Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city and is famous for its medieval history, crystal making and of course, the blaa. The county is a combination of rich history and untarnished countryside. Below are my top 10 favourite things to do in the capital of the sunny southeast.
1. Tour the Viking triangle
With the tag line “More than 1,000 years in 1,000 steps” the tour packs a lot of history into a very small space. The Viking Triangle is the geographical area within Waterford city where the original medieval city once stood. Within the triangle are the three museums of Waterford Treasures. They are Reginald’s Tower, the Medieval Museum, and Bishop’s Palace. Each museum is packed with historical ornaments and treasures from three different time periods dating as far back as the 8th Century when the city of “Vadrarfjord” was first founded. You can visit these museums separately or as part of a combined tour which looks at other aspects of the Triangle’s history too.
2. Waterford Crystal tour
Located within the Viking Triangle and directly across from Bishop’s Palace is the House of Waterford Crystal. Visitors can choose to roam freely around the retail store viewing masterpieces of craftsmanship or take a tour of the factory floor. The tour is really interesting and brings you through the entire production process of the world-famous crystal. Waterford Crystal still uses the 200-year old tradition of handcrafting all of its pieces. Along the tour, you get to see first-hand the expertise and skills of the master cutters as they shape, cut and design the handcrafted pieces from memory.
3. Visit Mahon Falls and the magic road
Mahon Falls is located high in the Comeragh Mountains. The most direct way to get there is head out the main Waterford-Dungarvan road (N25) until you see the signpost for the turn off towards the falls. Getting there is nearly half the fun as you pass along one of the many famous ‘magic roads’ of Ireland. Along the winding road up to the falls is a landmark tree covered in ribbons with a stone sign naming the magic road. Watch in amazement as your car slowly rolls ‘uphill’ along this road. The falls themselves are stunning, over 80 meters high and the views back down over the valley are beautiful. Even on a sunny day, the valley is quite cold from the bellowing winds so bring a jacket.
4. Comeragh drive and Coumshingaun Lough
Hidden high up in the same mountain range is the glacial valley, home of Coumshingaun Lough. To get there you can trek across from Mahon Falls (for experienced hikers only) or if you prefer you can drive there instead. Driving only brings you half way though and there is still a moderate hike up the glacial pass towards the lake. Good footwear is essential. The effort of getting to this hidden gem is worth it though. The unspoiled lake offers a scene of peace and tranquillity and on a sunny day, the views from atop the hillside are simply stunning.
5. Swim at the Guillamenes
No trip to Waterford is complete without going for a dip in the sea. Just up from Tramore beach is Newtown Cove and here are the famous diving piers of Newtown Cove and the Guillamines. Swimmers here brave the cold waters of the Celtic sea, diving from the many peers and diving boards available.
6. Visit the Metal man
Getting to the Metal man is tricky. The route starts at Newtown cove and requires explorers to hike and trek across the naked cliff-face to reach him. The views along the way, however, are worth it. On a clear day, you can see all across the coastline and the crisp sea air is refreshing.
7. Drive the Copper Coast
The Copper coast stretches from Dungarvan to Tramore and offers plenty of beautiful beaches, historical buildings and landmarks to discover along the way. You can read more about this beautiful coastal drive in my blog here.
8. Walk along Tramore beach
Tramore beach spans an impressive 5 km in length from the promenade to the furthermost point on the beach. On a sunny day when the skies are clear and the tide is out there is a great looping walk you can do. The walk extends along the coastline from the water’s edge and back again, down the back of the sand dunes. Great exercise and a great way to get in some fresh, sea air.
9. Surf the Celtic sea
Technically speaking, the stretch of the sea along the southern coast of Ireland is called the Celtic Sea. There is much debate as to whether it should be included as part of the Wild Atlantic Way but either way, it offers some great surfing opportunities. There are numerous surfing locations along the Waterford coastline, Tramore being the biggest and most accommodating surf location. Check out my blog post for more information about surfing at Tramore beach.
10. Visit Waterford Castle and Golf resort
The privately owned 310-acre island is situated in the middle of the river Suir. The castle itself is now a luxury resort for guests to stay in but the island has plenty to offer curious explorers. The grounds contain an 18-hole championship golf course but if that’s not your thing the island has plenty of walks and gardens to discover. Why not try your hand at clay pigeon shooting or even falconry? The castle offers a luxury setting for anyone looking for that dream wedding location. If you’re feeling fancy, you can book in for some fine-dining afternoon tea in any of the three elegantly designed dining rooms.
Tips and Tricks
- Full tours of the Viking Triangle are seasonal however you can visit each of the three Treasure museums individually if you like, year-round.
- The Waterford Crystal tour is cheaper if you book online (10% saving compared to on-the-door price).
- The magic road: This works best if you are driving along the road away from the waterfall. Park your car opposite the ribbon-covered tree. Put the gears in neutral and take off the handbrake. Watch in amazement as your car appears to roll uphill. Magic!
- Mahon Falls and the Coumshingaun Lough are very close to each other, definitely able to fit both of these into the one day. Bring good footwear though; the treks are rocky, particularly up to the lake.
- If you’re swimming at the Guillamenes (or anywhere in the Irish water for that matter) I’d highly recommend you bring a wet/dry suit if you have one. The water is cold year-round.
- You have to take a ferry out to Waterford Castle, don’t worry though it’s free for everyone crossing.
Thanks for reading,