Wexford Tourist Attractions
Wexford town and its surrounding countryside abound with unique sights and captivating attractions to keep you entertained and intrigued. All tastes and interests are catered for, and many are low budget or free. Here is just a selection of what’s on offer.
Johnstown Castle and Gardens
Just a 10-minute drive outside Wexford town, Johnstown Castle and Gardens is the location of the Irish Agriculture Museum. The castle itself is used as a Convention Centre and tours are not permitted, but its gardens alone are worth the trip. The 50 acres of well-kept grounds were designed by architect Daniel Robertson, who also designed the gardens at Powerscourt in Wicklow. The walkways through the mature woodland and along the castle lakes are a great way to while away an afternoon.
Wexford Wildfowl Reserve (The Sloblands)
On the outskirts of Wexford town, 2,500 acres of reclaimed low-lying flat land form the Sloblands, an internationally significant wetland home to almost 250 species of wildfowl and birds. In winter a flock of 10,000 Greenland white-fronted geese (that’s one-third of their population worldwide), along with Brent geese, Bewick’s swans and as many as 600 Whooper swans visit the reserve. Mute swans can be seen year round. In total, 31 species of duck have been recorded, while Slavonian grebes, tree sparrows, and reed and sedge warblers also appear.
The Sloblands also provide refuge for the Irish hare. Other mammals common to the reserve include foxes, badgers, red squirrels, American mink, otters, and shrew, among others. Wildlife can be viewed from the observation tower, the Pump House hide or the Pat Walsh hide. There is also a visitor centre, audiovisual show and wildfowl collection.
Spread over more than 600 acres, JFK Arboretum boasts a beautiful and diverse collection of plants and 4,500 varieties of trees from each of the five continents. A series of woodland walks meander around the 200 well-kept forest plots, each planted with unique tree species and grouped by geographical origin. The scenic lake is home to a range of waterfowl and fish.
A two-mile walk takes you around the perimeter of the park, but if you’d prefer a more leisurely visit, you can enjoy the experience from a horse-drawn cart, which runs in the high season. A miniature railway also operates on summer afternoons. The state-of-the-art playground and maze will keep children entertained.
The arboretum is dedicated to the memory of John F Kennedy, whose grandfather grew up nearby.
Adjacent to the main entrance, a drive up to the top of Sliabh Coillte yields stunning expansive views of the south east. Five counties – Wexford, Waterford, Carlow, Kilkenny and Wicklow – can be seen from this point
Depicting the vivid history of New Ross and the Norman landing in the south east, the Ros tapestry exhibition is a rare treat. Started in 1998, this community-based project has seen over 150 volunteers hand-embroider Europe’s largest tapestry over 15 dramatic story-telling panels.
Visitors can browse through the enthralling panels or watch a skilled embroiderer in action. Guided tours are also available.
If you enjoy a good old spooking, take the road that runs through Hook Peninsula and stop off at Loftus Hall. No need for specific directions, you’ll know it when you see it – an imposing, austere mansion said to be haunted.
Hailed by Lonely Planet in 2011 as the ‘Flashiest Lighthouse’, Hook lighthouse, at the tip of Hook Peninsula, is thought to be one of the oldest in operation. Guided tours of the tower are available. Keep your eyes peeled for seals that often play along this coastline.
Set beside Vinegar Hill, the award-winning National 1798 Centre is perhaps one of Ireland’s most fascinating history museums. Take yourself back to a time of unrest in Ireland that led to a rebellion by the United Irishmen. The focus is on the Battle of Vinegar Hill.
Dating back to 1230, Enniscorthy Castle was built by Anglo-Normans and used primarily as a private dwelling for its various owners. It was the setting for many bloody battles fought during Cromwell’s reign, and was stormed by the United Irishmen before they were defeated at Vinegar Hill.
Boasting layers and layers of enthralling history, the castle is now home to Wexford County Museum, displaying a collection of agricultural and military artefacts. From the roof, visitors can enjoy views of the surrounding area, including historic Vinegar Hill.
Dunbrody Famine Ship
Docked in the historic town of New Ross, the Dunbrody is a full-scale replica of a famine ship originally built in the 1840s. A step on board will take you back in time to the life of the famine emigrant. You will meet the captain and crew and hear stories from emigrants about their departure, voyage and arrival in the ‘New World’.
For great seafood restaurants, cosy pubs and a range of seaside activities, take a 22km drive from Wexford town to the quaint fishing village of Kilmore Quay. The many thatched cottages dotted around the village provide a beautiful backdrop to the new harbour and marina.
Kilmore Quay is also the set-off point for day trips to the Saltees, a pair of islands that sit about 5km off the coast. Great Saltee and Little Saltee make up one of Ireland’s largest birds sanctuaries. Sea birds found here include puffins, guillemots, gannets, and Manx shearwaters. The larger island is also a breeding ground for grey seals.
National Irish Heritage Park
With ringforts, crannogs, fulacht fiadh and Ogham stones, the National Irish Heritage Park takes you on a historical ramble through 900 years of Ireland’s rich history, from the early Stone and Bronze ages, through the Celtic and early Christian eras, right up to the sometimes ferocious Viking and early Norman years.
The Irish Agriculture Museum at Johnstown Castle
The agricultural buildings within the grounds of Johnstown Castle are home to the Irish Agriculture Museum. Exhibitions here display farm equipment and vehicles dating back to the early 18th century. The village crafts exhibition features six different craft workshops, and depicts the role of craftspeople in the community throughout the years. A bicycle display exhibits bicycles dating back as far as 1885. The museum is open seven days a week, year round.