Are you thinking of visiting Wexford on a Day tour or for 2 or 3 days? Below we suggest some places you should not miss while in the area.
Spend some time around the historic streets of Wexford Town and you’ll soon fall in love with this Viking town and all its quirks and charms. Escape to the coast and you’ll discover Curracloe and its spectacular golden beach. Or head south to the harbour village of Kilmore Quay and use it as a launchpad to explore the Saltee Islands – one of the best places in Ireland to see puffins in the wild.
Places to Visit in Wexford
Stunning coastlines aren’t all the sunny South East has to offer and Wexford boasts a particularly unique mix for a short break.
Kayak through a cave, visit the homestead of an American President and explore the magical Hook.
1. Curracloe Beach and The Raven Forest
Curracloe beach is one of the cleanest beaches on the Irish coast and is best known for having featured in the Second World War themed motion picture ‘Saving Private Ryan.’
The beautiful Curracloe Beach is only a 15 minute drive from Wexford town and is a regular holder of the Blue Flag Beach status.
The dunes are the subject of an active conservation policy by Wexford County Council ensuring that this spectacular amenity and the plant and wildlife it contains, will be preserved for generations. A nature trail runs through the dunes and continues for 5 km to Raven Point, passing through the beautiful peninsula which constitutes Raven Nature Reserve.
The Raven Nature Reserve is located at Raven Point on the north side of Wexford. Raven Point is planted with a forest of pine and other evergreen trees. It is also a sanctuary for birds such as geese and wildlife especially the red squirrel. A looped walk of the area goes to the tip of the Raven Point spit through the wood and back again via the beach.
It’s a wonderful place to visit for a day and offers long walks and one of Ireland best white sandy beaches.
2. Dunbrody Abbey
Dunbrody Abbey is a wonderful example of at 12th Century Cistercian Monastery.Situated on the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford, Ireland, Dunbrody Abbey is a great day out for the whole family.
However, the visitor centre houses all sorts of other gems. Pride of Place is the maze and golf. The Maze is made of 1500 Yew Trees, causes great confusion for people. The Golf is ideal for families and no golfing experience is necessary.
Gretta’s Tea Rooms produce home cooking at it’s finest with locally produced plants and craft for sale throughout the summer.
The family friendly attraction includes:
- the Abbey
- the Maze with Pitch & Putt
- Craft Shop
- Tea Room.
Enniscorthy, an old Norman settlement, is the second-largest town in County Wexford.
Admire the architecture of the Neo-Gothic Cathedral of St Aidan, or travel to striking Enniscorthy Castle and head on a guided tour of the County Wexford Museum. Pick up a beautiful piece of handcrafted pottery at Kiltrea Bridge Pottery, or take a stroll along the peaceful Wexford Garden Trail.
The town is inextricably linked to some of the fiercest battles of the 1798 Rising, when the rebels seized the town and set up a camp at Vinegar Hill.
Enniscorthy is also well known as the home of Brooklyn, the book and later acclaimed movie. It is possible to visit the actual streets and places you read about in the book and that enthralled you back when you watched the movie.
4. Hook Lighthouse
The Hook Lighthouse, Constructed with local limestone, is situated on Hook Head, in County Wexford.
It is the fourth oldest lighthouse in the world, after the one in Genoa (Italy), the Tower of Hercules, in La Coruña (Spain) and the first one, Pharos in Alexandria (Egypt).
The present structure dates back 800 years to the medieval tower of Hook.
Climb 115 steps to the balcony of Hook Lighthouse in County Wexford, and soak up stunning views of the coastline.
Fun festivals and family events take place at Hook Lighthouse throughout the year, including the Maritime Matters Festival, the Pirate Festival, Heritage Week Vintage Day and a series of summer lectures. Enjoy themed cookery demonstrations, historical re-enactments, charity fundraisers and art workshops at the magnificent lighthouse.
5. Irish National Heritage Park
The Irish National Heritage Park is one of the best Ireland’s Ancient East attractions and a fantastic place for a day out. There is just so much going on here all year round! It offer Irish history experiences for all the family, with over 40 acres of natural woodland, 16 reconstructions of historic sites, and a live archaeological dig where the first Norman castle was built in Ireland.
Explore an authentic recreation of Ireland’s heritage at the National Heritage Park in County Wexford. Pick up a new skill, head on a heritage trail and try one of the guided outdoor activities.
The Irish National Heritage Park takes visitors through 9,000 years of history. Learn about different historical periods on the heritage trails, depicting the first settlements in Ireland up to the arrival of the Normans in the 12th century. Choose from Pre-Historic Ireland, Early Christian Ireland or the Age of Invasion, and view replicas of prehistoric campsites, ringforts, crannogs and Viking houses.
Wander through the woodland, winding between ancient trees and pools of water, to experience what Ireland must have looked like to our Stone Age ancestors. Look out for swamps filled with mosses and lichens, and see the vibrant birdlife and insects who live here.
Discover the trades and traditions of ancient times, there are over 60 diverse courses to choose from. Go foraging, try flint knapping, learn the art of wood carving or book in for a Viking boot camp session.
6. Johnstown Castle, Museum & Gardens
Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens has a long and colourful story stretching over 800 years. Situated outside Wexford town in Ireland’s south east, it is not only a significant property of national importance but a place of great romantic charm and tranquility. The spectacular lake walks, walled gardens and sculptures all offer the beautiful setting for the great 19th-century castle.
Johnstown Castle was the historic home of two prominent Wexford families, the Esmondes, of Norman descent, arrived in the 12th century but during the Cromwellian era, the estate was confiscated and changed hands before it was acquired by John Grogan in 1692.
Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens opened in summer 2019 as a brand new ‘3 in 1’ visitor attraction – a significant addition for Irish tourism and Ireland’s Ancient East. Conservation and upgrading works on the Gothic-Revival Castle have been undertaken and guided tours are now available.
