Wowed by Waterford

When you look at a list of the top things to do in Ireland, Waterford doesn’t often get a mention. It appears nowhere on this list, nowhere on this one, and even on a list of hidden gems rates only a single mention. And while it’s true that if I were recommending essential spots to someone coming to Ireland for only a few days Waterford probably wouldn’t make the list, after visiting a couple of weeks ago I would say that if you have a bit more time to explore, it’s definitely worth a visit.

In deciding where to go over the August bank holiday weekend, my criteria was that I wanted it to be somewhere I hadn’t been before, I wanted to go for a hike, and as the planner in my relationship, I didn’t want to plan it. So Steve took the lead, booked us a room in Waterford, booked a tour of a historic fort in neighbouring county Wexford, and off we went.

Before we went to Waterford itself, we started with a drive to the Hook peninsula in Wexford, where we visited the Hook Head Lighthouse. This is the oldest still-operating lighthouse in the world, first built almost 900 years ago. The lighthouse is closed at the moment due to covid, but it’s still a nice spot to walk around the grounds. We also saw some scuba divers — hopefully we will get a chance to dive in Ireland sometime next year.

After that, we drove back toward Waterford (passing by Loftus Hall, Ireland’s most haunted house, on the way), and stopped at Duncannon Fort for one of the highlights of the trip. For 6 euros a piece we took an hour-long tour with a truly excellent tour guide (thanks, Susan) who told us about the long history of the site, dating back to the Normans. She showed us how the narrow channel into Waterford was easily guarded from foes including Napoleon from the fort—ships had to go directly down the middle (right in range of the fort’s cannons) to avoid getting stranded on shallow sandbanks.

Really a worthwhile tour and they’re a nonprofit trying to raise funds for restoration works (we told them to raise the price of the tour as it is easily worth double what we paid) so do visit if you’re in the area.

Back in Waterford it was time for dinner and, more importantly, drinks. Although we had our vaccine certs for indoor dining, it was a nice night so we preferred to eat outside, and found Revolution (a bar with a good selection of local craft beer) and Tully’s (a traditional pub with great Guinness). That kept us going for the night.

On day two we undertook our main plan for the trip. The Comshingaun Lough loop walk is meant to be one of Ireland’s most impressive (at least as far as hikes outside of Kerry goes). If you’ve looked up hikes in Ireland on social media, you’ve probably seen people posing on an outcrop of rocks overlooking a lake.

What you didn’t see was the tiny carpark, already near overflowing when we arrived. We were luckily able to find a place (people arriving later had to park along the road), and we began the 8km hike up a rocky, narrow ridge. It was an enjoyably strenuous hike, requiring a good amount of scrambling and fighting against the strong winds. Definitely one for experienced walkers.

At the top of the ridge, the ground evens out and you walk along the top of peat bogs until you’re around the loop and it’s time to descent down the other side and back to the start.

After Coumshingaun, we drove to Mahon Falls, an impressive waterfall that falls down the side of another mountain in the Comeragh mountains. This was a much easier walk, only a kilometre or so to get close to the falls. You can actually climb to the top, but the Coumshingaun walk wasn’t easy on the knees so we didn’t go too high.

After Mahon Falls we made our way back to Waterford along the Copper Coast, taking a scenic road that followed the coastline until it reached Tramore (a seaside town with a boardwalk and funfair, extremely crowded, we didn’t stay long).

That evening, after a walk through town and a few pints along the way, we found a fantastic Japanese restaurant called Kyoto, ordered way too much food (there’s no place to get sushi in Kerry, so we couldn’t help ourselves), and ended the night early for a good night’s sleep.

The guide at Duncannon fort had recommended that we visit the Medieval museum in the city, so that’s what we did on Monday morning. The city centre of Waterford is fascinating as it still has structures dating back to the Vikings and every era since, and the museum also covered some of the significant periods that Waterford had scene in its history. Very interesting and also well worth a visit.

A storm was on the way, so after the museum we drove home to Kerry, but I will definitely look forward to going back to Waterford. There’s a gorgeous 34-km greenway that stretches from Waterford to the coastal town of Dungarvan that looks lovely to cycle, so there is definitely another trip on the cards in the future.

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