Wexford - The Cornerstone of Ireland’s Ancient East
At Hook Lighthouse you'll experience 800 years of light keeping at one of the oldest lighthouses in the world. Take a tour of the Medieval lighthouse tower, built in the 13th Century by William Marshal, the Earl of Pembroke, known as the Greatest Knight that ever lived. Guided tours take you through the lighthouse with fascinating insights, stories and facts of this unique building and enjoy the spectacular view from the Lighthouse balcony; keep an eye out for seals, dolphins and even whales! Still fully operational today, Hook Lighthouse truly is one of a kind, enjoy the Visitor Centre experience located in the former light-keepers houses and relax by the Sea.
The Kennedy Homestead, birthplace of President John F. Kennedy’s great grandfather, celebrates the story of this famous Irish American family. The visitor experience is set in the original farmyard incorporating a unique guided tour; audio-visual display and photographic exhibition.
The Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience is moored on the quayside in New Ross. This award winning attraction allows visitors to take a trip with a difference and travel through time to the 1840s. Step back in time and explore our authentic reproduction emigrant vessel above and below deck. Listen to real life stories as costumed performers set the scene for the arduous journeys taken by so many during the Great Irish Famine.
John F. Kennedy Memorial Park is dedicated to the memory of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States from 1960 to 1963. The Arboretum contains over 4,500 types of trees and shrubs covering 623 acres.
A visit to the Irish National Heritage Park is like no other you can imagine. Surprises await around every turn, from campsite to Ringfort, from mill to Fulacht Fiadh, from Crannog to Viking house and much more. Take an incredible journey through 9,000 years of Ireland’s past! Build a house of wattle, pan for gold or even shoot a Viking bow or just relax with a coffee beside the lake. With entertaining guided tours available, the world you enter is an authentic recreation of Ireland’s heritage through the ages.
Dunbrody Abbey was founded in the late 12th Century on the instructions of Strongbow, the 2nd Earl of Pembroke. It is the largest abbey of its kind in Ireland and it is one of the finest examples of a Cistercian abbey still standing in Ireland today. It flourished as a Cistercian monastery until the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. The visitor centre hosts a hedge maze, a craft gallery with the Dunbrody Castle dolls house, tea rooms, and a pitch & putt course.
The harmony between great Victorian revival castles and their surrounding ornamental grounds is rarely seen to such perfection as at Johnstown Castle. The full gothic glory from the 19th century simply has to be seen. The 20 hectares of stunning surrounding gardens originally laid out by the famous Daniel Robertson in the 1830’s offers visitors an insight into perfect landscaping. The Irish Agricultural Museum is a premier cultural site also located at Johnstown Castle.
The heritage town of Enniscorthy features a number of prominent sites in Ireland’s history including Enniscorthy Castle, built in the 13th century, it has been home to Anglo-Norman knights, English Earls and local merchant families. Visit the dungeon to see rare medieval art and visit the battlements at the top of the castle to see the amazing views of Vinegar Hill battlefield, Enniscorthy town, and the surrounding countryside. The events of 1798 in Ireland are vividly re-told in an exciting interpretation of events the ‘Rebellion Experience’ at The National 1798 Rebellion Centre. The historic battlefield on Vinegar Hill overlooks the heritage town. Today a walk to the peak of the hill helps you take a step back in time and imagine the epic battles scenes between the Red Coats and the Pikemen.
Ferns Castle and Tapestry is a 13th century castle and although a shadow of its former glory now, it features a uniquely intact fine circular chapel with original cornices and features. A guided tour will reveal amongst others the story of the resident King of Leinster, Dermot McMurrough who brought the first Normans to Ireland.
Experience an interactive tour at Loftus Hall. The haunting beauty of the Hook Peninsula provides the backdrop for Loftus Hall, the Most Haunted House in Ireland. Steeped in 666 years of heritage, take a tour of this abandoned haunted house with its dark and troubled history.
Tintern Abbey is a magnificent example of a 17th century abbey and is now home to the wonderful Colclough Walled Gardens and a variety of walking trails. The remains consist of nave, chancel, tower, chapel and cloister. The Abbey was occupied by the Colclough family from the 16th Century until the 1960’s. Visitors can also enjoy the Tintern Tea-Rooms on site.
Wells House & Gardens is a great Victorian house and gardens offering something for all generations of visitors. From a living Victorian house tour, garden tours, falconry, and archery, to two enchanted woodland walks, craft courtyard, animal farm and playground. Open daily with a great calendar of events to choose from throughout the year. Enjoy lunch or desserts from their on site restaurant as part of your visit!
THE NORMAN WAY
The Norman Way is a heritage trail that runs along the south coast of County Wexford. Along this Wexford Trail you will discover authentic medieval sites which will help you to understand the Norman way of life. These hidden gems of The Norman Way are waiting to be explored by you down quiet country lanes, in beautiful seaside villages and alongside stunning beaches.
The Norman Way in Wexford is a true treasure of Ireland’s Ancient East. Lose yourself in this beautiful, ancient landscape as you discover the Norman way of life in the place where it first took hold in Ireland over 800 years ago.
Ireland's Ancient East - SUGGESTED ITINERARIES
Below are some suggested itineraries that feature these fantastic sites in County Wexford along with more of the gems of Ireland's Ancient East.
3 Day itineraries:
5 Day itineraries:
7 Day itinerary:
The tracks, trails, and most importantly tales of Ireland’s Ancient East are prevalent at every turn in historic County Wexford. This most southeasterly corner of Ireland boasts history like no other part of the country; the entry point for Ireland’s first settlers is teeming with riches and treasures waiting to be explored. It is thought that the arrival of the first humans to Ireland was to County Wexford in the Mesolithic period between 5000 BC – 3000 BC. Age-old Portal Tombs known as ‘Dolmens’ can be found across the county along with many artefacts from the later Bronze Age. Heritage runs deep in Wexford; exploring this Cornerstone of Ireland’s Ancient East and journeying through the unspoiled landscape, hearing first-hand the stories that built Ireland is a must. Meet our ancestors - Celts, Christians, Vikings, Normans, French, Welsh and English - who have left us a remarkable heritage, unrivalled anywhere else in Ireland.
Vikings certainly made their mark in Wexford. Bearing down from Scandinavia, these hordes of wild wayfarers first arrived in the 8th century to loot and pillage. But we’ve a lot to thank them for too. They laid the foundations of many Irish towns including Wexford Town, which was founded by the Vikings in about 800 AD. They named it Veisafjǫrðr meaning 'inlet of the mud flats' and it remained a Viking town for about 300 years! In 1169 the Normans first arrived in Ireland at Bannow Bay in Wexford. Diarmuid McMurrough, the High King of Leinster (whose seat was located in the village of Ferns, Wexford) and his Norman allies battled the Viking inhabitants who resisted fiercely until the Bishop of Ferns persuaded them to accept a settlement with King Diarmuid. Today, Norse and Norman influences combine in Wexford, a town that has retained its compact, medieval feel – though the only invading hordes you’re likely to encounter these days are the opera buffs descending on the annual international Wexford Festival Opera. The Norman town of New Ross, heritage town of Enniscorthy, and bustling Gorey all combine to provide a historic trail with fascinating visitor attractions, beautiful coastline and everything you need to enjoy your visit.
Presuming you are travelling by car rather than by longboat, the routes connecting the highlights of the Cornerstone of Ireland make for some great driving trips, ranging from the towns themselves to the rivers, beaches, festivals, castles, forts, abbeys and cafés in-between!
We look forward to welcoming you to Wexford - the Cornerstone of Ireland's Ancient East!