Back in 1170, a gentleman by the name of Henry II came sailing up the River Suir in search of the Norman lord, Strongbow. Passing the Hook peninsula to his right, and the tiny village of Crook to his left, he vowed to reach the city “by Hook or by Crook”.
Out of such offhand quips, legendary phrases are born.
Touring Waterford’s coastline today, you can still see that estuary, that peninsula, and that tiny village. You can also still see the city that Strongbow claimed for the Normans in 1170. Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city, founded in 853, and you can predate even Henry II by exploring its three-part Museum of Treasures.
But it’s not all ancient history – as funky shops, electric festivals and the brand new Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre will tell you.
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County Waterford also hosts Ireland’s only Michelin Star outside Dublin at The Cliff House Hotel, a seal of approval for a broader foodie scene taking in everything from artisan breweries to freshly-baked blaas (the county’s unique, floury white bread rolls).
From Copper Coast to the Comeragh Mountains
Waterford’s Copper Coast European Geopark is a seriously gorgeous strip of shoreline. Stretching 25km from the Victorian resort of Tramore to leafy Stradbally, this short drive spills over with cliffs, coves, sea stacks and coastal views. In wintertime, you may even see passing whales.
The Copper Coast gets its name from the copper mines that once dotted the area. And historical nuggets crop up as often as hidden coves. Watch out for the Metal Man at Newtown Head, for instance. Perched on a white pillar, the 15-foot sailor was erected by Lloyd’s of London to stem the costly flow of ships mistaking Tramore Bay for Waterford Harbour.
In complete contrast, to the north of the county lie the Comeragh Mountains. Walkers won’t want for opportunities, with wow-moments coming courtesy of the Mahon Falls and the glacial lake Coumshingaun, in particular. Stashed away near Kilclooney Wood, Coumshingaun is black as the night, and said to be bottomless.
The Wild West
Don’t forget west Waterford, either. Ardmore is where you’ll find the remains of a 5th century monastic settlement established by St Declan. A striking round tower is the highlight, though you’ll find much more – including the saint’s hidden hermitage – on a 5km walk around the nearby cliffs.
Remember Henry II. Get there, by hook or by crook.