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Ireland Travel Guide

Best Places to Visit in Southeastern Ireland

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             Best Places to Visit in Ireland's Southeast    Detailed Map  

 

 

 

  

Best Places to Visit in Ireland's Southeast

 
Rock of Cashel    Jerpoint Abbey    Waterford       Duncannon Fort   Cahir Castle  
Swiss Cottage    Gardens    Kilmore Quay          
 

The Rock of Cashel is Ireland's most famous religious sites.

There are a number of interesting attractions in Ireland's Southeast, but the Rock of Cashel, Waterford and Jerpoint Abbey are the area's leading attractions.  We  cover these three stops and then wander further afield for a few additional  attractions.  These latter attractions are modest, but may appeal to particular interests.

Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel is a spectacular collection of medieval religious buildings on a hilltop above the town of Cashel in County Tipperary. 

Panoramic view of the historic Rock of CashelOriginally the hill was used as a fortress serving the Kings of Munster (County Tipperary was a part of Munster Province), but the early buildings did not survive the Norman invasion. Later the property was transferred to the Catholic Church  and the buildings that mark the apex of the hill highlight one of the most remarkable historic sites in Ireland.

According to legend, St. Patrick baptized King Aenghus here in the 5th century, making him Ireland's first Catholic ruler. One interesting detail about the baptism of King Aenghus was that St. Patrick banged his crozier on the floor to emphasize the solemnity of the occasion, but, in the process, accidentally thrust its sharpened bottom through the foot of the king.  The king thought this painful experience was a required part of the conversion ceremony and did not mention it until afterwards, to the great embarrassment of the future saint.

Brian Boru was crowned King of Ireland on the Rock in the early 11th century. In the 12th century, the Rock of Cashel was given to the Church and construction began on the religious settlement we can see today.  While the history of the  Rock of Cashel is interesting, it is the nature of the ruins that sets the magical spell of this fortified rock outcrop.  Although the site is composed of collapsed buildings and incomplete walls, these ancient stones tell the story of a settlement that was both majestic and important in its day.

The High Cross  or Celtic Cross has a circle surrounding the axis of the cross.

The Hall of the Vicars Choral, dating from the 15th century, is where you will enter the Rock of Cashel. The cathedral, now roofless, was originally constructed in the 13th century and later restored after a  fire.  The cathedral dominates the hill and its square tower adds an appealing ruggedness to the structure.  Cormac's Chapel, built in the early 12th, was a gift from the Cormac McCarthy, the rival clan to the O'Briens, who had given the Rock to the church.  The Round Tower (12th century), approximately 92 ft tall, is another of Ireland's collection of tall, round towers always associated with a religious complex.  Finally, the cemetery with its collection of Celtic Crosses, often called High Crosses, is a good place to wander and soak in the solemnity of the Rock of Cashel.  As seems to be common thread  in Ireland's history, the complex was destroyed by Cromwell's army in the 17th century.

Guided tours are available, complemented by a museum and interpretative center.  A new visitor centre is in the planning, as the present one has trouble keeping up with the crowds in summer.  See Heritage Ireland  for information on opening times and visiting the Rock of Cashel. 

At the foot of the Rock of Cashel you will find the Brú Ború National Cultural Centre, which promotes traditional Irish music, song and dance.  The group presents nightly performances and has toured venues around the world. For more information, see this website presented by the Cashel Chamber of Trade and Tourism.

              

Jerpoint Abbey

                      Jerpoint Abbey dates from teh 12th century and is known for its fine carving/

Jerpoint Abbey in County Kilkenny (12 miles (20.1 km) from the town of Kilkenny) is a 12th century Cistercian abbey known for its excellent stone carvings.  Although the tower and cloister date from the 15th century, the mix of abbey architecture combines to produce a beautiful scene.  Be sure to see the sculptured arcade in the cloister, as it contains outstanding stone carvings (note the carvings on the piers supporting the arches).  The abbey was closed in 1540 and acquired by James, Earl of Ormond.

