Things to Do in South East Ireland
Waterford Crystal, the prestigious brand behind New York City’s Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball and the chandeliers at Westminster Abbey, was founded back in 1783. These days, the public can visit the main crystal factory complex to observe skilled craftsmen blowing the molten crystal or browse a collection of dazzling crystal pieces.
The vast Gothic cathedral of St. Canice is named in honor of a sixth-century Irish abbot and preacher and sits on the site of a church dating right back to that time. Completed in 1285, it is a prominent landmark in the charming – and tiny – Irish city of Kilkenny, which in the sixth century was the main settlement of the ancient Kingdom of Ossary. The town grew to be a Catholic center of some importance in Ireland, which explains the presence of the country’s second-largest cathedral. Complete with rose windows and slender spires, the exterior of the cathedral is built of limestone, and on sunny days its interior is aglow with light that sparkles on the patterned marble floors from the stained-glass windows. Among its treasures are several unusual 17th-century tomb chests and the reputed stone throne of St Kieran, a fifth-century bishop. St. Canice also houses the Great War Memorial List, containing the names of all Irishmen who died in World War I.
The slender, 98.5-foot (30-meter) round tower adjacent to the church was built in the ninth century and originally acted as a look-out tower to protect the residents of Kilkenny and their precious religious sites. It can be climbed by a steep internal stairway for views over the medieval rooftops of the city center.
Wayfaring Norse invaders first arrived in Ireland in the eighth century, and while they looted, enslaved and caused quite a bit of destruction, these early Vikings also founded several Irish towns, including Waterford. Established in 914, Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city, and its cultural and historic center — once surrounded by Viking walls — is today known as the Viking Triangle.
One of the Triangle’s most fascinating landmarks is Reginald’s Tower, a twelfth century building that now houses one of the three Waterford Treasures Museums. It is also the only monument in the country to be named after a Viking. Other attractions of note in the Viking Triangle’s narrow streets are the Medieval Museum, Bishop’s Palace and the House of Waterford Crystal.
The Waterford Treasures Medieval Museum is one of three museums that make up the Viking Triangle in Waterford, Ireland. It is Ireland’s only purpose-built medieval museum and features two medieval chambers: the 13th century Choristers’ Hall and the 15th century Mayor’s Wine Vault. The latter is the oldest wine vault in Ireland, built around 1440.
Visitors to the Medieval Museum have the opportunity to see an impressive collection of historical treasures, including the Relic of the True Cross, acquired by Pope Paschal II during the First Crusade, and King Henry VIII’s Cap of Maintenance, the only piece of the king’s wardrobe to survive anywhere in the world. Also on display are the Great Charter Roll of Waterford from the 14th century, the Sword of King Edward IV, the Cloth of Gold Vestments from the 15th century, the Great Parchment Book of Waterford, which contains city records from 1356 to 1649, and the Luker Chalice, the oldest Waterford chalice in existence.
Built more than 800 years ago, Hook Lighthouse is one of the oldest operational lighthouses in the world. Picturesquely perched on Hook Head, at the tip of Hook Peninsula, the squat black-and-white-striped structure marks the eastern entrance to Waterford Harbour. Explore the tower and learn about the history of the lighthouse.
The limestone cave complex at Dunmore stretches around 0.5 km (0.25 miles) underground and descends to a depth of 46 m (150 ft). It is open for guided tours of the caverns, which are rich in gleaming limestone stalactites and stalagmites that have been forming, drip by drip, for more than 300 million years. The most spectacular is a vast, colonnaded pillar dubbed the ‘Market Cross’, which is found in a chamber known as the ‘Town Hall’ and is over five m (16.5 ft) high. There is evidence in ancient Irish literature of man settling in the caves as far back as the ninth century, while bones and teeth found in the inner chambers of the complex are thought to be the remains of Vikings murdered in 928. In addition, a hoard of silver and bronze coins, wire buttons and ingots were discovered there in 1999; they are currently displayed in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin and are believed to date from around 970 AD. A small visitor center showcases the history and geology of the cave complex.
Imposing and isolated in an expansive Irish field, Loftus Hall is a mansion shrouded in mystery that has stood since the 14th century. With its curious history, the estate has been called ‘the most haunted house in Ireland.’
It is rumored that while a family was watching the home, with the owners on holiday, the house was approached by a young man who arrived from out of town. The man was welcomed indoors by the daughter Anne, who noticed that the man had a cloven foot during a game of cards. It is said that the man exited immediately through the roof, which left a hole in the ceiling that has never fully repaired. It is also said that the girl still haunts the house as a ghost after she fell ill following the visit. But this is just the ghost story…
The home was later converted into a school for girls and convent by the Sisters of Providence, after being abandoned by the Loftus family. The beautiful home maintains its beautifully tiled floors and majestic staircase. Whether or not a ghost inhabits the space is still up to interpretation.
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