Relive epic tales of heroes and villains in Norman Ireland

Route:

Wexford to Tipperary and Kilkenny


Features:

Kilkenny Medieval Mile; Rock of Cashel

Journey Overview:

Explore the stormy past and enduring splendour of Ireland’s Norman era. From Hook Head to the Rock of Cashel, you'll discover the warring lords and cultured ladies, the powerful merchants and besieged revolutionaries who have left their mark on Ireland’s great houses and formidable castles. Whether you're taking a riverbank stroll into history at Cahir, or scaling medieval battlements in Enniscorthy, there’s a world of living heritage to enjoy.

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Day

Day 1
Stunning view of Hook Head Lighthouse

Day 1

  • 1 hr
  • 15 mins
  • 70 km
  • 43 miles

Route:

Hook Head, Wexford, to Enniscorthy, Wexford


Points Of Interest:

Hook Lighthouse, Johnstown Castle Gardens & Agricultural Museum, Enniscorthy Castle

Journey Overview:

Hook Head, home to one of the oldest working lighthouses in the world, has thrilling stories and spectacular ocean views. Read more

The original 13th-century lighthouse was erected by Strongbow’s son-in-law William Marshall, although legend has it that Christian missionary Dubhán lit a beacon on Hook for passing ships as early as the 5th century. From the tip of the peninsula, weave along the coastline towards the Irish Agricultural Museum within the farm buildings of 19th century Johnstown Castle. Find out what rural life was really like from the 18th to the 20th century at this captivating exhibition covering everything from country kitchens to the impact of the Great Famine. Afterwards, wander the extensive gardens designed by Daniel Robertson in the 19th century. Clearly a skilled designer, Robertson was quite a character too. Lord Powerscourt, whose famous gardens in Wicklow were built by Robertson, said of him: “he was always in debt and used to hide in the domes of the roof of the house” whenever the sheriffs arrived. You can do the same at the Enniscorthy Castle as it’s one of the few castles in Ireland with access to the roof. Look out onto the stunning countryside and let your imagination soar with tales of Anglo-Norman knights, Gaelic kings and Elizabethan adventurers.
 

If you have more time: 

Enjoy local produce at the elegant Marlfield House just outside Gorey. Part of Ireland's Blue Book guide and with a luxurious interior, the house boasts two great restaurants: the House Conservatory restaurant and the more relaxed Duck Terrace. Or why not just enjoy afternoon tea in the drawing room?

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Day 2
Couple at the ruins of Fern Castle

Day 2

  • 1 hr
  • 15 mins
  • 113 km
  • 70 miles

Route:

Wexford to Kilkenny


Points Of Interest:

Wells House and Gardens, Ferns Castle, Kilkenny Castle

Engage With The Stories:

Sabine Rosler

Sabine Rosler

At Wells House and Gardens in Wexford, Sabine shares the story of the Doynes family who lived there for over 260 years and created a verdant paradise around the impressive manor house.


Journey Overview:

Follow Robertson’s footsteps further to discover the elegance of Wells House and Gardens. Read more

Robertson completely redesigned this house in the 1830s, bringing its history from the 1600s into the Victorian era. The House Tour takes you through a fascinating history covering Cromwell, rebellions and the Famine as you walk around this plush mansion, with its Versailles drawing room and atmospheric library. Keep some time for the terraced gardens, woodlands and lawns before making your way to what’s said to be Europe’s smallest cathedral, St Edan’s, and Ferns Castle. Craggy, imposing and impressive, the ruins of the castle date back to the time of Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster. In 1169, MacMurrough brought the Normans to Ireland to help him fight his battles, thus changing the course of Irish history forever. Entering Kilkenny, you can see just how successful the Normans became as Kilkenny Castle looms into view over the river. Built by William Marshall in 1195, this striking fortress became the bastion of rebel resistance during Cromwell’s 17th century conquest of Ireland, and also witnessed scenes of revolution and tragedy during the Civil War. Take a tour, before relaxing with a bite to eat in the nearby Kilkenny Design Centre.
 

If you have more time:

Find your way to a little passageway called Butterslip – one of Kilkenny's most atmospheric medieval lanes. It was once lined with butter vendors: the arched entry and narrow stone street ensured they kept their butter cool.

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Day 3
Visitors at the Rock of Cashel

Day 3

  • 1 hr
  • 30 mins
  • 100 km
  • 62 miles

Route:

Kilkenny to Tipperary


Points Of Interest:

Medieval Mile, Rothe House, St Canice's Cathedral, Rock of Cashel, Cahir Castle

Engage With The Stories:

Pat Tynan

Pat Tynan

From burning maids to greedy merchants, follow the trail of some of medieval Kilkenny's most colourful characters on Pat Tynan's walking tour.
 

Journey Overview:

Start by tracing Kilkenny’s history along the Medieval Mile, where the legacy of one of the city’s most powerful merchant families is on full display in Rothe House.

Read more

This remarkably preserved building now stands as a museum and is home to fascinating artefacts and stories of Kilkenny’s distant past. Keep your ears open for tales of Ireland’s first accused witch, Alice Kyteler, as you continue on to St Canice’s Cathedral, a masterpiece of medieval architecture with stained glass windows and scenic views from the adjacent round tower. Mind you, nothing can quite beat the sight of the iconic Rock of Cashel, looming up out of the green Tipperary landscape like a fairytale castle. Walk uphill, step inside and you’re into another world, with tales of the King of Munster’s conversion to Christianity and views across the Golden Vale. The bucolic beauty of this area has attracted a number of directors over the years, including Stanley Kubrick, who filmed parts of Barry Lyndon (1972) at Cahir Castle a short drive away. Rising out of a rocky outcrop by the River Suir, Cahir is one of Ireland’s largest castles, and has witnessed bloody sieges, brutal bombardments and cousinly killings since it was built in 1142. Stretch the legs a little further to the sweep of green at the Glen of Aherlow. Nestled between Slievenamuck and the Galtee Mountains, the beauty here is breathtaking.
 

If you have more time:

Enjoy a riverbank stroll from Cahir Castle to the Swiss Cottage, a beautiful ornamental cottage built in 1810. Or head to the Old Convent, about a 15-minute drive from Cahir. Nominated for the Best Chef award at the 2015 Irish Restaurant Awards, the Chapel Dining Room here has been wowing customers with an excellent eight-course Irish Artisan Tasting Menu.

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