County Wexford is Ireland’s answer to Kent county in England. Fertile land grows fruit and vegetables. Hills, rivers, and coastline provide variety. South-east of Wexford the area along the coast is packed with heritage sites, seascapes, and interesting villages. Wexford Attractions
Near Coolgreany in County Wexford’s far north is Ram House Gardens; its two acres include a scented garden, terraces, woodland, and borders. At Gorey, the main town in the north of the county, St Michael’s Catholic parish church and Loreto convent were designed by Pugin. Its other parish church dates from 1861. There are views of the Wicklow mountains from the town.
Near Gorey is a 17th century watermill, Craanford. Kilmuchridge and Morriscastle beach are home to the “golden
mile” coastline, a natural heritage area.
The village of Ferns, in the northern interior, 8 miles north-east of Enniscorthy, is the site of several attractions: 13th century Ferns castle ruins (a rectangular keep, circular tower and chapel remain), 12th century abbey ruins, St Peter’s church, St Mogues well, and four high crosses. Boolavogue Centre is an 18th century rural thatched stone-built house complete with furniture and farmyard buildings.
On the banks of the river Slaney, Enniscorthy, in the center of Wexford county, is a cathedral town. A 250-year-old six arch bridge spans the river Slaney. St Aidan’s cathedral, built of granite in 1839, was designed by Pugin in the Gothic style. Of note are the east window and tall spire.
Enniscorthy castle, originally Norman but rebuilt in 1586, houses the County Wexford Folk Museum. It is located on a rock at the head of a tideway. The four storey keep had drum towers. It was used it as a prison in 1789. Also in the town the National Visitor Centre tells the story of the 1798 rebellion. A strawberry festival is held in July.
Heading down the coast towards Wexford leads to the village of Curracloe with its sand dunes and sandy beach. Three miles further is the 550 acre Wexford Wildfowl Reserve at North Slob, a popular wintering over site for 8000 Greenland white-fronted geese, Brent geese and Bewick’s swans. Exhibitions, hides, a visitor centre, and picnic area enhance the outdoor experience. The best visiting time is October through April.
The Irish National Heritage Park is at nearby Ferrycarrig. The 35 acre heritage trail includes reconstructed homesteads, burial chambers, a stone circle, monastery, Ogam stone, a crannog, windmill, a restaurant, and an AV presentation.
The county town of Wexford is situated in the south-east of the county. It lies on the south bank of the river Slaney and has a large harbour. Narrow laneways lead off from the main street showing the age of the town, established by the Vikings in 950. The main street is characteristic of the past century.
The West Gate, home to a heritage centre, is the only remaining one of five built in the 13th century. Tours of the town are available from the Heritage Centre. Selskar Abbey (founded c 1190) has only a tower left to prove its former existence. A Franciscan friary, dated 1230, was restored and is in use as a church. It contains contemporary Irish art work. A Georgian style church, St Iberius, was built in 1760. Pugin designed the chapel of St Peter’s College.
If you’re interested in old agricultural machinery or rural transport then be sure to visit the Irish Agricultural Museum in the park of Johnstown Castle, five miles south of Wexford. On display are carts, traps, and tractors along with sections on haymaking, poultry, dairying, and reconstructed shops of a carpenter, blacksmith, a cooper, and more. The park contains ornamental lakes, walled gardens, and tree and shrub species. There’s a shop and tearoom on the premises. Five storied Rathmacknee Castle, an almost complete 15th century towerhouse, is two miles from Johnstown.
Ten miles south of Wexford, the seaside resort of Rosslare has a six mile long beach. You can catch a ferry from here to Wales. A causeway leads to Lady’s Island, where there are the ruins of an Augustinian priory and a Norman castle. From Rosslare follow the N25 to Yola Farmstead Folk Park with its thatched vernacular farm buildings and cottages, walks, farm machinery, and animals. At Tacumshane is a tower mill built in 1846 and later restored. The lake is a favourite with wading birds and other wildfowl.
Kilmore Quay is a small fishing village sitting on a tip of land in south Wexford. About 15 houses retain their thatched roofs. The local pub has historic photographs. The Guillemot maritime museum, in a former ship now moored in the harbour, recalls the seafaring days of the county. A boat leaves from Kilmore Quay to the Saltee islands. They are the site of Ireland’s largest bird sanctuary inhabited by guillemots, puffins, gannets, seals, and dolphins.
The Hook Head peninsula is a scenic route with a lighthouse (on a 12th century keep) at its tip in the village of Churchtown. The lighthouse has a visitor centre, café, and craft shop. Another seaside resort, Fethard, is the main town on the peninsula. Fethard Castle was built in the 15th century. The area holds many field monuments, including the earthworks at Baginbun Bay.
Duncannon, a popular resort in the west, has a sandy beach and a fort, Duncannon Fort, built in 1588 in a star shape. It houses a maritime museum and art centre.
At Slade 18th century salthouses, now dilapidated, were used to store sea salt while evaporation took place. The ruins of 15th century Slade castle are next door. 17th century Tintern Abbey, near Bannow Bay, offers ghosts and a guided tour.
