Explore the tales of the tide

Plunge into coastal culture and maritime marvels on this 5-day trip

Cobh, County Cork

This trip is all about people with sea in their DNA. Stories of emigrants’ farewells, stories of famous explorers, and stories of strength in adversity.

From whiskey to warfare and wildlife to wanderlust this trip will get under the skin of the lives loved and lost along this magnificent coastline. Head off from Cork Airport, as we have here, or arrive from the sea itself at Cork Harbour or Wexford's Rosslare Harbour, and explore counties Cork, Waterford and Wexford.

Ireland's Ancient East from Cork

Protect and serve

Open up your trip around Cork, where you'll find tales of battles and battlements, beauty and bells… and a little condiment called butter.

A driving 40 mins
Blackrock Castle Observatory

A bastion against the sea

For centuries, ships have passed through one of the world’s largest natural harbours at Cork; and since 1550, Camden Fort Meagher has watched them all from its protective post at Crosshaven. The enormity of the site is breathtaking – it took 500 men 40 years just to build the moat. Impervious to the spray of the Atlantic and, it seems, the passage of time, Camden Fort Meagher and its warren of underground tunnels can transport you to an era of cannons and musketry, when waves threatened to carry enemies to Ireland’s shores.

If you have more time

As you head towards the city of Cork, stop at the pretty sailing village of Crosshaven for a bite to eat in the seaside cafés and a wander on the pristine beaches. Then, as you approach the city, check out the Blackrock Castle Observatory for a glimpse into the Milky Way and beyond...

B
Cork

A flourishing harbour

Nearby, Cork is a harbour city with a cosmopolitan flavour. Built around centuries of international trade, the city harks back to these times at the English Market, a bustling covered arcade packed with fresh fish, meat, fruit, spices, chocolate and endless local artisinal goodies. Stop here for a spot of lunch, then take a walk around the 17th century Elizabethan Fort, a hulking star-shaped construction perched above the city. From here you can see Shandon, where you'll find the Butter Museum, a hub of folklore, food and farming history. After you've explored, pop to the nearby St Anne's Church and ring the Shandon Bells, paying homage to this beautiful city.

If you have more time

Visit spectacular St Fin Barre's Cathedral and maybe catch a choral recital accompanied by the melodious 19th century organ. Then head for dinner at Café Paradiso, but be sure to ring ahead to book this vegetarian restaurant – the confit artichokes are simply divine!

Maritime tales

Head to Cobh, a pretty seaport town with a beautiful harbour, and often the last glimpse of Ireland for many emigrants.

C driving 20 minutes
Cobh

A farewell to home

If there is one ship that illustrates the depth of Cobh's maritime legacy, it is the ill-fated Titanic. And at the Titanic Experience Cobh, you can follow the lives of the passengers who left these shores for that tragic voyage in 1912. The first emigrants to pass through Ellis Island in New York are also immortalised as statues in Cobh: Annie Moore and her brothers began their journey to the New World right here, boarding the steamship Nevada back in 1892. Cobh Heritage Centre uncovers their stories, and those of deported convicts from that era, as well as the tale of the sunken ocean liner the Lusitania – its final resting place is off these shores.

If you have more time

Stroll the town on a guided walk with Titanic Trail or take a self-drive boat tour from the town's harbour, and find out more about the maritime legacy of Cobh.

D
Spike Island

Spike Island is heaven and hell

Hop on a boat from Cobh to Spike Island. Now a hushed and picturesque land off the coast of Cobh, you only have to walk through the solid stone gateway to appreciate how a monastery, fort and prison have all resided here over the last 1,400 years. Now dominated by Fort Mitchell, a star-shaped fortress that once held 2,300 prisoners captive, it's a pleasant if somewhat spine-tingling place to visit.

If you have more time

Step into the silence of St Colman's Cathedral in Cobh, then take dinner on the dock at The Quays Bar and Restaurant.

A vintage journey

Make way for Midleton between Cork and Waterford, and a walled town made famous by an intrepid explorer...

E driving 30 mins
The Jameson Whiskey Distillery

The water of life

The smell of malted barley in the air, carts piled high with sacks of grain…visiting the Jameson Whiskey Distillery in Midleton allows you to hear about how the masters craft their liquid gold. This is where you'll find the largest pot still in the world, as well as some of Ireland's finest whiskeys in the making. And if the car’s parked, finish up with a little sup of premium blend. At the epicentre of the slow food movement, the delightful town of Midleton is also ideal for those with an appetite.

If you have more time

Book ahead for Sage – all ingredients are sourced from within a 12-mile radius, and you can taste the produce from the very fields you've travelled past that day.

