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10 things you need to know about Ireland’s Ancient East
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But scratch just beneath the surface and you’ll discover what makes this area so intriguing and well worth a visit.

Check out these 10 great things to do.

1Ireland’s craft brewing first started in Kilkenny

We can credit the monks in Kilkenny with the start of the craft brewing culture. These clever holy men found a way of purifying the deadly water that coursed through their land and crafting it into ale. Find out more by visiting the Smithwick's Experience today, wander Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile, visit the castle or check out one of the many craft beer trails around this cosmopolitan city.

3A new religion was founded in Carlow

If you don’t like the local religious persuasion you can just start your own religion. That’s exactly what they did in Huntington Castle in Carlow in the 1970s. The temple in the castle dungeons celebrates the ‘Divine Feminine’ and is a place of worship dedicated to the Egyptian Goddess Isis. Visit today and step into the world of great houses and stately homes.

4There’s more than Newgrange in The Boyne Valley

Newgrange, with its illuminations on the winter solstice, is a well-known and incredible place, but what about Loughcrew Cairns? This ancient site in Meath is a real hidden gem and welcomes the sun into the tomb at sunrise on the spring and autumn equinoxes. See the incredible, decorated back stone become drenched in morning light in an experience that is the same today as it was over 5,000 years ago.  

5You can hop on a ferry to Spike Island

The island once known as ‘Ireland’s Hell’ (but known to the locals today as simply ‘Spike’) Spike Island in Cork has been home to monks and convicts over the last 1,300 years. Take the ferry over from Kennedy Pier in Cobh and explore the mystery and magic of this unique island – or for the braver ones out there, explore this former place of punishment after dark.

6Famous sayings were born here

The expression ‘by hook or by crook’ is said to originate from the names of the villages of Hook Head in Wexford and the nearby Crooke in Waterford. Oliver Cromwell is thought to have said that Waterford would fall 'by Hook or by Crooke' – by landing his army at one of these two places during the siege of the town in the 17th century.

Check out nearby Hook Lighthouse, the world’s oldest operational lighthouse, or simply enjoy exploring these two seaside towns.

7Waterford has one of Ireland’s longest greenways

Explore the stunning scenery along the 46km Greenway in Waterford on foot or by bike as you follow the trail of the old railway from Waterford City to Dungarvan. With viaducts, Norman ruins, old workhouses, mountain views and stunning coastline to enjoy what better way to spend some time on your short break?

8Lepers prayed in Clonmacnoise

In the cathedral at Clonmacnoise there is the 'whispering door'. In times gone by lepers stood by the door to confess their sins, but they were somehow still heard across the cathedral. Discover this sacred monastic site for yourself and visit the nearby riverside town of Athlone with its barges, outdoor cafes and cosmopolitan feel.

9The original Santa Claus is buried in Kilkenny

We’ve all heard of Santa, but did you know that the remains of his predecessor, and some say his inspiration, are located in Jerpoint Park in Thomastown, Kilkenny? St. Nicholas’s tomb is there, along with the remains of a lost medieval town.

10Seven Glendaloughs equals one Rome

Stunning and tranquil - that’s how many would describe the sacred site of Glendalough. But apparently, it wasn’t always so. When the pope declared that seven visits to Glendalough would equal one visit to Rome in terms of holy pilgrimages, naturally the popularity of St Kevin’s serene valley in Wicklow soared.

The huge surge of pilgrims ended up causing great trouble for peaceful Glendalough, but thankfully this was over 150 years ago and the stunning valley has since returned to its former, idyllic glory.

This is just a taste of some of the wonderful experiences to enjoy in Ireland’s Ancient East, plan your trip today.