Ireland’s Wild and Wonderful Waterford
Waterford is the largest city in the “sunny south east” and one of Ireland’s oldest settled areas. The southeast may not be as sunny as tourism authorities claim it to be, but Waterford is indeed steeped in history and heritage that is kept alive through well-kept monuments to past conquerors and well-preserved old Gaelic traditions like hurling.
The city of Waterford was first founded by the Viking adventurer-plunderer Reginald, immortalized in Reginald’s Tower, one of Waterford’s most visible landmarks. The tower was built in the 10th century as served as a treasure house, bastion of defense and later as a mint. The legendary Irish princess Aoife also met her love Strongbow in this tower. The tower is located within the Viking Triangle, a district of the city that attracts many visitors for its ability to hark back to days of cobblestone streets and clanging armor as well as for the pubs and restaurants that have replaced the smithies and hawkers of old.
The city grew rapidly during medieval times and became one of the country’s most famous ports, both for its utility and its beauty. As the city grew, it swallowed nearby villages that nevertheless retained their character, even into modern times. One of the more established old villages, Ballybricken, is known for its farmers markets and high-quality butchers. The city is situated on the River Suir and just west of where a convergence of rivers enter the Atlantic. The old City Walls are still in good condition and various Waterford-based tours include a walk along the walls as part of their itinerary. There are several other historical landmarks in the city and museums to hold and display the treasures of the past that have become homeless over time. Some of the more attractive are the Waterford Treasures at the Granary, the Waterford Crystal Factory and Museum and the Christ Church Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity. For more information about historic sites in and around Waterford you can check out the city’s official visitor site here.
For the outdoorsy types among you, the city has attractions in all directions, including the UNESCO protected Copper Coast and the Comeragh Mountains.
The Copper Coast Geopark stretches from the town of Dungarven to Tramore and takes its name from old Copper Mines at its heart and its beauty from the interaction of wind, water, stone and fire. The coast here is windswept as is all of Ireland and the North Atlantic slams into the stones in a dialogue with no end, but the volcanoes that erupted here millennia ago account for the unique formations of this strip of Ireland. Several fishing villages, campsites, bike lanes and roads allow for easy access and easy enjoyment of Waterford’s natural treasure.
The Comeragh Mountains to the north are high and rugged enough to please the body, mind and spirit but low enough not to tax the three in any significant way. The mountains make way for the Suir and Blackwater Rivers, forming valleys and small canyons where small hamlets, campsites and hiking trails hide in wait. Here is more information from Waterford’s official tourism site.
The locals are a rowdy and proud lot with their own distinctive slang, culture and unbreakable bond with drink and music. We all know the Irish know how to and dearly love to party and in Waterford there are dozens of pubs and clubs and other nightlife spots where you can find the party. To say there is one or another best pub or one district that is the one place to go for a good time is a waste of time and misses the point. You have to let the currents of your trip take you along and be open to whatever you meet at the end of the road. In Ireland, on a weekend, there is a phenomenally high chance of finding a drunken musical set to a wavering score in a pub near you.
Waterford is an oft-overlooked city — the many fun-loving cities of Ireland such as Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Donegal, Galway all help to steal the limelight — but one great way to catch it all is to rent a car and drive (or motorcycle) around and across this tiny island, including the sunny southeast in your rambles as you go.
Written by Sascha Matuszak for EuropeUpClose.com