“It was a long journey that started out in 1783, and now we celebrate our heritage right in the centre of the city,” says David McCoy of Waterford Crystal. The final product looks gorgeous in the showroom, but if you want your mind blown, you need to see it being crafted.
At the House of Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre, you get the chance to ask glassworkers how they turn out a twinkling masterpiece from a molten blob. Look out for the Sean Egan-designed sculpture with intaglio engraving, which was dedicated to the New York rescue workers involved in 9/11. The same magic is happening at the hands of the folks at The Irish Handmade Glass Company. Pop into Henrietta Street for a peek.
Want to know Waterford’s foodie secrets? Then seek out the indefatigable Jack Burtchaell of Waterford Walking Tours. He will regale you with amusing, informative and sometimes shocking tales as he points out some top sights. One of the most curious is the story of the first frog in Ireland, brought into Waterford by the Franciscan friars.
“They had very strict rules in those days,” says Jack, “so they introduced frogs as a food to augment the Lenten diet of the Middle Ages and prohibition of meat on Fridays.” The tour passes the Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland Cathedrals both designed by the same architect, John Roberts. You also see the Bishop’s Palace, Reginald’s Tower, and the Choristers’ Hall, which opened in 2012.
3. Climb a tower for Viking treasure
Before they went back to Scandinavia, the Vikings left their mark in Waterford. Reginald’s Tower is one of the most impressive. The tower is the only monument in Ireland named in honour of a Viking – possibly Ragnall or Reginald, the founder of the city in 914AD. Make your way up the narrow spiral staircase to the second floor and try imagine this 13th-century tower enduring attacks by the native Irish.
Time for some treasure hunting. See the delicately designed Ring Pin decorated on each side? It dates from around 950AD and was among other Hiberno-Norse metalwork excavated only a few hundred meters away. It's all part of the superb Viking Treasures collection on display here.
4. Be front row at the Spraoi Festival
Spraoi is the Irish word for fun, and there could be no better way to describe this festival. One of Ireland’s biggest street carnivals, Spraoi covers Waterford in a riot of colour and craic (fun). Think live music, street performers and fireworks. And think free.
Taking place every August, Spraoi sees big-time bands, epic floats and theatre take over the city’s streets for the kind of carnival that's tailor-made for families and the young-at-heart.
5. Enjoy blaas on the beach
Call it a roll, call it a bap or call it a bun, Waterford’s blaa is delicious regardless. We're not quite sure how they manage to make it so floury, soft and scrumptious and the recipe is closely-guarded. Potter down to the Farmer’s Market on Jenkin’s Lane, held each Saturday, and you’ll leave with a few freshly-baked examples of Waterford's most famous food.
Pick up some local cheese, meats, organic juices, pastries and you've got the perfect picnic. And where to set that picnic? Tramore beach. Just a ten minute jaunt from Waterford City, this is a stunning slice of seaside. The long sandy strand has hosted thousands of childhood memories, from burying dad in the sand to rolling down bumpy dunes and rollercoasters at the fun fair.
Experience with a blaa, and you'll get a true taste of Waterford.