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Tourist Places To Visit In Waterford Town
Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland. It is located in the south-eastern part of the country, along the River Suir in the province of Munster. The city was founded by the Vikings more than a thousand years ago, and much of Waterford’s historic attractions revolve around its fascinating Viking heritage. There are plenty of museums, ancient monuments, exciting pubs and restaurants here to keep you coming back for more. The city’s crowning glory is the production of Waterford Crystal, which has put Waterford on the map and contributes to the city’s economy as well. Read on to find out our recommendations for the top places to visit when in Waterford.
The ancient Reginald’s Tower is the oldest civic building in the country and has Anglo-Norman origins. While the design of the current structure dates back to the 13th-century, the tower was earlier a part of a Viking Fort and may originally be about 1000 years old. Its initial purpose was for defence and the tower boasts walls that are over three metres thick, but over the years it has continued to serve various purposes like being a military warehouse, a royal keep, a mint and now home to the Viking Museum. Highlights of the museum include archaeological and historical artefacts that highlight the city’s Viking heritage. The Woodstown dig from 2003 unearthed treasures like silver ingots, swords, Byzantine coins and nails from ships of the era. There is also a model of what the town might have looked like back then, along with a spiral staircase that is referred to as ‘stumble steps’.
Waterford’s Bishop’s Palace was completed in the year 1741 and is the first of many Georgian monuments in the region. The opulent design of the palace is one of many examples of grand buildings that were built in the 18th and 19th-century here and is a testament to Waterford’s immensely wealthy past due to the city being a significant port and place of trade back in the day. The building, built by the famous architect Richard Castles, now serves as a museum and is home to interesting pieces of history from the 1700s; like Waterford’s oldest piece of crystal – the Penrose decanter – from 1789, and the last surviving mourning cross that was made to commemorate Napoleon’s death in the year 1821. On the top floor, visitors get to experience Waterford’s history with details about the War of Independence and World War I, and a special focus on the Georgian times.
The Medieval Museum in Waterford is the only museum in the country that is solely dedicated to the medieval era. The building houses the Chorister’s Hall from the 13th-century, with an underground wine vault dating back to the 15th-century. A spiral staircase from the 13th-century leads to two well-preserved medieval chambers, which has some amazing historical artefacts like the Cloth of Gold vestments, which is the only set medieval vestments in Europe and dates back to 1460; pilgrim badges, King Edward IV’s sword, the relic of the True Cross, and King Henry VIII’s Cap of Maintenance, which was presented to the city in the 16th-century.
House of Waterford Crystal
The original Waterford Crystal has been in business since 1783. The parent company went into receivership after 2009, and in 2010, the crystal business was reborn and production started once again after the city’s intervention. After all, Waterford crystal has long been a part of the city’s identity and the business contributes largely to its economy. The new factory allows visitors for guided tours, where they get to see the crystal blown, cut and polished with techniques that have been around for centuries. In this one-hour tour, visitors can also interact with the glassblowers and crystal-makers themselves, who will enlighten you with their knowledge and secrets. 826 tons of crystal is melted here each year, which is used to create items of magnificent beauty that is famous the world over. The manufacturing facility also has a visitor centre, and at the end of the tour, there is a store where you can buy some of the world’s finest Waterford crystal pieces to take home with you.
Mount Congreves was originally owned by the Congreves family and was built in the year 1760 when they moved from England to settle here outside Waterford. This Georgian house is surely a thing of exquisite beauty, but visitors often come here to enjoy the world-renowned botanical gardens outside the manor and spread over an area of 30 hectares. The gardens were planted by Ambrose Congreve in the 20th-century and at present, there are more than 3000 various types of plants and trees here. A walled garden almost 2 hectares in size with a lovely lily pond, an attractive Chinese Pagoda temple built in 1840, and a wonderful little rock waterfall are some of the highlights of the place. There are guided tours of the gardens available, but one can also enjoy a good stroll by themselves while exploring the 16 km of pathways that criss-cross through the property.
Lismore is a scenic heritage town situated alongside River Blackwater, around 70 km from Waterford. It makes for a great day trip from the city and has plenty of stunning attractions to enjoy for hours. One of the highlights of the town is the Lismore Castle that towers imposingly over the gently flowing waters of the river. There is a heritage centre on site that offers information about the castle, with daily walking tours that are organised twice a day. The St. Carthage’s Cathedral is also a must-visit here, which can be accompanied by spending some quality time in quaint cafes that line the charming streets of Lismore. The Towers Woodland Trail is also worth exploring here, which is located just 5 kilometres outside of town and features a charming countryside.
Christ Church Cathedral
The Christ Church Cathedral is the third church raised on this site for Waterford’s Church of Ireland congregation and is the primary place of worship for the city’s Protestant population. The original building is believed to have been built around 1096 AD, with the current structure dating back to the late 18th-century. It boasts spectacular Neoclassical architecture with Corinthian columns and decorative stuccowork, with just one pillar remaining from its previous Gothic design. Spaciously elegant interiors, a historic pipe organ and over ten Waterford crystal chandeliers make the church’s insides appear just as stunning as its exterior. The Rice monument dating back to 1469 and the Fitzgerald monument made entirely of Carrara marble are two fine tombs housed in the church.
An easy 20-minute drive away from Waterford, Dunmore East is a charming old fishing village that is often considered to be a hidden gem in the county and makes for an awesome day trip on a warm, sunny day from the city. A beautiful working port that is perfect for a stroll and some brilliant seafood restaurants make up the highlights in Dunmore East, along with amazing opportunities to indulge in some cliff-top walks along the rocky and indented coastline. There are six protected coves here if you fancy a brisk swim; if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, hit up the Dunmore Adventure company for activities like kayaking, paddle-boarding and other water sports.
Curraghmore House & Gardens
The Curraghmore House and Gardens is a beautiful country estate located about 30-minutes away from Waterford’s city centre. It was built for the la Poer family – who still live here – in the early 12th-century; the gardens have been open for public use. The estate consists of 2500 acres of gardens, woodlands and pastures, with long trails and paths that lead to various points in the gardens. One of them is the stone-arched King John’s Bridge, which was built in 1205 and is the oldest bridge in the country. You’ll also find Ireland’s tallest tree here, dating back to the early 19th-century. Group tours are also available for some of the main rooms of the manor. One of the best times to visit this place is during the Waterford Country Fair that is held in June each year.
Comeragh Mountains and Coumshingaun Lough
Comeragh Mountains are a popular hiking spot near Waterford. They consist of 12 peaks, with the highest peak in the range falling just short of 800 metres. Coumshingaun Lough is the largest glacial lake in Ireland, and one of the most scenic locations in the county. Hiking through the Comeragh Mountains will mesmerize you with stunning views of the Irish countryside, with views of the Coumshingaun Lough surely one of the most exquisite you will ever see. The still waters of the lake appear almost inky black most of the time, except when the sun is shining brightly over it, which turns the lake into the dark midnight blue.