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Last updated : Nov 2009
Southeast Ireland
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Wexford County

Lying in the southeast corner, Co Wexford has an enviable sunshine record, beautiful countryside and a delightful harbour towns and sandy beaches. The climate is milder than elsewhere and has a number of stunning gardens, open to the public by arrangement.

Built close to the mouth of the River Slaney, Wexford is a commercial and fishing town named by Vikings. Shops, pubs and a charm make Wexford an appealing place to visit, that and its internationally renowned week-long Opera Festival, held every October.

The Irish National Heritage Park at Ferrycarrig, northwest of Wexford has 17 sites linking Ireland’s history from prehistoric times to medieval. The mudflats of the Slaney Estuary (known as ‘slobs’) make up the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, are best between October and April when the wildfowl are here.

Kilmore Quay is a fishing village with fine sandy beaches, thatched cottages, pubs and a maritime museum. A short way offshore, the uninhabited Saltee Islands, one of Ireland’s most important bird sanctuaries, are worth a visit. Easily accessed from Waterford is a beautiful drive down from Arthurstown to Hook Head Peninsula, which has many lovely sandy beaches and cliff tops that are ideal for walking, cycling and horse riding.

Surrounded by farmland along the River Slaney, Enniscorthy’s moment of fame arrived in 1798 with the Battle of Vinegar Hill, when the United Irishmen made their last stand against the British. The market town, by far the most attractive in Co Wexford, was established by the Normans. It is still dominated by the Norman castle and later St Aidan’s Cathedral. The castle is home to the Wexford County Museum.

New Ross along the River Barrow, was the original family base of the American Kennedy family and remains devoted to the US President. The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Park and Arboretum is dedicated to his memory was opened in 1968 and is a popular place for easy walks. Kilmokea Gardens are the most beautiful gardens in the southeast of Ireland, and should not be missed.

County Waterford

Bordered by the sea the Comeragh and the Monavullagh – Waterford has both rugged beauty and an attractive coastline of beaches, fishing villages and holidays resorts.

Waterford was founded by Vikings in order to control shipping on the Suir and Barrow rivers. Reginald’s Tower and Museum, built in 1003, is a reminder of a turbulent past – Waterford was one of the few areas to successfully oppose Cromwell’s forces.

Organised tours of Waterford Crystal Glass Factory illustrate the comprehensive history of crystal manufacture. Dunmore East, southeast of Waterford, is a village close to bathing beaches and attractive coves, including Lady Cove, a sandy bay popular with local people and tourists.

Tramore, south of Waterford is one of Ireland’s main holiday resorts. It has plenty of pubs, a racecourse, a large amusement park, miniature railway, boating lake and a 4.8km or 3-mile sandy beach caressed by the Gulf Stream.

The harbour town of Dungarvan is where the River Colligan flushes into Dungarvan Harbour. It is a good base from which to explore the cliff tops of Helvick Head. Ardmore is famed for its long, fine beach set against high cliffs and its place in Irish history as an important ecclesiastical site based on a seventh-century monastic settlement founded by St Declan.

County Carlow

The second smallest of Ireland’s counties, Carlow is sandwiched between the rivers Barrow and Slaney and is mostly flat acres of rich farmland. This is an unspoilt part of Ireland, with sleepy villages and lush countryside. Carlow Town used to be an Anglo-Norman stronghold, but today it is largely concerned with the production of sugar beet. It was the southernmost outpost controlled by the English Crown, and as a result heavily fortified. Carlow County Museum is located in the town hall on Centaur Street.

County Kilkenny

This is an agricultural county, with lush, well-tended countryside, attractive villages, homely cottages and castles along the river valleys of the Nore and the Barrow. Horse racing, fishing, riding and golf are the main activities in this manicured landscape.

Kilkenny is named after St Canice, who built a monastery here. Kilkenny Castle continues to dominate the town wit its blend of Gothic, Classical and Tudor styles. On a hilltop site St Canice’s Cathedral dates mostly from the 13th century.

Dunmore Cave, north of Kilkenny is one of the most famous in Ireland. In the past, people took refuge here from the Vikings but not always successfully. Kells Priory is the site of an Augustinian priory and little known but is one of the most beautiful and finest ruins in the country. Jerpoint Abbey, south of Thomastown is a remarkable Cistercian ruin, famous for the carvings on its tombs. It dates back to 1158, and was embraced by Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.
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