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Plan a three-day weekend to remember in Wexford.
Cassidy OlsenCassidy Olsen is a culture writer, editor and filmmaker based in Dublin. She has contributed her work to many international publications, including The Boston Globe, Good Housekeeping and Film Comment.
With 260km of coastline in the Sunny South East dotted by long stretches of sandy beaches, Wexford is one of the country’s most popular destinations for summer holidaymakers. But if you haven’t got a whole holiday’s worth of time to explore, you can fit a lovely break in the Model County into a three-day weekend – and it won’t need to wait until summer.

From walking the streets of Wexford town to outdoor adventures on Hook Peninsula, here’s how to spend three days in County Wexford.

Wander through Wexford town

Sitting snugly on the Slaney River estuary in Wexford Harbour, Wexford town makes for the perfect base from which to discover the rest of the county. You can venture south to the seaside towns of Rosslare and Kilmore Quay, or head north to New Ross, Enniscorthy and Gorey

But the county town and its immediate surrounds are worth a day’s exploring on their own. Wander the colourful harbour with a coffee in hand from specialty coffee shop The Clovelly (founded by Wexford hurler Joe O’Connor), then pay a visit to one of the town’s influential arts institutions. At the Wexford Arts Centre, you’ll find Irish and international exhibitions on rotation in the historic Cornmarket building, as well as live music, screenings and other local events. Or spend a night at the opera at the nearby National Opera House, Ireland’s first custom built opera house and home to the Wexford Festival Opera. Catch a performance in the walnut-panelled O’Reilly Theatre. Not a fan of opera? You’ll find comedy, trad, classical music and more filling out the monthly programme.

Performers on stage at the Wexford Festival Opera.
Catch a performance at the National Opera House.

Venture ten minutes outside town for your pick of immersive historical experiences. If it’s prehistoric Ireland and the Viking Age you’re into, don your helmet and visit the Irish National Heritage Park, where you can journey through 9,000 years of Irish life. Go foraging, try flint knapping, learn the art of wood carving or book in for a Viking boot camp session. You can even stay overnight in an onsite ringfort.

A woman taking a picture of a man posing in a Viking helmet at the Irish National Heritage Centre in County Wexford.
Step back in time at the National Heritage Park

Second millennium more your speed? The magnificent Johnstown Castle Estate lies just south of town, with impressive ornamental gardens designed by Powerscourt Gardens architect Daniel Robertson. Wander the tree-lined gardens, take a walk around the lake if the weather’s fine, or book a tour of the castle. You can also stop by the on-site Irish Agricultural Museum in the former castle farmyard to see how farmers throughout past generations lived and worked.

Johnstown Castle Estate through the trees.
Wander the gardens at Johnstown Castle Estate.

Where to eat and stay in Wexford town

Wexford strawberries might be the county’s most famous export, but you’ll find locally-harvested mussels and other fresh fish and shellfish on the menu at La Côte Seafood, where Michelin-trained chef Paul Hynes and his wife Edwina have been serving dinner harbour-front since 2014. The nearby 10 West Bistro offers a rotating menu of sharing plates and mains in their elegant dining room and cocktail lounge – think Kilmore cod, nduja and prawn croquettes and smoked duck with peanut and chilli rayu.

Fried fish served on clam shells

Photo credit: @lacotepaulhynes

Enjoy a top-class meal at La Côte Seafood.

For a chilled lunch with an artsy twist, head to Green Acres, a light-filled space that’s equal parts bistro, wine vendor and gallery space. Peruse the floor-to-ceiling wine racks and deli for goodies to take home with you. Or stop by Westgate Design for a sandwich, salad or sweet treat after browsing the store’s leather goods and other crafts.

If you’re staying overnight in Wexford, there are hotels and other accommodation options in town to suit your preference – but Killiane Castle Country House & Farm on the road to Rosslare is truly unique. The charming four-star bed-and-breakfast was built in the 17th century and adjoins a 15th-century castle.

Sun and sand in Rosslare

The village of Rosslare south of Wexford town attracts summer crowds each year, thanks to the long sandy beach that runs the length of the southern peninsula. Sun or no sun, amble along Rosslare Strand and enjoy unbroken views out to sea to the east, or peek over the dunes to your west and spot golfers at Rosslare Golf Club.

Where to eat and stay in Rosslare

Basing yourself in Rosslare? You can eat, sleep and relax with views of the water from Kelly's Resort Hotel & Spa, the large four-star resort right on the strand. Sink into a seaweed bath at the Sea Spa, grab dinner at Beaches Restaurant and pick up a game of pickleball or tennis at the on-site courts. If you'd prefer to sleep in the great outdoors, head five minutes south to the campgrounds at the International Outdoor Adventure Centre. The heated tents in the Glamping Village let you explore the centre’s high ropes park, archery, kayaking and other adventure activities even in the colder months.

If you’re looking for a quick lunch pitstop near town, the Karoo Farm Shop and Café five minutes up the N25 is worth its own journey. You can choose from all sorts of sandwiches and soups in the cosy café, with the shop offering local sweets, baked goods, wine, cider, and cheeses.

Hit the Hook Peninsula

Wexford’s most dramatic views can be found on the Hook Peninsula, jutting out to sea to form the southernmost tip of the county. One of the best ways to experience the peninsula is by foot with tour guide Liam Colfer. On the three-mile Hike the Hook tour with Livin' off the Hook, Liam will guide you through the seafaring tradition on the Hook, including the history of storms, shipwrecks and folklore. Get up close with the area’s unique rock formations, fossils and caves along the way.

