Stunning coastlines aren’t all the sunny South East has to offer, and Wexford boasts a particularly unique mix for a short break. Make the most of your great escape as you kayak through a cave, visit the homestead of an American President and explore the magical Hook.
The county capital, Wexford Town sits snugly on the Slaney River estuary in Wexford Harbour. Explore the town’s varied heritage, from Viking influences to the Norman and Cromwellian invasions, and enjoy its quaint old laneways and ancient churches sitting side by side with contemporary architecture and modern arts.
A good place to start your visit to Wexford is to step back in time. Find out how our stone age ancestors lived and journey through 9,000 years of Irish life at the Irish National Heritage Park just ten minutes outside the town. Even better, stay overnight in a ringfort, complete with watch tower, a stone-walled, thatch-roofed dwelling and a cosy central hearth. You’ll have free reign to roam the park after hours too.
A mere 25-minute drive away from Wexford Town is Enniscorthy, which James Joyce described in Ulysses as ‘the finest place in the world’, setting the bar high for the admittedly picturesque town!
Enniscorthy was the setting for the 1950s story Brooklyn, made into a movie starring our own Saoirse Ronan: but it goes a lot further back than that. Start with a visit to the historic castle or take a few hours to enjoy the historic town’s old-world charm as you wander through its colourful streets.
Stop for lunch in The Bailey, a converted malt house, whose original owner Mr Roche married Miss Josephine Shriver from Baltimore in the US in 1900. This marriage would eventually link the Roche family with the Presidency of the USA. You can find out more about that down the road in New Ross — but first you should visit a real local gem, the 1798 Rebellion Centre.
As you may have expected, this part of the country has many tales to tell like the epic story of a fierce battle on Vinegar Hill during the Irish Rebellion in 1798. Get the gruesome details on how Irish insurgents faced the might of the well-armed, trained Crown Forces, and explore the authentic weapons of the time at the 1798 Rebellion Centre with its new 4D Battle of Vinegar Hill Experience. The Centre opens from April through to late September.
New Ross on the River
New Ross sits on the River Barrow and straddles the border with Kilkenny. It was a key departure point during the famine and many of its historical features remain intact today, so there’s plenty to uncover here.
Refuel along the Quay and catch the great views of the town from the glass fronted Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience & Restaurant before experiencing the powerful exhibition. Costumed performers tell the story of the passengers who boarded the Dunbrody for a gruelling six-week voyage in the hope of new beginnings in America.
One of the lesser known highlights of New Ross is an ever-evolving work of art, the Ros Tapestry. Since 1998, 150 stitchers have been working on 15 giant tapestries, just one of which remains unfinished. Each tapestry depicts a different event in the town’s history, richly telling the Norman story in thread (including a beautiful panel featuring the iconic Hook Lighthouse).
The world stopped to watch when President John F. Kennedy visited his ancestral home in New Ross on a warm summer day in June 1963. The Kennedy Homestead, birthplace of Kennedy’s great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy, celebrates this famous dynasty. Follow the family’s fortunes over five generations, including those who stayed behind and those who left on an immigrant ship, made their way to the slums of Boston and — as we know — onward and upward to The White House.
You can continue exploring the Kennedy legacy, at the JFK Memorial Park and Arboretum. Stretching over 623 acres on the southern slopes and up to the 271m summit, of Slievecoiltia, it’s one of Ireland’s great scenic walks. Discover over 4,500 types of trees and shrubs from all temperate regions of the world on your ramble. Take a break by the lake, before rewarding yourself for the climb with panoramic views.
Jaunt 35 minutes south in the car to reach the southern-most tip of Wexford. Whether walks, cycles, drives or even a dip in the sea are your cup of tea, you can’t help but be impressed by Hook Peninsula’s natural beauty.
Hook Peninsula may be best known for the iconic striped Hook Lighthouse, but it’s also the perfect spot for a sea adventure. Hop in a kayak for a half-day tour with Hook Head Adventures and explore the impressive sea caves. Or discover hidden beaches on the shorter mini-tour around Baginbun Bay. Head out at sunset to add a little extra magic.
While you’re in the area…
While Johnstown Castle Estate and Gardens is renowned for its beauty, the Irish Agricultural Museum, located on its grounds, is a lesser-known spot that’s well worth a visit. See how previous generations of farmers lived, and learn all about the Irish dietary staple that is the humble potato.
Speaking of agriculture, sample gorgeous artisan foods and crafts at the Wexford Farmers Market. Nestled under the beautiful backdrop of the historic Selskar Abbey, stalls sell fresh produce direct from local growers, farmers and makers.
If you have more time…
Take a ten-minute detour outside Wexford Town to the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, an internationally renowned wild bird sanctuary. Don’t expect pristine wilderness; this is farmland, which is what has made it a natural haven for huge flocks of birds. Spy some of the 8,000 Greenland White Fronted Geese (35% of the world’s population!) as well as migrating Whooper Swans, visiting Goshawks and much more.
Before you take a flyer on what’s open (and what’s not just yet), be sure to contact individual attractions and businesses in advance to confirm they’re ready to welcome visitors again. Because our changed world means a new focus on public protection, social distancing and safe travel measures will be essential everywhere — as explained in the new nationwide COVID-19 Safety Charter.
Irelands Ancient East