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How to explore Enniscorthy without a car
Visit Enniscorthy's incredible historic sights.
Beatrix O'GormanBeatrix O'Gorman is a writer and filmmaker based in Dublin. She has worked for AMC, Disney and Metropolitan Films. She loves travelling around Ireland trying new restaurants.
In Ulysses, Joyce describes Enniscorthy as “the finest place in the world” – take a day to explore the picturesque town’s colourful streets and you’ll quickly get a sense as to why. If you’re coming from Wexford town, hop on a bus or train and journey half an hour north along the River Slaney and you’ll be set down right in the middle of things, with Enniscorthy Castle, Vinegar Hill, The National 1798 Rebellion Centre and a network of excellent pubs and cafés all within a pleasant walk’s distance.

Here's how to plan a car-free day trip in and around Enniscorthy.

Enniscorthy Castle and riverside walks

You have a few ways of getting to Enniscorthy from Wexford town: take the 740 Wexford bus from Redmond Square (35 minutes, hourly), the 2 bus to Dublin Airport from Wexford Station (25 minutes, hourly), or the train from Wexford O’Hanrahan to Enniscorthy (20 minutes, every 2 hours). No matter which option you choose, you’ll be let out on the east quay of the River Slaney.  

For a tea or coffee to power you through the morning, cross the bridge and stop into Cotton Tree Café, a riverside spot with a sky-blue door and daily specials. Then walk up Slaney Place and around to Castle Hill to follow the street up to the hilltop Enniscorthy Castle. You’ll want to get a Saver Ticket to the castle if you plan on visiting The National 1798 Rebellion Centre later on, too. 

Exterior view of Enniscorthy Castle in Co Wexford
Make your way to Enniscorthy Castle on the hilltop.

When you enter on the ground floor, stop and take note of the intricately-carved and tiled Edwardian fireplace before you dive into the permanent exhibit on Enniscorthy’s Norman history. You’ll learn about typical Norman dress and chainmail, with 12th century gloves, drinking horns and medieval handcuffs on display alongside replica Norman shields. You can also check the list of surnames on the wall to see if your family descends from Normans. 

Climb down into the dungeon to see the medieval graffiti carved into the wall before ascending to the upper two floors. If you take the spiral staircase, you’ll see the narrow slots that served as the original windows to the castle. 

The spiral staircase inside Enniscorthy Castle in Co Wexford
Ascend the castle's spiral staircase and take in the views as you go.

These floors feature other permanent exhibits on Enniscorthy’s more recent history (think penny-farthing bicycles and film sets) as well as a collection of furniture by Enniscorthy-born architect and designer Eileen Gray. Look out the window on the top floor – from here you have a terrific view of the River Slaney and Vinegar Hill, the historic battle site of the 1798 Rebellion.  

If you’re feeling fit, you can leave the castle and walk 2km uphill to the park at Vinegar Hill – it will take you about 30 minutes. Alternatively, a more tranquil option is a stroll on the Enniscorthy Riverside Trail. It’s a 3km (6km round trip) scenic trail alongside the western bank of the River Slaney. You’ll start at the promenade walk at the southern end of the town and you can walk it as a loop, or simply walk until you get to the bridge and turn back around. Or check out the Enniscorthy Walls Trail Guide (available at either The National 1798 Rebellion Centre or Enniscorthy Castle) that will take you through the town, highlighting all the fantastic large-scale mural artworks that make up the Enniscorthy Walls Project.  

Street art as part of the Enniscorthy Walls Project in Co Wexford

Photo credit: @the.lady.travels

Seek out the colourful street art that's part of the Enniscorthy Walls Project.

Rebellion and architecture

After lunch, take your Saver Ticket and walk up the hill along St John’s Street to Parnell Road and into The National 1798 Rebellion Centre. Cross the entrance bridge over the koi pond and you’ll be directed downstairs into the interactive exhibition, which traces the events of the Rebellion through immersive video, sculpture and battle reenactments. Learn how Irish insurgents faced the might of the crown forces on Vinegar Hill and explore the authentic weapons of the time. You’ll come out of the darkness into the final room of the tour and learn about the legacy of 1798 on Irish history. 

Exhibition in the National 1798 Rebellion Centre in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford

Photo credit: @the.lady.travels

Go back in time at the National 1798 Rebellion Centre.

From here, walk 10 minutes north on Parnell Road until you reach St Aidan’s Cathedral, a monumental Catholic church. The suppression of the 1798 Rebellion resulted in the destruction of many Wexford churches and this cathedral, the largest by architect August Welby Pugin, was designed to replace the thatched church that previously stood in its place. You’ll be greeted by an impressive Gothic Revival stone doorway and navy doors. Inside, notice the floral painted details, ornate stained glass windows and lofty 73-foot ceilings. 

After a day of sightseeing, pull up a chair at one of Enniscorthy’s best traditional pubs. Stamps Pub in Market Square is great for watching a match in front of the fire, and Holohans Pub on the quays beside Cotton Tree Café has great cocktails and live music most nights of the week. 

A cocktail
Chill out with a refreshing cocktail.

Where to eat in Enniscorthy

With its painted wooden interiors, vintage posters and fairy lights, the quaint Cotton Tree Café makes for a cosy brunch. Sit in, surrounded by plants and stained-glass butterflies, and tuck into their speciality pancakes or a breakfast sandwich while you enjoy a lovely view of the river.  

Exterior view of Cotton Tree Café in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford

Photo credit: @the.lady.travels

Kickstart your day with brekkie in the Cotton Tree Café.

Cooney's Café on Rafter Street is a perfect pitstop on your way to The 1798 Rebellion Centre. The traditional family bakery sells fresh sourdough and porridge bread loaves every day except Sunday. Elsewhere on Rafter Street, The Pantry serves all manner of sweet treats and drinks, from milkshakes and sundaes to hot chocolate and coffee. 

People having a coffee and a dessert in Wexford
Grab a coffee and a dessert in Enniscorthy.

For lunch, stop by The Holy Grail for soups, sandwiches and salads, as well as daily specials and a full selection of cocktails and tapas. Casa d’Galo on Main Street also comes highly recommended by locals – it’s a family-run Portuguese restaurant serving chargrilled meats and fresh salads. 

At Via Veneto, you’ll find head chef Paolo Fresilli preparing Italian classics and specialities from the region of Lazio. Book in for a fireside dinner and pair your meal with one of the 180 Italian wines on the menu. 

Forget the car keys altogether

Leave the car at home for your next break away and explore more spots in Wexford like New Ross without the car.

More to discover
Family funGet out in Wexford town without the car

In summer, County Wexford entices holidaymakers with its golden beaches and bright red strawberries. But Wexford town, straddling the River Slaney, has something to discover in all seasons. You can eat your way through excellent restaurants and cafés, meander down medieval lanes and even dress up for an unforgettable night at the opera. This charming, walkable town also makes a great jumping-off point for day trips throughout the rest of the county by bus.

Family funDive into New Ross car-free

No more than half an hour west of Wexford town is New Ross, a vibrant riverside community that happens to be Ireland’s only inland port. First established as a trading centre by the Normans, it’s better known today for its role as a departure point for emigrants during the Famine, including John F Kennedy’s great-grandfather. Away from the water, you can wander its pretty lanes full of vintage shops, pubs and cafés, spotting new street art and historical sites as you go.

On the waterVisit Drogheda and the Battle of the Boyne car-free

Drogheda may be the gateway to some of Ireland’s most important historical sites, but there’s also plenty to see in the town itself. There’s a quirky museum surrounded by indie craft shops, a contemporary art gallery set within an old church and numerous cafés and gastropubs where you can grab a bite to eat. And when you’re ready to explore further afield, locations like the Battle of the Boyne visitor centre are just a short bus ride away.

Coastal escapesExplore Inis Mór and the Aran Islands car-free

Inis Mór might be the most visited of the Aran Islands, but it still feels a world apart. Which of course is a big part of the allure: a visit here feels like a step back in time, albeit one with e-bikes and decent 4G connectivity. The main attraction is the magnificent prehistoric fort at Dún Aonghasa, but there’s something to uncover on every corner of the island. And the best part? You don’t need a car to do any of it.

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