The site has a modest visitor center and guided tours are available.  See the Heritage Ireland website for details on opening hours, fees and access to Jerpoint Abbey.

Waterford

The main attraction in Waterford  is the opportunity to visit the House of Waterford Crystal on The Mall in Waterford City, which is the new home for this star attraction of any visit to Ireland.

Now located in the heart of Waterford City on The Mall, the House of Waterford Crystal combines the opportunity to observe the Waterford process for creating their crystal extravaganzas.  In addition, the facility includes a lavish new store with the largest collection of Waterford Crystal  to be found anywhere.  An exhibition space has been configured for the display of replicas of some the famous sporting trophies Waterford has created over the years. 

The Waterford Crystal tour is fully guided, lasts about an hour and is available in several languages (if you prefer a language other than English, reserve ahead to schedule your preference).  The tour starts with a film on the heritage of Waterford Crystal, followed by presentations on glass blowing, cutting, inspection, sculpting and engraving. After your tour you might want to have a light meal at the in-house restaurant (the Crystal Cafe) that serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.

Reservations are suggested for the tour and can be made online. For detailed information on the hours of operation (which vary seasonally), as well as the prices for and the availability of tours, see the official Waterford Crystal  website. 

In respect to logistics, just a short walk from the House of Waterford Crystal there are 500 car parking spaces and to the rear of the building there is a further 120 car parking spaces.

A city-tour called the Viking Triangle Experience is available for those interested in exploring the history of Waterford, which claims the title of Ireland's oldest city. The tour starts at the plaza in front of Waterford Crystal and covers the the highlight of the town. Information about the tour is available on this page of the House of Waterford Crystal website.

If you are interested in finding out about other attractions in Waterford (they are modest in number and scope), see  this local website for additional details.

Duncannon Fort

Duncanncon Fort was constructed to protect the entrance to Waterford Harbour

On your way to or from Waterford, consider stopping at Duncannon Fort in Duncannon, County Wexford.  The well-preserved, star-shaped, 16th Century fort occupies a  commanding a position at a choke point along the eastern bank of Waterford Harbour. The fort was built to help protect Waterford Harbour from pirates and a possible attack by the Spanish Armada. The site's lighthouse was a later addition to the fort and is reputed to be one of the oldest of its kind in Ireland.

There had been a Norman fort in this location, which is believed to have been preceded by a fortification built by the Vikings. The Fort, which has a relatively deep, dry moat, rebuffed several attacks (including one by Cromwell's forces) but was ultimately laid low during the Irish Revolution when it was set afire. 

It was restored during World War II when it was rebuilt to defend Waterford Harbor from possible attack by the Axis powers Germany and Italy, even though Ireland was a neutral country during World War II. 

The dawning of the Age of Gunpowder doomed castles and other forts made of stone that simply could not stand-up to cannon fire.  Instead, the replacements for these fortifications, like Duncannon fort, were somewhat squat, had thicker walls and were built of brick (which did not shatter as did stone).  In addition, the walls joined at unusual angles allowing those defending to fire at the opposition from a variety of locations (rather than from the inside of a box-like shape).

The Duncannon Fort is open from June to September, from 10 am to 5:30 pm.  Guided tours are available several times a day.

The town of Duncannon is a modest village, but is surrounded by good quality beaches. In addition, the town benefits from it location along the scenic Hook Peninsula, which forms the eastern boundary of Waterford Harbour.  If you are interested, more information about the Hook Peninsula, the official website of the Hook Tourist Office can be found here.

              

Cahir Castle

Cahir Casle sits on an island in the River Suir in Cahir Ireland

Located in the middle of Cahir on a rock island in the River Suir, the impressive, well-preserved Cahir Castle dates from the 13th century, although additions have been made over time.  Major changes occurred during the 15th century when the Butler family enlarged the castle to cover the entire island.  See Heritage Ireland for information on opening hours and contact information.

