The Viking Triangle: Gardens and Heritage

The Viking Triangle is peppered with secret gardens and historical jewels. We go exploring

Hook Lighthouse, County Wexford
Hook Lighthouse, County Wexford

Welcome to Ireland’s Viking Triangle and counties Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny. Between them, they span the glorious Copper Coastline, Kilkenny’s crafts and castle, and a vignette of Ireland’s famine history: the Dunbrody Famine ship.

But wait, there’s more.

Introducing County Waterford

Lismore Castle is the county’s castle superstar. Not only has it hosted the glitterati during its time (JFK and Fred Astaire both visited), its walls warp around seven acres of heavenly gardens. The castle itself isn’t open to the public, but Lismore Castle Arts Gallery on the grounds exhibits all year round.

Next on the Waterford Garden Trail is Tramore House Gardens. A sombre but beautiful focal point of the gardens is the bronze seahorse water feature – it commemorates the 363 people who drowned when the troop transport vessel ‘Sea Horse’ was wrecked in Tramore Bay.

Waterford’s most famous export is, of course, the crystal. Watch master glass blowers first hand at either Waterford Crystal or at the Irish Handmade Glass Company in the city centre.

Get Hooked

The Hook Peninsula reaches out into the Irish Sea and, at its very edge, is Hook Head Lighthouse. This is the oldest operational lighthouse in Ireland and the good news it, it's open to the public. Pop in for a grand tour of this seafarers’ saviour (especially when the mist starts rolling in)!

Nearby is Loftus Hall. Looks atmospheric? It is. Loftus Hall claims to be ‘the most haunted house in Ireland’. There are varying degrees of terrifying tours you can take, with the Saturday night special billed as the most chilling. Enter at your own risk. 

Well’s House and Gardens, on the other hand, has undergone delicate restoration over the decades. The same man who worked at Powerscourt House and Johnstown Castle – Daniel Roberston – designed Well’s Victorian gardens. Take a woodland walk, an historical tour and munch cream cake in Well’s café. Yum.

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Kilkenny Classics

Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum is home to some ‘champion’ specimens of trees, including the tallest Silver Fir in Ireland. The green-fingered among you can attend workshops such as flower arranging or glean tips from the onsite experts.

Meanwhile, in the city, sixteenth century Rothe House played an important role in Kilkenny economic and political history. The garden is also open for visitors and was lovingly restored in tune with its original 17th century aesthetic.

Jerpoint Abbey

Just outside Thomastown (well worth a wander for its cute streets and pubs alone) Jerpoint Abbey’s architecture charts the city’s history between the 12th-16th centuries, as each decade passed, more was added to the original building. Founded by Cistercian monks, much of it is still intact almost 900 years later. The intricate stone carvings are a tangible testament to masterful masonry.

Once you’ve sauntered around the Viking Triangle, next stops are the darling duo Wicklow & Kildare, followed by the open-air museum that is the Boyne Valley.

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