10 Things You Need to Know

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Well for starters, it boasts 17 counties to its name, so you won't be short of things to see and do on your short break. But scratch just beneath the surface and you’ll discover what makes this area so intriguing and well worth a visit. Explore, relax and sample the culture, hang out with the locals and they will unravel (or perhaps embellish…) local stories and tales from over 5,000 years of history!

Couple learning how to make Smithwicks
Huntington Castle in Carlow
Left: Couple learning to make Smithwicks in Kilkenny Right: Huntington Castle in Carlow

10 Things You Need To Know About Ireland's Ancient East...

 

1. It was the monks in Kilkenny that we can credit with the start of the craft brewing culture? These clever holy men found a way of purifying the deadly water that coursed through their land and crafting it into ale. Find out more by visiting the Smithwicks Experience today, wander Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile, visit the castle or check out one of the many craft beer trails around this cosmopolitan city.
 

2.  The world’s first virtual reality Viking experience can be found in Ireland’s oldest city – in the heart of Waterford’s Viking Triangle. Be sure to check out King of the Vikings in Waterford and learn about these blood-thirsty, enslaving raiders, town builders and international traders.
 

3. If you don’t like the local religious persuasion you can just start your own religion! That’s exactly what they did in Huntington Castle in Carlow in the 1970s. The temple in the castle dungeons celebrates the ‘Divine Feminine’ and is a place of worship dedicated to the Egyptian Goddess Isis. Visit today and step into the world of great houses and stately homes.

The Loughcrew Cairns
Hook Head Lighthouse
Cycling on the Waterford Greenway
Left: The Loughcrew Cairns Middle: Hook Head Lighthouse Right: Cycling on the Waterford Greenway
4.  Newgrange, with its illuminations on the winter solstice, is a well-known and incredible place, but what about
Loughcrew Cairns? One of Ireland’s Ancient East’s true hidden gems, this ancient site, located in Meath, welcomes the sun within the tomb at sunrise on the spring and autumn equinoxes. Witness the incredible, decorated back stone become drenched in morning light in an experience that is the same today as it was over 5,000 years ago. Pay a visit, we guarantee you will be blown away!

5. The island once known as ‘Ireland’s Hell’ (but known to the locals today as simply ‘Spike’) Spike Island in Cork has been home to monks and monasteries, rioters and redcoats, convicts, sinners and saints over the last 1,300 years. Take the ferry over from Kennedy Pier in Cobh and explore the mystery and magic of this heritage island – or for the braver souls out there, explore this former place of punishment after dark!
 

6. The term ‘By Hook or by Crooke’ is said to originate from the names of the villages of Hook Head in Wexford and the nearby Crooke, in Waterford. Oliver Cromwell is reputed to have said that Waterford would fall 'by Hook or by Crooke' – that is, by landing his army at one of these two places during the siege of the town in the 17th century. Check out nearby Hook Lighthouse of the same name, the world’s oldest operational lighthouse, or simply enjoy rambling around these two maritime towns.

7. Ireland’s Ancient East has just launched its own Greenway in Waterford – to rival that of our western counties. With viaducts, Norman ruins, old workhouses, mountain views and stunning coastline to enjoy as you journey along it, on foot or by bike, what better way to spend some time on your short break?

Jumping for Joy at Jerpoint Park picture courtesy of Lola Akinmade Åkerström
Jumping for Joy at Jerpoint Park picture courtesy of Lola Akinmade Åkerström

8. In the cathedral at Clonmacnoise there is the 'whispering door'. In times gone by lepers would stand here and confess their sins but still be heard across the cathedral. Discover this sacred monastic site for yourself today and visit nearby riverside town of Athlone with its barges, outdoor cafes and cosmopolitan feel.


9.  We’ve all heard of Santa but did you know that the remains of his predecessor (some say his inspiration) are located in Jerpoint Park in Thomastown, Kilkenny? St. Nicholas’s tomb can be found here, along with the remains of a lost medieval town. Check it out for yourself.


10. Stunning and tranquil, that’s how many would describe the sacred site of Glendalough. But apparently it wasn’t always so! When the Pope declared that seven visits to Glendalough would equal one to Rome in    terms of holy pilgrimages, naturally the popularity of St Kevin’s tranquil valley in Wicklow soared and its peace was shattered by over-boisterous pilgrims! But, never fear – these noisy visitors were in 1862 and the spectacular valley of two lakes has been restored to its former glory today.

This is just a taste of the quirky and wonderful experiences that await you in Ireland’s Ancient East. Short breaks, big adventures – and memories that will last a lifetime.

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Check out more stories, festivals and recommended things to do in Ireland’s Ancient East