Begin your three-day adventure around Ireland’s south-west by exploring the country’s oldest city, Waterford, a city founded by the Vikings in 914. Waterford was a key location taken over by Richard de Clare (Strongbow), and Dermot MacMurrough as MacMurrough fought to take back control of Ireland with the help of Henry II. While MacMurrough ruled over much of Leinster, the counties of Waterford and Wexford were key locations in his later days.
When it comes to exploring Waterford City, make the famous Viking Triangle area your first port of call. The Viking Triangle is a nod to the Vikings that helped shaped the city and will provide you with great insight into the history of Ireland’s oldest city. Waterford Treasures is a trio of museums at the heart of the Viking Triangle – The Bishop’s Palace, Reginald’s Tower and the Medieval Museum. Uncover the story of the Vikings and how they came about occupying Waterford, and ultimately shaping the city into the land it is today.
Reginald’s Tower dates back to the time of MacMurragh (12th century) and is the only monument in Ireland that is named after a Viking. It is also located a close walk from Christchurch Cathedral in Waterford City, with both these locations rumoured to be the site for Strongbow’s marriage to Dermot’s daughter, Aoife MacMurrough. This was a reward from Dermot following the re-capture of Waterford from Rory O’Connor. Indeed, a bronze statue of Strongbow and Aoife has been erected between Bishops Palace and Christchurch Cathedral to commemorate the spot of one of Ireland’s most famous weddings. Be sure to pencil these four historic buildings into your tour of Waterford City to discover more about the history of this land.
A short walk from the trio of museums is one of Waterford’s undoubted highlights – the House of Waterford Crystal. Enjoy a tour like no other, as you get to experience the process that is involved in making this famous crystal as you journey through the factory to witness some stunning pieces of crystal being made before your very eyes. You’ll also find out about the early days of Waterford Crystal and the story that has transformed it into Ireland’s most loved crystal.
If time is on your side and you’re feeling energetic, consider embarking on the 46km Waterford Greenway cycle route, a cycling path that runs from Waterford City to Dungarvan.
With so many great pubs and restaurants to choose from, you’ll have plenty to do in the evening following your expedition around Waterford City. Relax in one of the city’s many friendly watering holes as you get ready to depart for Wexford, and Leinster’s ancient capital, Ferns.
As you depart Waterford City to head west towards Wexford, consider visiting one of the county’s popular coastal towns and villages. Copper Coast is a particular highlight for many visitors to the area, with the towns of Ardmore, Dungarvan and Tramore all worth visiting.
Travelling west to Wexford you will pass through the seaside villages of Ardmore and Passage East on your travels. Passage East is thought to be the location that Strongbow entered Ireland back in 1171 as he helped Dermot MacMurrough overtake Waterford, and in the process, capture Leinster again. Take the ferry from Passage East to Ballyhack in Wexford and embark on a journey towards the ancient capital of Leinster at Ferns.
From Ballyhack head south to the Hook Head Peninsula, and Ireland’s oldest lighthouse at Hook Head. Hook Head Lighthouse is thought to date back to 1172, a year after former king Dermot MacMurrough is believed to have died in the county. The current structure is thought to be around 800 years old and a must see when visiting Wexford. As you depart Hook Head, make the town of Fethard your next destination, before advancing to the 13th-century Tintern Abbey. The abbey was founded by William Marshall, the Earl of Pembroke, who was married to Isabel de Clare, the daughter of Strongbow and Aoife MacMurrough.
From Tintern Abbey head north to the town of New Ross where you can find out more about the challenges faced by Irish men and women in the mid-1800s during the Great Famine. The SS Dunbrody Famine Ship tells the story of Irish emigration during this period, with an authentic boat just adding to the experience. While in New Ross, discover the story of one of the worlds most famous dynasty’s, and their ties to Wexford by visiting the Kennedy Homestead.
Complete your Wexford adventure by visiting the town of Ferns, the ancient capital of Ireland. It’s here that Dermot MacMurrough waited for Strongbow to arrive in 1170. MacMurrough founded Ferns Abbey, and while most of this building lies in ruins today, it’s a hugely significant historic site in Wexford, and the final resting place of one of Ireland’s last kings, Dermot MacMurrough. Another popular building in the historic town of Ferns is the 13th-century Ferns Castle which was built by a descendant of MacMurroughs, William Marshall (the same William Marshall who constructed Tintern Abbey).
Call it a night in Ferns of head south towards the popular towns of Enniscorthy, Wexford or Rosslare to spend the evening.
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