Beaches in County Wexford
County Wexford has a series of long sandy beaches running along the East Coast. Some of the best include Curracloe Beach, which is backed by dunes, the popular long sandy Rosslare Strand, the beach at the small seaside report of Duncannon on the Hook Peninsula and the sandy beach at the small seaside resort of Courtown.
The Berkley Toy and Costume Museum
The Berkley Toy and Costume Museum near New Ross has an extensive collection of Victorian and Georgian wedding dresses and other costumes as well as dolls and toys.
Carnsore point has two lakes, Lady’s Island and Tacumshin which are good birdwatching areas. Lady’s Island also has a ruined Augustinian priory and a ruined Norman castle and a modern church which is a pilgrimage destination.
Curracloe Nature Reserve
Curracloe Nature Reserve attracts lots of species of waders and migrant Greenland white fronted geese in winter.
Enniscorthy Castle and Museum
Norman Enniscorthy Castle was built in 1205 and was also the home of the English poet Edmund Spencer, creator of the Faerie Queene. The United Irishmen took the castle during the 1798 Rising and Vinegar Hill across the River Slaney was the scene of their last stand. The castle now houses Wexford County Museum, which contains lots of local historical artefacts.
Ferns Castle in Ferns was the main stronghold of King of Leinster, Dermot MacMurough, who invited the Normans into Ireland as part of a plan to consolidate his power base and to help him fight the King of Connaught, Tiernan O’Rourke who attacked the castle after MacMurough kidnapped his wife. The ruins of the remaining 13th century building was sacked by Cromwell’s forces in 1649.
The Hook Peninsula is a thin rocky peninsula with rugged scenery. Hook Head has a lighthouse dating back to a beacon lit by monks in the 6th century which is said to have led invading Vikings straight to safe harbour in the 9th century. Bagibun Head on the peninsula was the site of the 1170 Battle of Baginbun at which Irish-Viking armies from Wexford and Waterford were defeated by the deputy of the Norman conqueror Strongbow, Raymond de Gros, who had been invited into Ireland by the King of Leinster Dermot MacMurough. Strongbow himself then marched on Waterford and after storming the city threw 70 of Waterford’s leading citizens off the Baginbun Headland. A ferry runs from Ballyhack across Waterford harbour to Passage East in Waterford. Places to visit on the Hook Peninsula include the ruined 12th century Cistercian Tintern Abbey near Arthurstown, Duncannon Fort, which was built by the English in the 16th century to repel attack from Spain and was site of the gruesome story of the Croppy Boy as told the Irish rebel song, the 15th century Knight Templar Castle in Ballyhack and the 12th century ruined Dunbrody Abbey near Campile. The impressive preserved abbey was built by Cistercian monks from England in the 13th century and the ruins of Dunbrody castle are also nearby. Duncannon has a sandy beach and Hook Head, is a popular dive site. Hook head at the end of the peninsula is a good birdwatching spot.
Irish National Heritage park
The Irish National Heritage Park off the N11, at Ferrycarrig, just outside Wexford town, is the perfect place to find out about how the people of ancient Ireland lived, without having to search the countryside for their ancient remains. The Park, which opened ten years ago, has full sized models.
John F Kennedy Park and Arboretum
The large John F Kennedy Park and Arboretum was opened in Dunganstown in 1968 as a memorial to the US President whose grandfather Patrick Kennedy lived there. Patrick Kennedy left Wexford to travel to the US in 1858 and the President returned to visit the town.
Johnston Castle and Gardens
Visitors can walk into the forested estate of the 19th century Gothic mansion Johnston Castle which was the home to the Fitzgerald family and is now the office of the Irish Environmental Protection Agency. There is also a small agricultural museum in the grounds.
Mount Leinster is the highest peak in the Blackstair Mountains on the border with County Carlow. At 2394 feet high it is also a popular hang gliding spot. A scenic route around Mount Leinster, the Mount Leinster Scenic Drive starts at Borris in County Carlow.
Saint Eden’s Abbey
A high cross in the graveyard of the ruined 13th century Saint Eden’s Abbey Cathedral is said to mark the grave of the King of Leinster, Dermot MacMurough.
Boats to the Saltee Islands which are home to hundreds of nesting gannets, puffins, kittiwakes, guillemots, Manx sheerwaters in early summer run from Kilmore Quay in good weather.
Vinegar Hill overlooking Enniscorthy was the site of the last great battle of Wolff Tone’s abortive 1798 United Irishmen Rising. The last major force of United Irishmen were surrounded on Vinegar Hill by a huge English force and fought for around 30 days from June 9 1978 until they were defeated.
Wexford Wildfowl Reserve
Wexford Wildlife Reserve is based on a piece of reclaimed land called the Slobs and attracts a great number of geese wading birds and other waterfowl. In winter huge numbers of white fronted geese migrate here from Greenland and this is also a good time to see Brent Geese. Entry to the Reserve’s visitor centre and birdwatching hides is free.