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Touring Wexford

View along south coastal road by Barbara Ballard 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.

Gorey main street by Dean Molyneaux courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland Gorey St Michael church by Eirian Evans courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland 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.

Morriscastle strand by Hugh Chappell courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland Near Gorey is a 17th century watermill, Craanford. Kilmuchridge and Morriscastle beach are home to the “golden
mile” coastline, a natural heritage area.

Ferns cathedral ruins by Eirian Evans courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland Ferns castle by Mike Searle courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland 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.

Enniscorthy Cathedral by Barbara Ballard 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 by Eirian Evans courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland 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.

Wexford Wildlife Reserve by Barbara Ballard Curracloe dunes by Rodney Burton courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland 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.

Irish National Heritage Park by Barbara Ballard River Slaney above Ferrycarrig by David Hawgood courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland 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.

Wexford town main street by David Staincliffe courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland Wexford harbour by Albert Bridge courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland 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.

Wexford west gate by David Hawgood courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland Wexford town wall by David Hawgood courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland 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.

Wexford boardwalk by David Staines 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.

Tacumshane Nature Reserve by Mary and Angus Hogg courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland 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 by Barbara Ballard Great Saltee Island by Kevin Higgins courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland 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.

Hook Head lighthouse by Barbara Ballard Fethard castle by Humphrey Bolton courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland 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 harbour by Humphrey Bolton courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland  Duncannon fort by Humphrey Bolton courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland 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.

Slade waterfront by Humphrey Bolton courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland 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.

Ballyhack ferry landing by Barbara Ballard 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.

Dunbrody abbey by Barbara Ballard 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.

Dunbrody immigrant ship by Barbara Ballard 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 St Mary church by Humphrey Bolton courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland 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.

Wexford Attractions

Ballyhack Crusader Castle
Tel. 051 389 468

Ballymore Museum
Tel. 053 93 83 189

Bay Garden
Camolin, Enniscorthy
On N11 road
Tel. 053 938 3349
Web: The Bay Garden

Craanford Mills
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
New Ross
Tel. 051 425 239
Web: Dunbrody Famine Ship

Duncannon Fort
Duncannon, Ring of Hook, Waterford harbour
Tel. 051 389454

Dunmain House
11km south of New Ross on Fethard on Sea road, R734
Tel. 051 562 122

Enniscorthy Castle
Castle Hill, Enniscorthy
Tel. 353 53 92 34699
Web: Enniscorthy Castle

Ferns Castle
Tel. 054 66411

Gravity Forest Park
Web: url=]Gravity Forest Park[/url]

Hook Head Visitor Centre
Ring of Hook Drive

Hook Lighthouse
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
Ferrycarrig, Wexford
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
Kilmore Quay
Tel. 053 29684 or mobile 087 252 9736

Ram House Gardens
Coolgreany by Gorey
Tel. 0402 37238 or 0402 32006

Rathmacknee Castle
South-west of Wexford down lane off minor road

Tintern Abbey
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

Crescent Quay
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

Rosslare Tourism
Kilrane, Rosslare Harbour, County Wexford
Tel. 053 33232
Open: seasonal

Official Website
County 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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