On the southern border with Waterford, Ballyhack is a fishing village at the mouth of the river Barrow. 15th century Ballyhack crusader castle has a renovated tower house with historic displays. A ferry goes from here across the river to Waterford county. Near Campile in south-western Wexford, are the Kilmokea Gardens, formal walled gardens, a pool, woodlands, and rhododendrons.
Medieval Dunbrody Abbey, at Dunbrody Park, was founded in 1182, and became one of the largest Cistercian abbeys. The ruins consist of a tower, well preserved roofless church, six transept chapels, and bits of the outlying buildings. Nearby are the ruins of Dunbrody castle.
North of Campile is the JF Kennedy Arboretum, 623 acres of trees and shrubs with a road to a summit viewpoint. A Visitor Centre has an AV show and exhibitions. On the way to New Ross is the Dunbrody famine ship, an accurate, full size, ocean-going re-creation of the timber-built ship that played a leading part in 19th century emigration to the US. AV and interactive displays enhance the experience.
New Ross, on the far west border of the county, on the river Barrow dates from the 6th century. Narrow streets rise from the east bank of the river. Medieval St Mary’s church was part of an abbey and is now in ruins. A church presently occupies the nave. 13th and 14th century effigies can be seen in the chancel. Next to St Mary’s is a Roman Catholic church built in 1832. Remains of the town’s medieval gates exist.
For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.
Ballyhack Crusader Castle
Tel. 051 389 468
Tel. 053 93 83 189
On N11 road
Tel. 053 938 3349
Web: The Bay Garden
Tel. 055 28124 or 055 28392
Dunbrody Abbey and Visitor Centre
Dunbrody Park, Arthurstown
Tel. 051 388 603
Web: Dunbrody Abbey and Visitor Centre
Dunbrody Famine Ship
Tel. 051 425 239
Web: Dunbrody Famine Ship
Duncannon, Ring of Hook, Waterford harbour
Tel. 051 389454
Web: Duncannon Fort
11km south of New Ross on Fethard on Sea road, R734
Tel. 051 562 122
Castle Hill, Enniscorthy
Tel. 353 53 92 34699
Web: Enniscorthy Castle
Tel. 054 66411
Gravity Forest Park
Web: url=http://www.gravityforestpark.ie/index.php]Gravity Forest Park[/url]
Hook Head Visitor Centre
Ring of Hook Drive
Tel. 051 397 055
Web: Hook Lighthouse
Irish Agricultural Museum
Johnstown Castle, four miles south-west of town of Wexford
Tel. 053 42888
Web: Irish Agricultural Museum
Irish National Heritage Park
Tel. 053 20733
Web: Irish National Heritage Park
JF Kennedy Arboretum
New Ross, off Duncannon road 12 km south of New Ross
Tel. 051 388 171
National 1798 Visitor Centre
Tel. 054 37596
Web: National 1798 Visitor Centre
Saltee Island Tours by An Crosan Tours
Tel. 053 29684 or mobile 087 252 9736
Ram House Gardens
Coolgreany by Gorey
Tel. 0402 37238 or 0402 32006
South-west of Wexford down lane off minor road
Saltmills, New Ross
Tel. 051 562 650
Wexford Folk Museum
Enniscorthy Castle, Enniscorthy
Tel. 054 35926
Wexford Wildfowl Reserve
The North Slob, near Curracloe, Wexford
Tel. 053 23129
County Wexford Tourist Information Centres
County Wexford Tourism
No. 8a Westgate, Wexford
Tel. 053 52900
Tel. 053 23111
Open: year round
Enniscorthy Tourist Office
Enniscorthy, County Wexford
Tel. 054 34699
North Wexford Tourism
Market House, Main Street
Gorey, County Wexford
Tel. 055 2124
Kilrane, Rosslare Harbour, County Wexford
Tel. 053 33232
County Wexford Tourism
North Wexford Tourism
Photos of south coastal road, Enniscorthy Cathedral, North Slob wildlife reserve, Irish National Heritage park, Kilmore quay, Hook Head lighthouse, Ballyhack ferry landing, Dunrobby abbey, Dunrobby immigrant ship © by Barbara Ballard
Other photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Gorey main street by Dean Molyneaux; Gorey St Michael church by Eirian Evans; Morriscastle strand by Hugh Chappell; Ferns cathedral ruins, Enniscorthy castle by Eirian Evans; Ferns castle by Mike Searle; Curracloe dunes by Rodney Burton; River Slaney above Ferrycarrig, Wexford west gate, Wexford town wall by David Hawgood; Wexford town main street, Wexford boardwalk by David Staincliffe; Wexford harbour by Albert Bridge; Tacumshane Nature Reserve by Mary and Angus Hogg; Great Saltee Island northern side by Kevin Higgins; Fethard castle, Duncannon harbour, Duncannon fort, Slade waterfront, New Ross St Mary church by Humphrey Bolton
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