Celtic Coast

Journey through serene monasteries, Viking cities and Titanic towns.

Glendalough monastic site, County Wicklow
Great For
  • History
  • Museums
  • Scenery
  • Sightseeing
  • Walking
  • Major Attractions
  • Counties covered
    Wicklow | Wexford | Waterford | East Cork
  • Transport Hubs

    Dublin Airport | Heuston (train) Station | Connolly (train) Station | Busáras | Dublin Port | Waterford Airport | Shannon Airport | Rosslare Harbour | Cork Harbour

Few coasts have seen such comings and goings as this one.

These cliffs, harbours and beaches have been besieged by Vikings, visited by Titans of the sea, and welcomed world leaders home.

Track inland and you’ll find fascinating histories, too, in the shape of isolated monasteries, riverside castles and some of the most beautiful gardens in the world.


The Wicklow Mountains National Park is nothing if not varied. Here, rushing streams and purple mountains share space with bogland, stone bridges and green valleys. In one such valley – Glendalough (Valley of the Two Lakes) – a solitary 6th century monk, St Kevin, sought peace.

...one of the most beautiful corners of the whole country...

Lonely Planet on Glendalough

Disciples started to arrive at Kevin’s retreat in around 540 AD and the settlement soon expanded into a cathedral, six churches and a round tower, becoming one of Europe's most important monastic sites. Extensive ruins are still visible, despite the site being plundered by Vikings and then falling to the Normans in 1398. For your visit, make sure to pack good walking shoes, as the stroll around Glendalough’s twin lakes is among the prettiest in Ireland’s Ancient East.

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Hook Head

Standing tall on the tip of the Hook Peninsula in Wexford is the oldest intact operational lighthouse in the world. Monks were the first to keep this black and white beacon lit 800 years ago when the Earl of Pembroke constructed it to warn sailors of possible shipwreck. In fact, the surrounding waters claimed so many lives that they were known as the graveyard of a thousand ships…

Some believe we have the medieval Hook Head Lighthouse to thank for the phrase ‘By hook or by crook’ (meaning by any means necessary)

In the 17th century, the monks were forced to flee, so they passed the proverbial torch over to locals. They, in turn, lived in the limestone tower along with their families. Climb the 115 winding steps where the monks heaved sacks of coal upwards, past rib-vaulted chambers and a chapel, for panoramic sea views. You could even spot a whale or dolphin breaching the waters up here.

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Waterford city

Just how did Waterford’s Cloth of Gold vestments survive? How exactly did these exquisite garments of Italian silk and Belgian embroidery, regarded as one of the greatest treasures of medieval Europe, endure the ferocious religious wars of the 17th century? Simple: they were buried under Waterford city. Unearthed 123 years later, they hang today in Waterford’s Medieval Museum.

This is an excellent example of a modern museum. The highlight in my opinion is the mayor's wine vault at the lowest level.


Founded by the Vikings in the late 9th century, Waterford is one of Ireland's oldest cities and you can delve into its intriguing history in Waterford Treasures, a trio of museums in the city's Viking Triangle. Start with the Vikings in the stone fortress of Reginald’s Tower, before moving on to the Medieval Museum and finishing up in the elegant Bishop’s Palace.

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The pretty port town of Cobh is inextricably linked to the sea. Walk through its steep streets and you’ll be following in the footsteps of those who sailed from here as emigrants or convicts. The town echoes with names such as RMS Titanic and RMS Lusitania – legends of maritime history that left an indelible impression.

…a charming hill town on a glistening estuary, speckled with brightly coloured houses and overlooked by a splendid cathedral.


Stand beside Annie Moore’s waterfront statue, and it’s impossible not to be affected by this 17-year-old Irish girl’s experience. The first person to be processed at the Ellis Island immigration centre, Moore, and her two younger brothers, arrived in New York after 12 days in the shocking conditions of steerage. Her story and more are told in the Cobh Heritage Centre.

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Festivals in

Fact: Ireland's Ancient East is defined by its past, all 5,000 years of it. But that doesn't mean that this historic region doesn't know how to have fun. Across the counties of Ireland's Ancient East, countless festivals are celebrating art, opera, comedy, food, music and more.

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