County Wexford Holiday Guide
Owing to its strategic position across St George’s Channel from south Wales, the south-east of Ireland is one of the country’s most colonised areas. The Vikings founded Ireland’s first major towns on the River Slaney and the Anglo Normans also had a big say on the way the region developed, building castles across County Wexford and neighbouring County Kilkenny.
Reminders of the county’s Viking and Norman past are revealed in the meandering lanes off Main Street in Wexford. The Bull Ring was originally a beach that took delivery of the town’s provisions before becoming a bull-baiting venue. Nearby, St Iberius’ Church is worth visiting for its superb Georgian interior and acoustics.
The fascinating past of the county’s second biggest town, Enniscorthy, is inextricably tied to the famous 18th century Irish uprising against British rule. The compelling story is retold at the National 1798 Rebellion Centre, its exhibits chronicling Wexford’s failed efforts to free itself. Most of the events unfolded on nearby Vinegar Hill, while Enniscorthy Castle was used as a prison by the rebels – today it is home to a museum.
Out and About
The beautiful Hook Peninsula is best explored by car. The Ring of Hook coastal drive takes in secluded beaches, historic ruins and fine seafood restaurants, while the world’s oldest working lighthouse can be found at the tip of the peninsula. Built in the 13th century, a tour will take you to its top via 115 steps. Other sights include ghostly Loftus Hall and secluded Tintern Abbey.
Ireland’s largest bird sanctuary, the Saltee Islands, can be enjoyed from Kilmore Quay while a fantastic Blue Flag beach can be found at Rosslare. The village of Carne is home to another fine stretch of sand and is a great place to sample some of the best seafood in Ireland.
See and Do
The treacherous journey across the Atlantic Ocean to America, undertaken by a generation of Irish in the wake of the 1840s potato famine, can be relived with a visit to the Dunbrody Famine Ship, docked on the waterfront in New Ross.
Johnstown Castle and Gardens, near Wexford, is the site of a striking 19th century house, lovely wooded gardens and the Irish Agricultural Museum, while more than 9,000 years of history are packed into the Irish National Heritage Park in Ferrycarrig.
Located in Dunganstown, the Kennedy Homestead is the birthplace of Patrick Kennedy, great-grandfather of one of America’s most revered presidents. John F Kennedy paid a visit to the farm in 1963 and, today, the outbuildings house exhibits examining the family’s history on both sides of the Atlantic. JFK is also honoured at an idyllic arboretum just over a mile away.