennedy Homestead

The Kennedy Homestead

Discover the story and Irish roots of one of the world's most famous families, The Kennedy's.

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Dunbrody Famine Experience

Dunbrody Famine Experience

Discover the story of The Great Famine and the struggles faced by our ancestors during this time.

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Hook Lighthouse

Hook Lighthouse

Experience the worlds oldest intact lighthouse at Hook Peninsula.

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Day 3

Waterford to Cork

The final day of your driving trip along Ireland’s South East and the Celtic Coast will see you explore Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city.  Famous around the world for its Crystal, Waterford has a strong connection to the Viking era, and this is something you will discover when you visit the city’s famous Viking Triangle.  The towns of Ardmore and Lismore are steeped in history, while the seaside town of Tramore is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Ireland.  You’ll finish your final day along the Celtic Coast in Rebel Country, as you visit Blarney Castle.  From here you’re perfectly placed to get to know County Cork a bit better, or set off exploring Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

Explore The Viking Triangle

Begin your exploration of Waterford by getting familiar with the city centre.  Referred to as Ireland’s oldest city, Waterford can trace its roots back to 914 AD and the Viking times.  Indeed, the city still holds these Viking ties close to their hearts today, and none more-so than The Viking Triangle.  The Viking Triangle allows you to explore some of the city’s most significant tourist attractions, including Waterford’s Treasures; The Bishop’s Palace, The Medieval Museum and Reginald’s Tower.  Named after a Viking, Reginald’s Tower takes you on a journey through Waterford’s ancient past and tells the story of the Viking’s, from their arrival on Irish shores over 1,000 years ago.

The Medieval Museum in the heart of the city, is another treasure that tells the ancient story of Waterford.  Take time to walk around the many exhibitions of the museum, with the Great Parchment Book of Waterford sharing some great insights into the city.  The book contains records as far back as 1356 AD, and gives you a real taste of life in Waterford down through the years.  The final treasure to take time getting familiar with is the Bishop’s Palace, a stunning Georgian building dating back over 200 years.  This elegant building tells the story of Georgian Waterford, and is also home to the oldest surviving piece of Waterford Crystal.

As you leave Bishop’s Palace, make the short walk across the road to The House of Waterford Crystal, and enjoy a tour like no other, as you get to experience the history of this famous crystal, and journey through the factory to witness some stunning pieces of crystal being made before your very eyes.

Marvel at Copper Coast

From Waterford City, head south towards the popular coastal town of Tramore and enjoy a relaxing stroll along the beach.  If you’re feeling more active, Tramore is a popular surfing town, so head to Oceanics Surf School and get ready to hit the waves.  With a golf course and racecourse, and an abundance of bars, cafes and restaurants, it’s easy to see why Tramore is such a popular holiday destination throughout the year.

From Tramore, make the short trip west towards the stunning Copper Coast Geopark.  This UNESCO Geopark took some 460 million years to create, so it’s fair to say the area has a story or two to tell, and lots to be discovered.  The Geopark takes in some 90 square kilometres and is dotted with stunning beaches and walking trails.  The Copper Coast Geopark Centre tells the story of the land and is open Monday – Thursday from 11am – 5pm, with the last exhibition at 4.30pm.

Waterford’s Ancient Towns and Castles

Having spent time getting familiar with the impressive landscape of Copper Coast, the next stage of your drive through Waterford will see you take in some of the county’s ancient towns and castles.  First up is the popular coastal town of Dungarvan, home to the Waterford County Museum.  While you’ll already have a understanding of the history of Waterford from your time in the Viking Triangle, the Waterford County Museum continues this story, while also looking closer at Dungarvan and other historic Waterford townlands.  From the County Museum, head to Castle Street to visit Dungarvan Castle, the first of 3 castles you will see on this part of your drive.  Dungarvan Castle dates back to 1185 and is an Anglo-Norman castle that has been restored in recent years.

From Dungarvan, the final leg of your journey through Waterford will take you to the towns of Lismore and Ardmore.  First up is the town of Ardmore, which is located along the coast and said to be Ireland’s oldest Christian site, dating back to 350 – 450 AD.  The town has a wealth of ancient sites to explore including McKenna’s Castle, Ardmore Cathedral and Ardmore Round Tower.  If you have time, set off along the popular Ardmore Cliff Walk or head down to Ardmore Pier.

From Ardmore, travel to the town of Lismore, your final stop in Waterford.  Begin with Lismore Heritage Centre where you will find out more about Lismore, a story that dates back to 636 AD.  The heritage centre is a must see for anyone travelling with kids.  Continue to explore Lismore by visiting Lismore Castle and Gardens and take a stroll round this seven acre, 17th Century building.  The castle, surrounding gardens and a contemporary art gallery will certainly keep you occupied as you spend the last hours of your Waterford trip in Lismore.

Last stop, Blarney and Cork

As you leave Lismore, continue to head west for Cork, where you will finish the Celtic Coast route by visiting Blarney Castle before calling it a day in Cork City.  On your way from Lismore to Blarney, be sure to visit the town of Midleton, and head further south to Cobh, if time is on your side.  The historic town of Midleton dates back to the 12th Century, while it is also home to the Jameson Whiskey Distillery, a must see when travelling through this part of Cork.  Indeed, legend has it that Irish whiskey was invented in Midleton back in the 18th Century.

From Midleton, head to the town of Blarney, home of Blarney Castle and the world famous Blarney Stone.  The castle and grounds are over 600 years old and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cork.  A trip to Blarney wouldn’t be complete without climbing to the top and kissing the Blarney Stone, and receiving the gift of eloquence for the rest of your days.  From Blarney, make the short trip to Cork City where you can spend the night and take time to explore the city the following day.  Some of the highlights of Cork City include Cork City Gaol, St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral, the English Market and Crawford Art Gallery.

House of Waterford Crystal

House of Waterford Crystal

Visit the home of the world famous Waterford Crystal by touring the factory and discovering their crystal production methods.

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Reginald’s Tower

Reginald’s Tower

Experience Ireland's oldest civic building, in the country's oldest city.

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Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

Climb the tower and kiss the famous Blarney Stone and receive the gift of eloquence.

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