County Wexford

Hook Head lighthouse, County Wexford

Golden beaches, brilliant lighthouses and a starring role in Ireland’s Ancient East… welcome to the sunny southeast!

Harbouring history

Heritage comes thick and fast in Wexford. Look at Enniscorthy, which recently celebrated a rather significant birthday: 1,500 years. It’s home to St Aidan’s Cathedral designed by the famous architect Augustus Welby Pugin, and an interpretative centre telling the story of nearby Vinegar Hill. This is where the decisive battle of Ireland’s 1798 Rebellion was fought. Or look at Bannow and Baginbun Head, site of the first Norman landings in 1169, and New Ross, a premier trading port in Ireland during medieval times.

Next up is Wexford town itself, where a heritage trail steers through medieval streets wearing the influence of Viking, Norman and Cromwellian invasions. Highlights include Selskar Abbey, where Henry II spent six weeks of penance in 1172 for his part in the murder of St Thomas Beckett. Wexford has an eye to the future, too. The state-of-the-art Opera House in the centre of the town is host to the panoramic Sky View café and has celebrates the 60-year-old Annual Opera Festival every October. The beautiful walnut-paneled theatre adds a touch of class to Wexford’s take on 21st century architecture.

Hook, line and sinker

Steven Spielberg chose the Blue Flag beaches north of Wexford to film Saving Private Ryan (the Normandy landings were filmed around Curracloe), but the rugged south coast is worth exploring, too. A short spin south of Wexford lies the fishing village of Kilmore Quay, where boats could have you deep-sea fishing or bird-watching on the Saltee Islands in no time.

Ireland's Ancient East

Take a trip to the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience and relive what it was like for 19th century emigrants on board their 1840's vessel replica. As part of the Dunbrody Experience you can interact with actors in an adventure that evokes famine times (you'll even receive a ticket issued as if it were 1849). Or catch a glimpse of stars like Maureen O'Hara and President John F. Kennedy in their renowned Irish America Hall of Fame. Fans of US history may recognise these quays as a site from which President John F Kennedy addressed the Irish people during his visit in 1963.

Fancy a drive? The coastal drive to Hook Peninsula is one of the best ways to discover the beauty of Ireland's Ancient East. Old forts and hidden coves lurk around every corner, but the highlight of this driving loop is the Hook Lighthouse itself. This is an iconic beacon that has been warding ships off the rocks for over 800 years. Climb the old tower in wintertime and you'll not only spot passing ships, but possibly even passing whales.

Have you ever wanted to stay in a real ringfort? Well now you can at the Irish National Heritage Park. This park itself is host to 16 archaeological and historical reconstructions that stretches out across 35 acres of dense forestry and natural woodlands. Choose a trail to wander down and learn all about important eras in Irish history or bring the family for some fun in their archery centre or adventure playgrounds. There is something here for everyone to enjoy!

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