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Ardmore

A walled beauty

Just down the road, Youghal is an Irish Heritage Port responsible for one of Ireland's most famous culinary staples – the potato. This is where Sir Walter Raleigh lived in the 16th century, and where he planted Ireland's first spuds in Myrtle Grove, a magnificent Elizabethan house that remains in private ownership to this day. The town intrigues with hidden gems such as St Mary's Collegiate Church, a medieval masterpiece founded by St Declan in 450AD, and the Youghal Clock Gate Tower, where you can travel through time to discover the fascinating history of this former prison.

If you have more time

Stroll along vast sandy beaches making your way to Ardmore, where the old cathedral and statuesque round tower stand as testament to what is believed to be one of Ireland's oldest Christian settlements.

A Viking stronghold

Raiders, builders, warriors – the Vikings left their imprint across much of the island of Ireland. And Waterford is at the heart of it all.

G walking 10 mins
Waterford

A city called “Vadrarfjord”

Once called “Vadrarfjord”, the city was founded in 914AD as a Viking settlement. Reputed to be one of Ireland’s oldest cities, Waterford is certainly the island’s most richly decked in Viking tales, architecture, finery and folklore. Before you explore, though, you must eat like a local and tuck into a freshly baked blaa, a traditional floury bread that you can fill with anything you fancy. Explore the Georgian Christ Church Cathedral, or marvel at how molten crystal is moulded and carved into gleaming glass treasures at the House of Waterford Crystal.

If you have more time

Enjoy a pint and great food with a side order of history at the Reg Bar, which has a 900-year-old wall running right through it.

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Reginald's Tower

The Waterford Treasures

One of a trio called Waterford Treasures, the fortress of Reginald's Tower was named after the very Viking who founded the city back in 914AD. Anchoring the city’s Viking history, it hosts a special exhibition that includes a 12th century gold kite brooch and a Viking warrior’s sword. Metres away is the Medieval Museum, where you'll find the exquisitely embroidered silk Cloth of Gold vestments, the only complete medieval set to survive in Europe. And to complete the trio, head for Bishop's Palace, an elegant mansion detailing the city's history through the years. A cracking way to explore all of this is to join the Epic Tour of the Viking Triangle – a theatrical comedy whirlwind journey with props, costumes, singing, dancing and plenty of craic. Or you can embark on the King of the Vikings experience, a virtual reality adventure through time! You’ll have worked up a hunger after all that, so grab a bite to eat at Momo, and then join the fun at Henry Downes' Bar, making sure to sample their own No 9 Whiskey blend.

If you have more time

Drive the Copper Coast Geopark, a scenic route between Dungarvan and Tramore that boasts a rich mining and geological heritage. Or cycle along the Waterford Greenway – you'll be treated to some pretty spectacular views!

A coastal story

Sea tales, stormy characters and centuries of history are what lines the trail to Wexford.

I driving 40 mins
Dunbrody Famine Ship

Famine and fame

There's only one way to get to Wexford, and that's taking the ferry across the River Suir from Passage East to Ballyhack, where you're only a short drive from New Ross. This Norman settlement has borne witness to its fair share of civil strife and rebel action – it's all revealed on the New Ross Historic Walk, which takes in the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience. A replica of the 19th century original, it now serves as an captivating museum commemorating darker times. At the end of the tour, a brighter side to Ireland's history unfolds at the Kennedy Homestead, where the life and legacy of the Kennedy dynasty is explored, alongside their Irish roots.

J driving 50 mins
Hook Head Lighthouse

By Hook or by Crook

The saying "by hook or by crook" is said to have originated around these parts, with the Hook Head Lighthouse, and the tiny village of Crooke about 42 miles away. The oldest operational lighthouse in the world, it's had its fair share of colourful residents through the centuries. Diligent 6th-century Christian lighthouse-keepers, as well as the ghostly denizens of nearby Loftus Hall have all called this wind-lashed place home. And as for those ocean views, well nothing quite beats it.

If you have more time

Join a Hook Head Safari – it takes in Ballyhack Castle, a tour of the lighthouse and, of course, incredible cliff walks.

K driving 40 mins
Kilmore Quays

Taste the sea air

Follow the coast and take your pick from Kilmore Quay's famously fresh seafood restaurants. Marry that up with a boat trip from here to the Saltee Islands, which is a haven for wildlife, and has a pretty fascinating back story. In 1956, Michael Neale, an aviator, nature enthusiast and Wexford native was crowned the prince of these isles – 13 years after buying the islands for himself and his family!

If you have more time

Wexford’s Lobster Pot serves up stunning seafood, brought fresh that day from the southern seas. A must for seafood lovers.

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Wexford Wildfowl Reserve

The call of the wild

Back on the mainland, get yourself to the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve. Scale the observation tower for unparalleled views, enjoy the interactive exhibition centre, and take the time to appreciate some of the world's most ancient and abiding sea travellers: the 10,000 white-front geese that traverse the Atlantic from Greenland to settle here every winter.

If you have more time

Back in Wexford town, pop in for dinner at Thomas Moore Tavern, one of Wexford’s oldest pubs, before you continue your journey around Ireland's Ancient East...

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