Waterford is located in the southeast of Ireland and is famous for being the oldest city in the country, as well as its crystal ware – Waterford Crystal. Founded it 914A.D. it has an entertaining history including the Vikings and the Normans.
Waterford is also part of ‘Irelands Ancient East’ and ‘The Sunny South East’ which means plenty of history and beaches. Below is some key information to help you plan your visit to ‘The Déise‘.
Learn the history of Ireland’s Oldest City
Waterford has some great museums, and its just aswell because when we arrived it was pouring. Chances are when you are here it will too, that’s just Ireland. You can pass alot of time exploring the history of the city however.
Start with Reginald’s Tower, located within the famous Viking Triangle. It’s Waterford’s most important landmark and also Ireland’s oldest civic building. It was first built by the Vikings in 914AD before being fortified by the Normans in the 12th Century.
The tower has a museum inside, which details it’s history from the Vikings, Normans and through to present day. It’s an interesting museum and really gives you a good appreciation for the history of the city. Look out for the magnificent Waterford Kite Brooch (it’s easy to miss), and the Viking sword. Admission is €5 for adults, there is a discount for students.
The next stop on your history lesson is the Medieval Museum. As the name suggests, this museum cover’s Waterford’s history during Medieval times. It has an unmistakable curved facade on the outside, and inside the highlight for me were the 15th century cloth-of-gold vestements. The detail on the them were stunning!
Not as well organised as the Reginald’s Tower but there was still some interesting pieces. Look out for the cap of Henry VIII! Admission is €10.
The final museum in the Viking Triangle is the Bishop’s Palace. This was closed during our stay, so we can’t recommend. It cover’s the history of Waterford from the 18th, 19th and 20th century, so its a good way to end your Waterford history lesson. One of the highlight pieces is said to be the oldest piece of Waterford Crystal in the world! Admission is €7 but you can get a combined ticket of €10 with the Medieval Museum.
Be transported back to Viking Times
Ideally do this after Reginald’s Tower. The King of the Vikings is located in the Viking Triangle (just around the corner from Reginald’s Tower) and is ‘The World’s First Virtual Reality Viking Experience’. It’s also rated as the number 1 thing to do in Waterford on TripAdvisor.
You get given a background story by a guy wearing full Viking costume before putting on your Virtual Reality glasses and being transported back to Viking times. It’s pretty cool, if a little fast paced. I think I would have been lost if I didn’t already have some background about the history from Reginald’s Tower.
Overall it was decent, but for €10 and half an hour, I’d only recommend if you’ve never done VR before.
Top Tip: The ‘showings’ are every half hour, make sure to come in and book ahead, they can sell out in advance!
Waterford is famous worldwide for its crystal and so, when in town, you should pay a visit. Located just steps from the Viking Triangle, Waterford Crystal is a shop, cafe and factory tour in one.
The factory tour takes you behind the scenes and shows you how the famous Waterford Crystal items are made. From watching how the glass is heated, to ‘blowing’ and finally to engraving, the tour gives a good overview and is really quite interesting. Make sure that you get good spots to see the worker’s in action, our tour guide didn’t care if people could see or not, which was disappointing.
The factory tour is €14, or €13 if you book online. Unfortunately you cant reserve a time and have to go into the shop to do this. We were there on a Saturday afternoon and it was busy, we had to wait nearly 2 hours for our tour so bear that in mind when planning your day.
Wander the streets
Yes, really. If you have time in Waterford City after the museums and Waterford Crystal factory, take a stroll around the city. There is a ton of street art (which is, unfortunately, rare for Ireland) dotted all around the perimeter of the Viking Triangle.
As always with Ireland there is a wide selection of pubs to enjoy a pint of Guinness and a meal if you wish. Centrally, ‘The Reg‘ is a popular spot, while alot the entertainment district centers around ‘The Apple Market‘, which is memorable for its canopy.
If you want to continue seeing some important historical sites you should pay a visit to Christ Church Cathedral which is located close to the museums mentioned above. This Church of Ireland Cathedral has a lot of history, including being the place where Strongbow and Aoife got married. Look out for the statue of them outside! Also located inside is the tomb of former mayor James Rice, its pretty frightening exterior has a powerful message.
The Comeragh mountains act as an unofficial border between the counties of Waterford and Tipperary and are a very popular location for hikers and hill walkers. We were drawn to the mountains for the hike to Lake Coumshingaun.
Lake Coumshingaun is a corrie, that was formed by glacial movement during the ice age. To get here you are going to need to drive and park at Kilcooney Woods. We recommend that you set out early, it gives a better chance for nicer weather, and the trail can get busy at weekends and public holidays.
There are many options for this hike, you can just walk to the perimeter of the lake and have a look around, go up to the first viewpoint of the lake and then turn back or you can complete the full loop of the lake (which is what we did).
The full loop of the lake will take about 4 hours and it is quite a demanding hike. The weather can make it especially tough as once up the top, there is no protection from the elements. We recommend you to bring waterproof everything, and a wind breaker (depending on the weather, of course).
Mahon Falls are one of the most famous landmarks of the Comeragh mountains. They are about 80m in height and are said to be particularly impressive after a heavy bout of rain. I have heard stories of the falls being non-existent in the summer months, so bear that in mind.
You can park your car about 2km and then commence a not very strenuous walk to the falls. You have a nice viewpoint of the falls all the way there. How close you get depends on your interest, but be careful, as its slippy!
The falls are located along the Comeragh drive which is a pleasant drive through the mountains, with some stunning viewpoints along the way.
The Waterford Greenway is a very popular cycling/walking route from Waterford to the town of Dungarvan. The Greenway was built along the old Waterford-Dungarvan railway route and is completely off-road.
The Greenway is 46km in total and the main towns along the way are Waterford, Kilmacthomas and Dungarvan. The most spectacular part of the route is said to be the 22km from Kilmacthomas to Dunagarvan however.
We did the route from Dungarvan to Kilmacthomas and back again. To be honest we thought it was 10km one way so to end up doing 44km in total that day was quite the surprise. But the route is gorgeous and was well worth the effort. Special mention has to go to the views along the coast at Clonea, the “fairy forest” along the route and the Coach House Cafe in Kilmacthomas.
There are plenty of places that provide bike hire (and some include a bus collection if you don’t want to cycle back). We went with O’Mahoney’s cycles and they cost €15 each (no transport included). The bikes were in really good condition and we can recommend this company.
A gorgeous town in the west of Waterford, Lismore and it has some great tourist sites.
Lismore Castle Gardens is a beautiful location to take a stroll around. Costing €8 you can walk around the colorful gardens with an amazing view of the castle itself. We were here in March and the colours of the trees and plants was goregous! Look out for the Berlin Wall in one corner of the lower gardens – such a strange location to find it!
Ballysaggartmore Towers are located just a few minutes by car from the town of Lismore. These Towers, built by the infamous landlord Kiely-Ussher, are located in the forest (which is nearly worth a visit in itself). The towers are free to visit and stunning to visit, but make sure you read the story of why they are there in the first place!
What else to do in Waterford?
The list of things to do in Waterford was too large for us to be able to cram it all in on a long weekend. Below are some extra ideas; if you have the time.
- Visit some of Waterford’s famous beaches; Tramore, Bunmahon and Dunmore East are particularly nice.
- Visit the garden’s of Mount Congreve house close to Waterford City (and the Greenway).
- Visit the Hindu-Gothic Dromana Gate.
- Marvel at the picturesque setting of Mount Mellery Abbey in Cappoquin.