Continuing on N25 until we reached Dungarvan, we then decided to leave this more modern highway and go back to the curving lanes of the coast. What a fortunate decision this was! By accident, we came upon one of the prettiest cliff drives of our trip. Traversing from Dungarvan through Stradbelly, Bunmahon, Annestown to Tramore, we were halting around every bend, to take in the beauty of the vistas before us. The sun shone brightly once again on the aquamarine sea and the cliffs, with clumps and fields of yellow, then pink, wildflowers.
We took a detour to see a castle. Situated on the top of a small hill, its ruins were completely covered in vines and greenery, the first we had seen in such a state. It was as if it was part of the foliage and hill, and not a man-made structure at all. Coming into Tramore, we admired the wide and long, sandy strand, curving away in the distance.
Taking Route 675, we entered Waterford on Parnell Street. The Bishop’s Palace, the Theatre Royal and City Hall were all bunched up together on our left. Turning onto Parade Quay on the waterfront, we sighted Waterford’s most famous landmark, Reginald’s Tower. When the Danish ruler, Reginald McIvor built this tower a thousand years ago, twelve-foot walls were attached to it, and stood right at the river’s edge. We were able to see some of the remaining walls, which rank next to Derry in their impressiveness. The Danes first established a settlement here in 853.
We rode along the River Suir on Meagher’s and Merchants Quay and took a pic of the medieval-styled clock tower. The northern bank was full of many commercial ships, as that is a great industrial area. We left Waterford on R683 and six miles later were in Passage East. This small hamlet is situated on a large inlet, where the River Suir flows into Waterford Harbour. Waiting for the ferry, we toured the picturesque town square and other buildings, then went to its harbor.
Taking the ferry from Passage East to Ballyhack is a quick way to go from County Waterford to County Wexford and stay on a coast road. We viewed the same shores as the Viking and Norman invaders did. Docking at Ballyhack, we admired the 15th century Knights Templar castle, then took off for Hook Head on R733. We made a stopover at Duncannon, with its star-shaped fort and attractive sandy beach. A fort of some kind has been on this site since Celtic times.
Deciding to have our main meal of the day here, we chose the Buccaneer Table, which was part of The Strand Tavern. Savory seafood chowder, beef, baked potatoes were all part of another marvelous meal that we consumed. Back on the road, we passed a stately house, in a strange location, located on the strand at the water’s edge. Further south, the route ended at Hook Head and its lighthouse, said to be the oldest in Europe, and possibly the world. This may be a case of a bit of blarney!
Monks lit beacons here in the 5th century. Then Raymond Le Gros built the present structure eight hundred years ago. I know there have been great Greek lighthouses in Rhodes and Alexandria, and other civilizations had them as well. But this is, perhaps, the oldest edifice of its kind, still standing. Its bulky, black and white, banded tower stands among some dark, craggy cliffs.
The saying “by Hook or by Crook” originated here. Cromwell is attributed to have said it, when he was going to attack Waterford in 1650. He would land his troops at Hook on the eastern side or at Crook in County Waterford on the western side of Waterford Harbour. Going east, we halted for a snapshot or two of the well-preserved castle in Churchtown. Following the road around Ballyliege Bay, we passed through Fethard-on-Sea, the site of the first landing in Ireland by the Anglo-Normans.
Just outside the village of Saltmills is the beautiful Tintern Abbey, set in a lovely, rural landscape on a finger of the Bay. Built in the 12th century by William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, it was a thanksgiving for his rescue from sea. From here we took a direct route east straight into Wexford. There is another large inlet here called Wexford Harbour, strung along the coast. We decided to splurge and stay at a seaside hotel with balcony. But there were no vacancies!
Disappointed, we rode south towards Rosslare Harbour on N25. We decided to look for a nice farmhouse accommodation. Just three miles along the highway, we saw a sign for Castle Killiane, off on a side lane. We decided to check it out. Going through its formal gate, we entered some beautiful, green meadows. What a pleasant surprise met our eyes! There, before us, was the real thing – a beautiful tower castle with a manor house built inside its walls. It was beyond my dearest dreams and at farmhouse accommodation rates. After seeing and photographing these fairytale affairs all over the country of Ireland, I was finally going to stay in one of them.
The sun was still shining brightly, just before sunset, as I quickly walked around the castle, taking photographs from all angles. On one side with the original gate was a lush garden complete with palm trees. Tall cedar tress and other three-story or higher hardwoods were in front of the manor house portion, with cows grazing in the fields beyond. To the east was a tennis court and further on, the sea. Our third floor suite had views of these last two vistas. My TC (Travel Companion) wanted to go into Wexford to a pub but we opted to stay in our beautiful, luxurious surroundings.
Our congenial host served us breakfast while his wife stayed mainly in the kitchen. Jack and Kathleen Mernagh had purchased the property in 1971 and raised five children here. Mr. Mernagh invited us into the parlor after breakfast, to peruse some books on the estate. We learned that the castle tower portion was a French-Norman edifice erected in the 15th century, while the manor house was added in the 17th century. It is located in Drinagh, Wexford, Ireland with telephone (053) 58885/58898.
We drove into Wexford and did some sightseeing. Paused to see the West Gate, the only surviving structure from the five gates and walls erected in the 14th century. The Bull Ring was the place for the Norman sport of bull baiting. But today it is a memorial to those brave men killed in the 1798 Uprising. Wexford’s citizens were badly treated by Cromwell as well in 1649, when he put to the sword three-quarters of the population.
We walked up the street to the Theater Royal, but it was closed so we couldn’t go inside. The famous Wexford Opera Festival is held here annually in October. Since we both love opera, this is a place we may return, especially with our favorite castle nearby. Driving along the riverfront, on a crescent and quay of the same name, was a statue of John Barry. A local seaman who immigrated to the American colonies, he became the founder of the U.S. Navy, under President George Washington.
Crossing the Slaney River on I-122, we stopped to admire another tall, round tower. What a pretty scene we had before us! A large, colorful pub was located beside the river, with the round tower looming up from a high, green hill behind it, and brilliant golden gorse, spreading everywhere in the foreground. Driving inland, we passed through Enniscorthy, with its 13th century Norman castle, where Spencer wrote some of his epic poem, The Faerie Queen. Yet another castle was in Ferns, as we took N11 into County Wicklow.