7. Loftus Hall
Loftus Hall, is one of Ireland’s famous haunted houses. This mansion on the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford is on the site of the original castle, Redmond Hall, that was built in 1350 during the Black Death pandemic.
Make a plan to book into this spooky attraction and take a 45-minute interactive tour of the ground floor, where your guide reveals the fascinating history and infamous legend of Loftus Hall. There are special tours during Halloween.
An ideal destination for a supernatural outing, the haunting backstory of this mysterious mansion thrills young and old. Loftus Hall is said to have been haunted by the devil and the ghost of a young woman and its engrossing past has become something of local legend.
Have a break from the paranormal and explore this rugged coastal setting, complete with stunning walled gardens and after, relax with a coffee in Ely’s café. Enjoy afternoon tea in the renovated Lady Jane’s Room and adjoining formal Victorian garden within the Hall’s historical walls.
8. Saltee Islands
The Saltee Islands, consisting of the Great and Little Saltee, are situated approximately 5 kilometers off the coast of Kilmore Quay Co.Wexford. The larger island Great Saltee is the most famous bird sanctuary in Ireland and is very popular with both day-trippers and birdwatchers alike.
The Saltees are a haven for sea birds, nurturing an impressive array of birds, from Gannets and Gulls to Puffins and Manx Shearwaters. They also lie on an important migratory route and a popular stopping-off place for spring and autumn migrants. The Great Saltee also has a breeding population of Grey Seals, one of the very few in eastern Ireland. Up to 120 animals are present in autumn and up to 20 pups are produced annually.
Since December 1943 the Saltees have been privately owned by the Neale family. T Day visitors are allowed on Great Saltee between 11am and 4:30 pm only. Arranged trips from Kilmore Quay are approved within these hours. Any visitors landing a boat outside of these hours will be asked to leave. The Saltee Islands are both rare and beautiful. All are welcome to see and enjoy.
9. Selskar Abbey
The beautiful Selskar Abbey, found in the heart of Wexford Town, dates from the early 12th century. It is the historic location where the first Anglo-Irish treaty was signed in 1169.
Selskar Abbey is a 12th-century structure that replaced a pre-Christian temple dedicated to Odin. The complex, which is part of the Westgate Heritage Tower, was the location where the first Anglo-Irish treaty was signed .Henry II passed Lent at this very place in 1172, as penance for the murder of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket.
After years of suppression, the abbey was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell in 1649. The present Protestant church was built in 1826
There’s a set of three ogival arches in the chancel window, crested by pinnacles on each side.
10. Tintern Abbey
This Cistercian monastery was founded c. 1200 by William, Earl Marshal on lands held through his marriage to the Irish heiress, Isabella de Clare. Legends say that when the Earl of Pembroke encountered a life-threatening storm during a sea voyage, he vowed to establish an abbey if he reached land safely. The abbey is often referred to as Tintern de Voto, or Tintern of the Vow as a result. It was inhabited by Cistercian monks from a larger abbey at Tintern, Wales, of which the Earl was also a patron.
The nave, chancel, tower, chapel and cloister still stand. In the 16th century the old abbey was granted to the Colclough family and soon after the church was partly converted into living quarters and further adapted over the centuries. The Colcloughs occupied the abbey from the sixteenth century until the mid-twentieth.
The abbey is set in a special area of conservation and is surrounded by woodland within which are walking trails. Not to be missed is the restored Colclough Walled Garden situated within the old estate.
11. The John F. Kennedy Arboretum
Dedicated to the memory of John F. Kennedy, whose great-grandfather, Patrick, was born in the nearby village of Dunganstown, this arboretum near New Ross, County Wexford, contains a plant collection of presidential proportions.
It covers a massive 252 hectares on the summit and southern slopes of Slieve Coillte and contains 4,500 types of trees and shrubs from all temperate regions of the world. There are 200 forest plots grouped by continent. Of special note is an ericaceous garden with 500 different rhododendrons and many varieties of azalea and heather, dwarf conifers and climbing plants.
The lake is perhaps the most picturesque part of the arboretum and is a haven for waterfowl. There are amazing panoramic views from the summit of the hill, 271 metres above sea level. A visitor centre houses engaging exhibitions on JFK and on the Arboretum itself.
12. Wexford Harbour
Wexford Harbour in County Wexford, Ireland is the natural harbour at the mouth of the River Slaney. In earlier times, the area occupied by the harbour was considerably larger than it is today, up to ten miles wide at its widest point, with large mud flats on both sides. These were known as the North Slob and the South Slob from the Irish word slab, meaning mud. It contained several islands, among which the large island of Beggerin was known to be a safe refuge for early Christian settlements
Vikings arrived from Norway in 819 AD and founded the city of Wexford, calling it Waes Fjord which means ‘inlet of the mudflats’. The modern name has evolved from this. In the 17th century Wexford became a major maritime port exporting fish, cloth, wool and hides. It was Ireland’s leading fishing port in the 15th and 16th centuries, exporting mainly to ports along the west coast of England and Wales.
By 1788, Wexford, with 44 cargo ships and 200 herring boats was the sixth busiest port in Ireland.
Today the port is now used by the local mussel dredgers and fishermen, and for local and visiting pleasure craft.
13. Wexford Town
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.
14. 1798 Rebellion Centre
As you may have expected, 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.
In the 1798 Rebellion Center, Award winning visitor attraction in County Wexford, you will meet the key figures of the Rebellion, participate in the state of the art 4D battle of Vinegar Hill Experience, discover how weapons from the period worked and learn in gruesome detail how some 20,000 insurgents faced the might of 10,000 well-trained and well-armed Crown Forces.
The centre opens from April through to late September.