County Waterford Essentials

County Waterford - putting it on the Irish map
County Waterford - putting it on the Irish map. © Bernd Biege 2014

Interested in visiting County Waterford? This part of the Irish Province of Munster has a solid number of attractions you will not want to miss. Plus some interesting sights that are slightly off the beaten path. So why not take your time and spend a day or two in Waterford when visiting Ireland? Here are some ideas to make it worth your while.

County Waterford in a Nutshell

County Waterford is located on the southern coast of Ireland in the Province of Munster, the Irish name is Phort Láirge, with the literal (and quite fitting) meaning af a "hilly shore". The more common name Waterford, however, derives from the Scandinavian vadrefjord, the "Ford of Castrated Rams". Before the Vikings settled here, the area was apparently known as cuan na gréine, or the "Harbour of the Sun" - yes, they do have good weather here. The Irish car registrations used to be W (Waterford City) and WD (Waterford County), by now only W is in use for the whole county.

Surprisingly, perhaps, the county town was Dungarvan, local reforms changed it to Waterford City. Other important towns include Clonmel, Dunmore East, Portlaw, and Tramore. The overall size of the county is 1,857 km2 (or 717 sq mi), the population was counted as 113,795 in 2011.

Now, what is there to see and visit in County Waterford?

Waterford City - Viking at the Core

Small enough to be taken in within a day, yet exciting enough to make the time for it - Waterford City is a sea port off the sea (the river Suir provides the waterfront) and fragments of the medieval city walls can still be traced around the centre. The most prominent part is Reginald's Tower (open to visitors) near the marina.Not to be missed is the exhibition of Waterford Treasures at the old granary on Merchant's Quay. The history of the city comes to life here. Stroll through the inner city where modern and old architecture fuse, do some retail therapy in the shopping centres.

And maybe visit Waterford Crystal, home of the glittering cut class.

Ardmore's Round Tower

The round tower of Ardmore, as much a navigation aid for mariners as a sign of the monastery it was attached to, still stands proud at 29 meters height, around eight centuries after it was erected. Though the most visible building from afar, it is by no means solitary. A 12th-century cathedral is almost contemporary with it, but retains parts of earlier churches (like a chancel from three centuries before). A Romanesque carving relates stories from the bible and Ogham stones carry the earliest Irish "writing".

Add to this the nearby oratory from the 8th century, maybe at the site of Saint Declan's grave, and you have photo opportunities a-plenty.

Fabulous Lismore Castle

Lismore Castle, which you can actually rent, a fairly recent addition to the landscape (it was built by Joseph Paxton for the 6th Duke of Devonshire in the 19th century), also retains some medieval heritage - parts are remains of a castle built by Prince John (of Robin Hood fame) around 1185. The gardens are open to the public and have woodlands, shrubberies, an almost mandatory yew walk, and a walled garden. Best visited in spring when the magnolias and camellias are in bloom. By the way, it is said that English poet Edmund Spenser wrote parts of his "Fairie Queene" here.

Maybe take a copy with you and soak up the atmosphere while reading Elizabethan poetry.

Seaside Fun

If you are looking for an archetypal seaside resort, maybe Tramore will fit the bill - complete with beaches, a metal man as a quirky sort of navigation sign, show gardens, horse racing and an amusement park. Usually quite packed in summer it can still be enjoyed if you are not really expecting peace and quiet.

Narrow-Gauge Delights

Just a short distance outside the small town of Kilmeadan (famed for cheese) you will find the Waterford and Suir Valley Railway. A small narrow-gauge line kept alive by enthusiasts and offering train rides during the summer season. Not really a "big thing", but a pleasant journey back in time, when trains were tiny but still ran through the rural backwaters.

The Copper Coast

Part of the Waterford coast is a designated UNESCO geopark (the Copper Coast), but most of it is enjoyable anyway (if you manage to bypass the often hideously intrusive caravan parks). The west coast of Waterford Harbour offers nice beaches with splendid views of the Hook Peninsula, Dunmore East, Tramore and Dungarvan are lively towns full of restaurants and pubs, the beaches in Clonea Bay, Dungarvan Harbour, Ardmore Bay and Whiting Bay are simply made for long, relaxing walks (or short, bracing dips).

While walking, keep a look-out - occasionally whales and dolphins can be spotted, seals are quite common too.

Traditional Music in County Waterford

Visiting County Waterford and stuck for something to do in the evening? Well, you could do worse than head out into a local pub (which, by default, will be an "original Irish pub") and then join a traditional Irish session ... so why not give it a try?

Most sessions start at around 9:30 pm or whenever a few musicians have gathered.

Ballybricken

  • "Bobby Grace's" - Wednesday
  • "Ned Kelly's" - Thursday

Dungarvan - "Bean a Leanna" - Thursday, Friday, and Sunday

Rinn

  • "Marine Bar" - Monday and irregular on weekends
  • "Mooney's" - Friday to Sunday

Waterford City

  • "Bridge Hotel" - Monday
  • "Croker's Bar" - Thursday
  • "T.H. Doolan's" - every day

More Information on County Waterford and the Province of Munster

Continue Your Travels Beyond County Waterford's Borders

Enough time spent in County Waterford? Then hop over to the neighboring counties: