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How to explore New Ross without a car
Get to know the history of New Ross.
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.
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.

Here's how best to spend a day exploring New Ross without a car.

Antiquing and wall art walks

If you’re coming from Wexford town, the 40 bus (40 minutes, every 2 hours) or 340 Wexford bus (35 minutes, every 2 hours) will drop you right on the east quay of the River Barrow. From here, walk along South Street and you’ll notice a plaque commemorating the birthplace of Michael O’Hanrahan, the rebel executed for his involvement in the 1916 Easter Rising and the namesake of Wexford town’s train station. You’ll also see some lovely street art on the wall at St Mary’s Terrace, which is part of the New Ross Walls Project. The Walls Project includes five large scale murals created by Irish and international artists, so keep your eyes peeled as you make your way through town. 

Street art in New Ross, Co Wexford
Admire the colourful street art.

Take a peek into the family-run Dunbrody Antiques Store on North Street and browse their unique collection, from LPs and vintage homeware to military uniforms and stamps. The shop is just near New Ross Town Hall and the 1798 Monument, a bronze statue of a Pikeman bearing a flag which honours the memory of those who died in the Battle of New Ross. From here, you’re a short walk away from a few great cafés and restaurants – pause for brunch or lunch before heading into the afternoon. 

Deep dive into New Ross’ emigrant past

New Ross was once a key departure point for those fleeing the country during the Famine. Today, the town commemorates its history with the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience, a reproduction of an 1840s emigrant vessel docked on the river. Book in for a guided tour – when you climb aboard, you’ll be given a passage ticket of someone who travelled from New Ross on a gruelling six-week voyage to America. Costumed performers will detail stories of the ship’s passengers, guide you through exhibits inside the centre and then bring you outside onto the ship itself, where you can ring the Dunbrody’s original brass bell.   

Exterior view of the Dunbrody Famine Ship in New Ross, Co Wexford
Climb aboard the Dunbrody Famine Ship.

After your tour, head back into the visitor centre and walk through the Irish America Hall of Fame and up to the The Captain’s Table Restaurant, where you can warm up with tea and a scone or tuck into a late lunch while looking out onto the water. 

New Ross is also the ancestral home of John F Kennedy – his great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy left here for Liverpool on the Dunbrody in 1848. If you take just a few steps further north on the quayside, you’ll spot the life-size bronze sculpture of the former US President erected in 2008. Here you can “shake hands” with the statue’s well-worn palms and learn about President Kennedy’s visit to the town in the summer of 1963. This spot, alongside the perpetually-burning Emigrant Flame and the Dunbrody itself, marks the beginning of the 24km Emigrant Trail that leads through two other Kennedy-related heritage sites in and around New Ross – the Kennedy Homestead and JFK Arboretum, although they’re a bit further afield (14km and 12km south, respectively). 

People visiting the Kennedy Homestead in New Ross, Co Wexford
Pick up some facts about the famous US President at the Kennedy Homestead.

If you’re in the mood for a creamy pint after a long day, head to the The Theatre Tavern on South Street, where you can catch some live music or just relax by the fire. 

Where to eat in New Ross  

Start your visit to New Ross off on the right foot with a visit to The Cracked Teapot. The adorably quirky café serves exclusively vegetarian and vegan brunch and lunch, but omnivores won’t leave hungry – try the wholesome gluten-free pancakes or a Wexford cheddar cheese toastie. If it’s a full Irish or jumbo breakfast roll you’re after, pop into a booth at M&J Restaurant, which has been serving New Ross for nearly 50 years. 

For lunch, take a short eight-minute walk south of town and past New Ross Park to Sid’s Diner, a casual spot using Wexford ingredients. They do a rich, warming steak and mushroom pie and a great vegetarian quiche. Or stay in the centre of town and stop by Spider O’Brien’s Pub for a proper carvery or a quick halloumi ciabatta. 

If you want to grab dinner before heading back to Wexford town, stroll down to Il Primo on South Street, New Ross’ favourite Italian restaurant. Here you’ll find pasta and pizza at a great price, as well as Italian classics like pollo Milanese and lamb cutlets. 

While away in Wexford town

Ditch the car and take in the sights in Wexford town. From historic castles and abbeys to the town's very own opera house, there's plenty to see.

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