Head south of Dublin and find yourself in Ireland’s self-proclaimed “sunny southeast”. Here you’ll find ancient Christian settlements, medieval castles & towns and the famed Waterford Crystal Factory. Below are our top 7 attractions in the Southeast:
Waterford City is the capital of the so-called ‘Sunny Southeast’ of Ireland. Waterford City was established in Viking times and it has an exciting medieval flavour and riverside bustle. The City is the home of the world famous Waterford Crystal, a lifestyle product of exquisite craftsmanship. After weathering recent and painful economic troubles, the new House of Waterford Crystal has now opened in downtown Waterford. The center comprises an actual living and breathing crystal factory tour, fascinating visitor centre and opulent retail store housing the largest collection of Waterford Crystal in the world. Waterford county offers a dazzling coastline, beautiful river valleys and two dramatic ranges of very accessible mountains. A natural playground, Waterford offers the complete holiday experience.
2. Kilkenny, The Medieval City
Kilkenny, or the Marble City as it is known, is one of Ireland’s oldest towns, and proud of it. Its array of ancient buildings is unrivalled. It is renowned for being a vibrant cultural center, devoted to the musical and visual arts. Its two most impressive landmarks are Kilkenny Castle, founded in 1172 and privately owned until 1967, and St. Canice’s Cathedral. The current structure of the cathedral dates from the 13th century, though this is nowhere near the beginning of its story, which is rich in folklore and legend. There is no shortage of pubs to explore and enjoy in Kilkenny and during the summer the city is always full of life. The summer also sees the city host an Arts Festival and a very highly regarded Comedy Festival called the Cat Laughs.
3. Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny Castle stands dramatically on a strategic height, commanding a crossing of the River Nore and dominating the ‘High Town’ of Kilkenny City. Over the eight centuries of its existence, many additions and alterations have been made to the fabric of the building, making Kilkenny Castle today a complex structure of various architectural styles. The original castle was constructed in the early 13th century for the 4th Earl of Pembroke. The Castle later became the principal Irish residence of the powerful Butler family, and remained so for almost 600 years from 1391 to 1967. The Butler ownership ended when Arthur, 6th Marquess of Ormonde (1893-1971), presented it to the people of Kilkenny in return for a token payment of £50. Due to major restoration works, the central block now includes a library, drawing room, and bedrooms decorated in 1830′s splendour, as well as the beautiful Long Gallery. A suite of former servant’s rooms is the Butler Art Gallery, which mounts frequently changing exhibitions of contemporary art. The Parade Tower is the Castle’s conference venue.
Glendalough (“The Glen of the Two Lakes”), is the site upon which St. Kevin founded a unique monastic settlement in the 6th century. Most of what remains of the settlement is in ruins but the Round Tower at Glendalough, built as a refuge from marauding Vikings, is over a 1000 years old and is remarkably well preserved. The site itself is set next to two clear water lakes beneath the sheer cliffs of a deep glacial valley. It is one of the most serene and beautiful places in all Ireland and it is easy to see why the monks picked it for a place of prayer and contemplation. There are a myriad of walking trails throughout the area making it a truly invigorating place to spend the day.
5. Dunbrody Famine Ship
The Dunbrody Famine Ship is an exact replica of the original vessel, which carried many thousands of immigrants from Ireland to North America between 1845 & 1851 (during and after the Great Famine). Many of the passengers were the evicted tenants of Lord Fitzwilliam’s Wicklow estates and Viscount de Vesci’s Portlaoise estates. The Visitor Experience at Dunbrody provides a unique insight into a period of history which shaped modern day Ireland and America. You will explore the ship, fitted out exactly as it would be for a voyage. You will encounter actors, playing the role of emigrants, in their cramped quarters with their meagre possessions. They will tell you their harrowing stories of being forced to emigrate. A member of the crew will tell you the story of other voyages and all about life on board a sailing ship. This authentic recreation… complete with actors, sound effects and smells, will truly transport you back in time.
6. Powerscourt House & Gardens
One mile long and lined by over 2,000 beech trees, even the avenue leading to the Powerscourt House echoes the magnificence of the whole estate. In addition the 47 acres of gardens are remarkable for their grandeur of scale, at the same time combining great delicacy and refinement of detail. The house was gutted by fire in 1974 but recently has been reborn as an exceptional tourist destination. An exhibition brings to life the rich history of the estate, while the double height Georgian ballroom has been restored and hosts weddings and corporate events. The house is now home to the best of Irish design in gifts, clothes, and furniture in the Avoca Stores and the Interiors Gallery. You can also treat yourself to a dish from the Avoca Cookbook in the Terrace Cafe. The gardens at Powerscourt were laid out in two main periods. When the house was rebuilt in the decade after 1731, the surrounding grounds were also remodelled. The design reflected the desire to create a garden which was part of the wider landscape. To the north formal tree plantations framed the vista from the house, while a walled garden, fish pond, cascades, grottos and terraces lay to the south. Walks wound through the wooded grounds and a fine tree lined avenue was created. A century later the 6th Viscount Powerscourt instructed his architect, Daniel Robertson, to draw up new schemes for the gardens.
In Avoca Village, you will find the “Meeting of the Waters” – the point at which the Avonmore and Avonbeg Rivers come together to form the Avoca River. Avoca is home to Ireland’s oldest woollen mill, Avoca Handweavers, established in 1723. This family-owned craft design company began at the Old Mill where weavers produced the beautifully woven fabrics which became Avoca’s hallmark. In recent years, Avoca became famous for being the setting of the popular BBC soap opera “Ballykissangel”.