To see the peninsula from the water below, book in for a three-hour sea kayaking tour with The Irish Experience. You’ll paddle by the beautiful beaches and into hidden sandy coves of Hook and might even come across dolphins and whales along the coast. You can also opt for a shorter mini-tour around Baginbun Bay, or a sunset tour for a bit of romance.

Aerial view of kayakers in the water at Hook Head.
See Hook Head from the water with The Irish Experience.

If you haven’t the energy for a full Hook hike or sea kayaking experience, pay a visit to the towering black-and-white Hook Lighthouse. Thought to be one of the oldest operational lighthouses in the world, its creation from the local limestone was an extraordinary feat of construction at the time. Take a guided tour and ascend each one of its 115 steps – you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views out to sea at the top.

Once you clamber back down, grab a seat at the Lightkeeper’s House Café and Bakery to recharge with seafood chowder, smoked salmon on brown bread or coffee and a scone.

Hook Lighthouse.
Ascend to the top of Hook Lighthouse.

Turn back time in New Ross

Straddling the border of Counties Wexford and Kilkenny on the River Barrow, New Ross was once a key departure point for those fleeing the country during the famine. Today, the town commemorates this history with the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience, a reproduction of an 1840s emigrant vessel docked on the river. Climb aboard and explore the ship’s exhibitions, or book in for a guided tour with costumed performers – they’ll detail the stories of passengers who boarded the Dunbrody for the gruelling six-week voyage to America.

Three people walking to the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience in County Wexford.
Step onboard the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience.

One of the lesser known highlights of New Ross is a still-evolving work of art, the Ros Tapestry. Since 1998, 150 artists have been working on 15 giant tapestries depicting different events in the area’s history, from its Norman origins to the construction of Hook Lighthouse. Get up close with the threads at the Ros Tapestry Exhibition Centre and learn about the craftsmanship in each stitch.

New Ross is also the ancestral home of former US President John F Kennedy, and there are multiple ways to explore the Kennedy legacy throughout town. Pay a visit to the life-size bronze sculpture of President Kennedy on the quayside and “shake hands” with the statue’s well-worn palms. Head south of town to the Kennedy Homestead, the birthplace of Kennedy’s great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy, where you can follow the family's fortunes across five generations – the former president visited the site himself on a warm summer day in June 1963 during his four-day trip to Ireland. Or have an amble through nearby JFK Memorial Park and Arboretum, 623 acres of green hills and wooded walks with a lake and playground.

A woman studying the JFK Homestead Visitor Centre in County Wexford.
Follow the lives of the Kennedys at the JFK Homestead.

Where to eat and stay in New Ross

For a decadent breakfast or pick-me-up lunch after sightseeing in town, stop in to The Cracked Teapot on Mary Street. The cosy teahouse has an impressive spread of vegetarian and vegan options, but you’ll also find reliable cheese toasties and a classic Irish breakfast on the menu alongside fresh-baked scones and sweet treats.

The best pub grub in town is at Mannion’s, a bright orange pub on the northern edge of New Ross. Their beef, pork and fish are all Irish and sourced as often as possible from local providers – they even have Wexford ice cream on the menu. 

Staying overnight? One of the finest hotels in New Ross is the Brandon House Hotel, an elegant four-star country manor house with views over the River Barrow. Relax with a treatment at the unique dome-shaped Solas Croí Eco Spa on the grounds. Or explore the rest of New Ross accommodation and find the right hotel or B&B for you.

Floral street art on the side of a building in New Ross.
Explore the colourful streets of New Ross.

Enjoy Enniscorthy

In Ulysses, Joyce describes Enniscorthy as “the finest place in the world,” which sets the bar high for this picturesque town. Enniscorthy also provides the setting for much of Colm Tóibín's 1950s-set novel Brooklyn, adapted into the 2013 film starring Saoirse Ronan. Begin your visit with a stop by Enniscorthy Castle, or take a few hours to wander through the town’s colourful streets and get a sense of why it's so popular in fiction.

History buffs will want to pay a visit to the National 1798 Rebellion Centre, which traces the events of the 1798 Irish Rebellion. Learn how Irish insurgents faced the might of the crown forces on Vinegar Hill and explore the authentic weapons of the time in the centre’s hands-on exhibits. The park at nearby Vinegar Hill is also open to the public.

Vinegar Hill in County Wexford.
Explore the battlefield at Vinegar Hill.

Drive 15 minutes east 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 hill in honour of the battle. Stretch your legs on one of the three walking trails that carve through the area’s green hills.

If you’re visiting in summer, The Village at Wheelocks just outside Enniscorthy provides the perfect opportunity to pick your own Wexford strawberries. Fill up your basket, then say hello to the pigs, sheeps and chickens on the farm before heading off.

Where to eat and stay in Enniscorthy

Sitting on the River Slaney in the heart of town, The Bailey Bar & Eatery is hard to miss – the converted malt store has an imposing old-world brick front. But inside is welcoming and warm, with a long wooden bar serving classic cocktails and cosy booths for tucking into a hearty lunch or laid-back dinner. 

For more modern fare like beetroot hummus sandwiches and veggie breakfast plates, stop by The Wilds, where they serve brunch and lunch alongside their design-minded lifestyle and furniture store.

Woman drinking a cappuccino.
Grab a coffee in Enniscorthy.

Fancy an Italian feast? Down the street is Via Veneto, where 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.

Enniscorthy has some of the best accommodation options in the county, from unique bed-and-breakfasts like Cow House Studios and Wilton Castle to ultra-plush hotels like the five-star Monart Destination Spa. Explore all the accommodation options in Enniscorthy and book your visit.

Wexford's best beaches

Explore the beautiful sandy beaches of Wexford on your next visit to the Model County.

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