The county capital, Wexford town sits snugly on the Slaney River estuary in Wexford Harbour. Explore the town’s varied heritage, from Viking influences to the Norman and Cromwellian invasions, and enjoy its quaint old laneways and ancient churches sitting side by side with contemporary architecture and modern arts.
A great way to start your visit to Wexford is to step back in time. Find out how our Stone Age ancestors lived and journey through 9,000 years of Irish life at the National Heritage Park just ten minutes outside the town. Even better, stay overnight in a ringfort, complete with a watchtower, a stone-walled, thatch-roofed dwelling and a cosy central hearth. You’ll have free reign to roam the park after hours too.
The National Opera House in Wexford is something special — just ask any opera fan. Spend a memorable evening in the iconic landmark and enjoy Irish and international shows in the walnut-panelled theatre. Or visit in October to catch the world-renowned Wexford Festival Opera. There’s plenty of cosy spots nearby for a pre-theatre dinner on Custom House Quay.
A mere 25-minute drive away from Wexford Town is Enniscorthy, which James Joyce described in Ulysses as ‘the finest place in the world’, setting the bar high for the admittedly picturesque town.
Enniscorthy provides the setting for much of Colm Tóibín's 1950s-set novel Brooklyn, adapted in 2013 into a movie starring our own Saoirse Ronan — but the town's history goes a lot further back than that. Start with a visit to the historic castle or take a few hours to enjoy the town’s old-world vibe as you wander through its colourful streets.
Stop for lunch in The Bailey, a converted malt house, whose original owner Mr Roche married Miss Josephine Shriver from Baltimore in the US in 1900. This marriage would eventually link the Roche family with the presidency of the USA.
This part of the country has many tales to tell, like the epic story of a fierce battle on Vinegar Hill during the Irish Rebellion in 1798. Get the gruesome details on how Irish insurgents faced the might of the well-armed, trained crown forces, and explore the authentic weapons of the time at the 1798 Rebellion Centre with its new 4D Battle of Vinegar Hill Experience. Be sure to stop by between April and September when the centre is open to avail of this immersive experience that's sure to transport you back to 1798.
Enjoy a walk through a working farm at The Village, just outside Enniscorthy. See pigs, sheep and chickens before taking off on the Woodland Walk. The highlight of any trip here though is the delicious strawberries. Learn useful tips from the on-site experts and fill up your own basket of juicy strawberries that you can bring home. Don't forget to visit the café and shop to try their fresh jam, fruit and artisan food.
Before you leave...
Just a 15-minute drive from the centre of Enniscorthy you'll find another historical battleground at Oulart Hill, where Irish insurgents clashed with crown forces once again. Marvel at Tulach a’ tSolais, or 'Mound of Light', a monument composed of two concrete cleaves that cut through the infamous hill in honour of the Battle of Oulart Hill. Or follow one of the three walking trails and soak up views of the beautiful natural landscape.
New Ross on the river
Straddling the border of County Kilkenny on the River Barrow, New Ross holds great historical significance for the whole of Ireland. Once a key departure point for those that escaped during the famine, New Ross is home to a variety of from its past that are sure to interest visitors, history buff or not.
Feed your appetite for a delicious meal and knowledge at the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience and Restaurant. Learn key facts from costumed performers as they detail the stories of passengers who boarded the Dunbrody for the gruelling six-week voyage to America. After, grab a seat in their restaurant and pick from their menu filled with tasty sandwiches, salads and pizzas.
One of the lesser known highlights of New Ross is an ever-evolving work of art, the Ros Tapestry. Since 1998, 150 artists have been working on 15 giant tapestries, just one of which remains unfinished. Pay attention to each woven thread as every tapestry depicts a different event in the town’s history, from its Norman origins to its iconic landmarks such as Hook Lighthouse.
The world stopped to watch when President John F Kennedy visited his ancestral home in New Ross on a warm summer day in June 1963. Relive his visit at The Kennedy Homestead, the birthplace of Kennedy’s great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy, and follow the family's fortunes across five generations. Discover what happened to those who remained in New Ross and how those who immigrated to the slums of Boston turned their luck around and found themselves in The White House.
You can continue exploring the Kennedy legacy at the JFK Memorial Park and Arboretum. Stretching over 623 acres on the southern slopes and up to the 271m summit of Slievecoiltia, it’s one of Ireland’s great scenic walks. Admire over 4,500 types of trees and shrubs from all temperate regions of the world. Chill out by the peaceful lake or challenge yourself by reaching the peak - the panoramic views are definitely worth it.
Jaunt 35 minutes south in the car to reach the southern-most tip of Wexford. Whether walks, cycles, drives or even a dip in the sea is your cup of tea, you can’t help but be impressed by Hook Peninsula’s natural beauty.
Best known for the infamous Hook Lighthouse, Hook Peninsula is also the perfect spot for a sea adventure. Hop in a kayak for a half-day tour with the Irish Experience and explore the impressive sea caves. Or discover hidden beaches on the shorter mini-tour around Baginbun Bay. Make your visit even more special by heading out on the water at sunset and see Hook Head in all its glory.
While you’re in the area…
While Johnstown Castle Estate and Gardens is renowned for its beauty, the Irish Agricultural Museum, which is located on its grounds, is a hidden gem that’s well worth a visit. See how farmers throughout past generations lived, as well as the once state-of-the-art machinery that were used to harvest the humble Irish potato.
If you have more time in Wexford…
Take a ten-minute detour outside Wexford town to the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, an internationally-renowned wild bird sanctuary. Don’t expect pristine wilderness; this is farmland which is what has made it a natural haven for huge flocks of birds. Spy some of the 8,000 Greenland White Fronted Geese (35% of the world’s population) as well as migrating whopper swans, visiting goshawks and much more.
If you have time to spare and the sun is shining, make your way to Morriscastle Beach near the quiet village of Kilmuckridge. Kick off your shoes and stroll along the 5km stretch of sand and explore the secluded coves that decorate the strand. Or dip your feet in the refreshing water and keep an eye out for the stunning birdlife that fly above.