Swiss Cottage

While in Cahir, be sure to the Swiss Cottage, about a mile south of town.  The residence is a delightful "Cottage Orne" dating from the early 19th century.   "Cottage Orne" is a term applied to country houses built using wood and thatch to create an artificial, rustic look.  Attributed to the architect John Nash, the Swiss Cottage was refurbished late last century and is gorgeous inside.  See Heritage Ireland  or Visit Cahir  for more information on visiting this delightful residence.

 

                    The Swiss Cottage near Cahir, Ireland is an example of Cottage Orne.

Kilkenny City

Kilkenny City is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in all of Ireland.  It offers numerous historic buildings, a fine castle and a vibrant art and crafts community (don't miss the National Crafts Gallery in the Castle). Be sure to see Kilkenny Castle, the Black Abbey, the Thosel (a market), the Rothe House, and Saint Canice's Cathedral that features an adjacent round tower.

Visit the website of Kilkenny City  for a detailed look at the city's attractions.  If you are interested in arts and crafts, check out the County Kilkenny official tourism site for more details on the highly regarded Kilkenny Arts Festival that is held every summer.

Gardens

If you have an interest in gardens and are traveling in Ireland's Southeast, consider stopping at Johnstown Castle or Lismore Castle.

The Gardens at Johnstown Castle are worth a look if you are in the area

Johnstown Castle (sometimes called Johnston Castle) is a delightful early 19th century castle surrounded by exquisite    Although the Castle is closed , the gardens are open to the public and well worth a look.  Three lakes form the center of the gardens and the landscaped grounds are quite pleasant. See this site for more information  and this site for some excellent photos of the gardens.  In addition, Johnstown Castle features the Irish Agricultural Museum, if you are interested in seeing its collection of horticultural tools and implements.

Lismore Castle , offers historic gardens that are worth a look (the castle is a residence not open to the public). Consisting of an Upper (17th century) walled Garden and an informal Lower Garden (19th century), the property is very attractive. In fact, when the Duke of Devonshire and his family are not in residence, you can rent the castle for your entourage - presuming you have lots of disposable income.  Touring the gardens is much less expensive and can be done from the middle of March until late September. 

Lismore Casle, a private home, is known for its gardens

See the Lismore Castle official website   for more detailed information.

Birding

Kilmore Quay

Kilmore Quay is a good jumping off place for the Saltee Islands

Offshore of Kilmore Quay, a small fishing village south of Wexford, are the Saltee Islands, one of Ireland's most famous bird sanctuaries. A wide variety of birds can be spotted here including puffins, cormorants and guillemots. The islands also are home to a population of Grey Seals.

Beaches

The Southeast of Ireland features some of the country's best beaches and warmest waters.  It is, as you might suspect, a very popular area in the summer and a favored vacation spot for the Irish.  We mention this only to point out that the roads hugging the coast and the coastal towns themselves can be very crowded during August. 

By the way, Ballinesker Beach, near Curracloe on the coast northwest of Wexford, is where the D-Day invasion scenes in the movie Saving Private Ryan were filmed.  The beach has been completely restored since then and there is no evidence that filming ever took place at this location.  Of course, that does not stop it from attracting the attention of visitors.  However, if you go, go for the beach, which is the remnant of a glacial esker; a deposit of silt in sand, made by an ice-encased river carrying debris and melt water to the snout of a glacier. Click on this official page for more information on Ballinesker Beach .

More Places To Visit In Ireland

Click the Jump Bar at the right-hand edge of this page to explore more of Ireland's scenic countryside.

Or, click the link menu at the bottom of this page to revisit any of the sites in Ireland's East that interest you.

If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index or Googling ThereArePlaces.


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Rock of Cashel    Jerpoint Abbey    Waterford     Duncannon Fort    Cahir Castle  
Swiss Cottage    Gardens   Kilmore Quay  
   
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