Wexford – with its lengthy green coastline, superior beaches and rich, turbulent history – it features some of the greatest road trips in Ireland. Its location between the two Viking strongholds of Dublin and Waterford means that it was greatly influenced by the power struggles that played out between the Irish and Viking Kings in Ireland’s Ancient East. Add a subsequent Norman invasion that played out in Wexford and it’s no wonder a drive through rural towns and villages will reward you with impressive remnants of this vibrant past scattered throughout the countryside.
Let your first stop be Wexford Town, two hours south of Dublin and only an hour’s drive from Kilkenny and Waterford. The mark the Vikings left after they first settled in the 9th century, is still evident in the medieval atmosphere that lingers here. Situated at the mouth of the River Slaney, stretches of the town’s old wall still remain today, as does Westgate, only one of six remaining town gates. Climb to the top for an incredible view and spot the many stark reminders of its past that give this town its name. Wexford boasts a number of delicious lunch spots, let alone a wafting smell of fish and chip shops on the harbour, where the Viking longboats docked, so why not make your Sunday drive into a Sunday feast!
After lunch, it’s over to the Irish National Heritage Park in Ferrycarrig, a short 3 miles away on the R370, which truly celebrates Wexford’s Viking roots. Here, park the car and put on your walking shoes to enjoy a close up of a reconstructed longboat and stone castles, and even a reconstructed Viking home, with post and wattle walls, all situated within 35 acres of beautiful woodland. The Park is an historical wonderland that manages to capture 9,000 years of Irish history into a series of incredibly fascinating walking trails, and if you’re keen to stay a little longer, stay overnight in a Ring Fort for a true experience of life in Medieval Ireland!
A 20-minute drive south will bring you to Tacumshane Windmill, the only surviving complete windmill in Ireland. Built in 1846 from the wood from nearby shipwrecks, this quaint setting is deserving of a pit stop and a photo. The key is available from the local Meyler’s Millhouse Bar and Restaurant – plus, admission is free!
Next it’s a short drive to Kilmore Quay, a thriving seaside village renowned for its thatched cottages and summer seafood festival. You can’t beat enjoying some fresh fish or a 99 ice-cream cone as you watch the sun set over bustling fishing boats as they come and go.
If you’re staying longer than a day or fancy venturing a little further south, take the Ring of Hook Coastal Drive to soak up stunning rural scenery and even more sights of some of our most important culture and heritage. Less than one hour in length, you’ll pass Hook Lighthouse, the oldest operating lighthouse in Ireland, where you can climb all 115 well-worn steps for a spectacular view, the monastic ruins of Tintern Abbey, the 15th century Fethard Castle and the haunted Loftus Hall. In fact, around every bend you’ll find another beach, another crumbling fortress, a splendid abbey or a delectable seafood restaurant!
As you head for home, look out for fields edged with stone walls, built to resist past armies, and the ruins of churches and monasteries built as far back as the 5th century, as you reminisce on your memorable, cultural adventure around Wexford.