Explore Waterford – Ten Top Things to Do

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Whether you’re walking the narrow streets of Ireland’s oldest city in search of fascinating Viking heritage, or touring the miles of sand and surf along stunning coastline, there are so many rich experiences to be found in County Waterford.

Cycling on the Wateford Greenway
An aerial view of Curraghmore House and Gardens in County Waterford
Left: Cycling on the Wateford Greenway | Right: An aerial view of Curraghmore House and Gardens in County Waterford

As Ireland moves through its recovery roadmap, there's more and more to see and do! Start planning your Waterford adventure now, but before you set out remember to contact the places you wish to visit to book tickets or to check opening hours; that way, you'll avoid disappointment as some attractions may not have reopened yet for visitors (but they will soon).

Whether you'd like to visit the birthplace of world-famous crystal or climb ancient towers to take in the seascapes of the Copper Coast – now is the time to explore Waterford. Read on for our pick of the best things to do in The Déise...


1. Visit Waterford Treasures

Uncover the story of Ireland’s oldest city, founded by the Vikings in 914, at Waterford Treasures. A trio of museums each set in historic buildings, the Viking Museum, Medieval Museum and Bishop’s Palace Museum are all within minutes’ walk of each other in Waterford City’s Viking Triangle. Marvel at 9th century Viking warrior armour and the largest collection of Waterford Glass in the world, while costumed actors guide you through the story of Waterford from 1700 to the 1970s. Check website for opening hours.

 

2. King of the Vikings Virtual Reality Experience

Steps from The Viking Museum, get up close and personal with the Viking warlords who founded Waterford city at King of the Vikings. The dynamic, virtual reality experience is set in a replica Viking house within the atmospheric ruins of a medieval monastery. Don your magical Viking helmet (a 3D headset) and travel back 1100 years, where you’ll come face to face with the legendary Viking leader Reginald, King of Waterford and York. Currently closed, but check their website for more information. 

 

3. Walk or Cycle the Waterford Greenway

The longest off-road walking and cycling route in Ireland, the Waterford Greenway runs from the city, along the scenic route of an old railway line, to the pretty quay-side town of Dungarvan. Bike or walk a section, or the full 46km if you’re feeling energetic and you’ll be rewarded with pretty picnic spots, hidden history, towering viaducts and even a vast tunnel. Soak up the views, stopping off for refreshments along the way, until you reach the impressive panorama of historic Dungarvan Bay.

 

4. Curraghmore House and Gardens

The ancestral home of the ninth Marquess of Waterford, Curraghmore House and Gardens near Portlaw is Ireland’s largest private demesne, with over 1,000 hectares of formal gardens, woodland and grazing fields. The Marquess’ ancestors, the de la Poers, came to Ireland from Normandy around 1170 and tours of Curraghmore House take in some of the finest neo-classical rooms in Ireland. 
 
A Sitka spruce planted on the estate in the 1830s is said to be one of the tallest in the country and stands guard over King John's Bridge, the oldest bridge in Ireland. The estate, which hosts the All Together Now music festival during the August bank holiday, opens to the public from May until September. Opening up to public again from July 22 2020 with pre-booked visits only. 

A colourful pagoda in Mount Congreve Gardens
The old stone gateway at Lismore Castle
Left: A colourful pagoda in Mount Congreve Gardens | Right: The old stone gateway at Lismore Castle

5. Mount Congreve Estate

Plant lovers will adore Waterford’s Mount Congreve Estate, known as one of the ‘Great Gardens of the World’. Explore 30 hectares of colourful, planted gardens and the equally impressive walled garden, just outside Waterford City in Kilmeaden, where you’ll find more than 3,000 species of trees and shrubs and thousands of rhododendrons, camellias, conifers and climbers.


6. Tramore Strand

One of the most aptly named towns in the region, Tramore, meaning ‘big strand’ is famous for its 5km stretch of golden, sandy beach that’s lapped by the Atlantic Ocean. Approach along the coast from Annestown for the most spectacular views of the bay, peninsula and promenade, with Brownstown Head beyond. Sign up for surf lessons at Tramore Surf School, explore the sand dunes or take a scenic cliff walk.


7. Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens 

Just five minutes from the beach in Tramore is Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens an homage to the life of local Irish writer, Patrick Lafcadio Hearn. Each garden contains elements of the style and planting traditions of the countries that played a part in Hearn’s life, including an American Garden, a Greek Garden and a Victorian Garden, representing his childhood summers in Tramore. The Japanese Tea Garden is influenced by traditional Japanese strolling gardens. Visit any time during opening hours for a self-guided tour or book a guided tour in advance.


8. Lismore Castle Gardens and Heritage Centre

Although Lismore Castle is a private family home, the public are welcome to enjoy the beautiful Lismore Castle Gardens; their panoramic position overlooking the Blackwater Valley provides wonderful views of rolling, wooded hills to the Knockmealdown Mountains beyond. The gardens sit on the outskirts of the heritage town of Lismore with its picture-perfect streets, steeped in stories. Built by monks and plundered by Vikings, Lismore has been home to royalty and Hollywood stars.
 
Visit The Lismore Experience at The Lismore Heritage Centre for an award winning presentation narrated by Niall Toibin and hear all about monastic Lismore, Vikings, Normans, Sir Walter Raleigh and the many famous people who have visited this corner of County Waterford, including John F Kennedy and even Fred Astaire.

Sunset fishing on the Copper Coast
Exploring the ruins on a cliff walk at Ardmore
Left: Sunset fishing on the Copper Coast | Right: Exploring the ruins on a cliff walk at Ardmore

9. The Copper Coast Geopark

A 25 kilometre stretch of spectacular coastline consisting of scalloped beaches and coves enclosed by rocky headlands, The Copper Coast gets its name from the 19th century copper mines hidden below ground. Now a UNESCO Global Geopark, the park extends along the Waterford coastline from Fenor in the east to Stradbally in the west and up to Dunhill in the north.
 
Take the audio tour around Annestown, or trail cards can be printed or downloaded to your phone for self-guided tours of of Annestown, Boatstrand, Bunmahon, Dunhill, Fenor and Stradbally. Trails can be followed by motorists, cyclists or for the more energetic, on foot.

 

10. Ardmore Cliff Walk and Monastery

A visit to the pretty seaside village of Ardmore is a must, on your visit to the Copper Coast. St. Declan founded a monastery there in the 5th century and today, a number of sites remain including the Round Tower and Cathedral. Explore the old church and monastic buildings on a self-guided tour, before embarking on a cliff walk to enjoy some of Ireland's finest birdwatching vantage points. 
 
With so much to explore in County Waterford, you have plenty of reasons to go – what are you waiting for?

As you plan your escape, be sure to contact individual attractions and businesses in advance to confirm they're ready to welcome visitors again. Because our changed world means a new focus on public protection, social distancing and safe travel measures will be essential everywhere — as explained in the new nationwide COVID-19 Safety Charter.

While you're mapping out your getaway, there are many more ways to find something for everyone in Ireland's Ancient East. Ready to go further afield? Find out more about how to Make a Break for It in other regions of our amazing island...

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