The Best Base for Exploring the South East of Ireland
When you are visiting Ireland, you want to see as much as possible, during your time here, so touring is a common choice, but all that moving about prevents you from experiencing whats great about Ireland, the relaxed slower pace, the long conversations and the gallivanting! So in this weeks Blog, I will show you how staying in New Ross, gets you the best of both worlds!
New Ross is ideally located to take in the best the south-east of Ireland has to offer. The town itself is a curious spot; built on a hill, it is a collection of winding streets, hidden laneways and a multitude of original Victorian shop fronts. It has some surprisingly good boutiques and The Cracked Teapot Tearooms reputation is growing fast as one of the best places to grab lunch. Home too to both the Dunbrody Famine Ship (a restored ship, used to transport emigrating Irishmen and women to Quebec) and The Ros Tapestry, 12 hand-stitched panels that tell the story on the areas Norman Heritage.
There are a few options for accommodation; B&B’s and guesthouses are common as are the Air B&B options, with a huge choice for self-catering. Hotels are slightly thinner on the ground; The new Kennedy Boutique Hotel has just opened, situated on the quays in New Ross. I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting myself yet, but I have heard it has huge potential. The Brandon House is also within the town confines, and is a lovely place very popular with retirees and families with great views of the surrounding countryside and an award winning Spa.
The Dunbrody House, is a gorgeous place, with the added attraction of their “Local Pub” and onsite Craft Brewery, along with a world-renowned culinary school. However, my top choice has to be Kilmokea Country Manor. This old Manor is surrounded with some of the most beautiful gardens to be found in Ireland, and much of what is served at the dinner table is either, grown, farmed or foraged within the grounds. No Spa, but there is a fabulous pool and aromatherapy massage is available too. The house is bursting with character and history, its almost a visitor site itself!
Once you have decided on accommodation, its time to start planning your day trips! Realistically you could spend a fortnight here and not see everything so I’ll focus on the top “bucket list” sites!
So staying in Wexford first, within the immediate area of New Ross, we have Hook Lighthouse and Loftus Hall; both sitting out on the Hook Peninsula, an area of glorious beauty winter and summer with breathtaking sea views. Hook Lighthouse is a world Heritage Site and is the oldest functioning Lighthouse in the world, plus standing on the viewing platform is exhilarating! Loftus Hall is reputed to be Irelands most haunted House, and one of the most visited sites in Wexford!
Down the road you will find Tintern and Dunbrody Abbey. Both Abbeys are in ruins now but both are simply bursting with atmosphere and make for great picnic spots and somewhere to get out of the car, stretch the legs and really enjoy the fresh countryside air.
Roughly 30 minutes from New Ross is Enniscorthy, the filming location for the film Brooklyn. Housed in the Castle are many props from the film alongside an interesting mix of local and national “bits” to pore over. Be sure to ask to see the roof for some brilliant views of nearby Vinegar Hill, the Site of one of the bloodiest battles of the 1798 Rebellion.
Crossing the border lines, its time to visit Waterford. Rather than taking the main route which is a rather uninspiring and busy main road, take the ferry over the Waterford Estuary at Ballyhack Village. This ferry route has been in operation for hundreds of years, and you have a good chance of spotting some of the wild goats that roam freely around the area! Plus you can visit the small but utterly charming Ballyhack Castle, overlooking the estuary as it has for hundreds of years now! Do you see it, smiling at you there in the picture!?
On entering Waterford City, set the Sat Nav to search for Bolton Street. Here you will find a handy car park within an easy 3 minute stroll to the Viking Triangle. A wonderful medieval museum, Reginald’s Tower, Tipperary Crystal and the Bishops Palace are there for the choosing! Waterford has some great shops and places to eat too, though it being a city, there are less independently owned shops, but plenty of high street chains and Starbucks! If you are a fan of authentic Italian food, Antichi Sapori on the High Street, is one of my favourite places to eat, I cannot resist their antipasto! Owned and operated by an Italian family, it is the best Italian food I’ve had outside of Italy!
Its also worth mentioning that the Waterford Crystal Tour is brilliant, you get to see the glass blowers, the engravers and everyone else up close. The main factory was bought out by a US company a few years ago, but the centre here still makes the US Superbowl Trophy and the Times Square Ball that drops at New Years, among other items.
Kilkenny City is the furthest from New Ross at a 45 minute drive via the village of Innistogue. This village has been used in numerous films over the years and has seen stars like Minnie Driver and Mia Farrow. Well worth a stop for a few photos of the old bridge and pretty tiny streets.
Any fans of the TV series Game of Thrones will adore Kilkenny; it is at times, like walking around a film set! Wander the narrow medieval streets, and check out Rothe House, The Tolsel or take a Brewery Tour at the Smithwicks Brewery. Dame Keytlers Inn is a famous spot, the home of the 1st person to be convicted of Witchcraft in Ireland; Alice Keytler had 4 husbands, each one dying mysteriously and leaving her their fortunes! Her home is now a pub and restaurant. Unfortunately the food is not great and I no longer bring visitors there for anything more than a drink and a chance to hear the story. For something tasty, walk across the river to Matt the Millers, this former warehouse and mill is now a popular bar and music venue that serves a great lunch. From the doorstep you also get a great photo opportunity with the castle looking down upon you! You cannot visit Kilkenny however without a visit to the castle. Typically it is self-guided with tour guides scattered about the castle to answer questions and add a little context to all the artefacts on display. Take your time, enjoy the views and if you have time, take a stroll around the parklands!
Before you leave Kilkenny, do stop by the Kilkenny Shop, housed in the Castles former Stable yard and Coach Houses. The Kilkenny Shop is a large shop that only stocks items from Irish Craft Artists, inside you’ll find everything from earrings to furniture and an awful lot between! An ideal spot to pick up gifts and souvenirs’ . Also worth a mention is the Dunmore Caves just outside Kilkenny. This fascinating spot was the site of a Viking Massacre over a thousand years ago and has some amazingly beautiful natural formations deep inside. Just be warned, the steps down are long and steep!
So you see, three to four days in New Ross, is a perfect base to explore all the above and so much more! And remember, should you prefer not to drive, you can always book a Gallivanting Tour and I’ll show you around myself!