Ireland's Ancient East: Top 5 places to go when visiting Wexford
Stunning coastlines and natural beauty aren’t all that Ireland’s Ancient East has to offer. This grand stretch of our lovely island encompasses over 5,000 years’ worth of Irish history, culture, myths and legends; all of which are worth uncovering should you ever be lucky enough to find yourself visiting Wexford!
Often referred to as the ‘sunny South East’, the coastal town of Wexford was founded by the Vikings, making it an ideal spot to connect with the Emerald Isle’s unique past. Still, should you find yourself with a few days to spare during a visit with friends a Wexford staycation, or if you’re planning a family road trip to the town, there are several beloved places to visit in Wexford that are worth visiting to get a glimpse at in some of Ireland ancient easts past.
Here are just some of the top places to visit in Wexford.
Hook Head Peninsula
Hook Head is Wexford’s most southern tip and is home to one of the oldest operational lighthouses in the world built over 800 years ago from the local limestone. Start off your trip at the historic Tintern Abbey and make your way to the nearby enchanting Georgian Walled Garden built in the 19th century.
Keep heading south along the peninsula, passing Baginbun Head and Carnivan Bay to name just a few of the stunning scenic places to visit in Wexford. For fans of water sports, you can set off on a sea kayaking adventure around Baginbun beach at sunset or try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding or even coasteering with Hook Head Adventures.
At the very tip, you will find the 800-year-old Hook Lighthouse, where you can climb up the 115 ancient steps inside for a 360 view of the harbour and sea and then visit the adjacent café and gift shop for some refreshments. Heading up the western side of the peninsula brings you across famous Wexford beaches such as Dollar Bay and Booley Bay before you reach the village of Duncannon, known for its Fort and Sandsculpting Festival on the August bank holiday weekend.
Is a must-see when visiting Wexford, if you would like to leave the car behind and do some exploring, you can visit Kilmore Quay by bike or by foot with local bike hire available. Located where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Irish Sea, Kilmore Quay is a picturesque working fishing village, known for its thatched-roof cottages, marina, walking trails and the award-winning Shipwreck Cove playground.
There are a host of things to see and do in Wexford around Kilmore Quay like rock pooling, shore angling and even bird watching. Just 5 kilometres from the shore you’ll find The Saltee Islands, which are a protected habitat and home to over 200 species of bird including puffins, gannets and razorbills. You can access the Saltee Ferry which runs day trips from Kilmore Quay harbour. It’s worth noting that there are no facilities on the Islands so you will need to bring your own picnic which can be ordered from the hotel.
Irish National Heritage Park
The Irish National Heritage Park brings to life over 9,000 years of Irish history. Here you’ll find over 40 acres of natural woodland, historic sites, walking trails, family activities, tours and demonstrations, two playgrounds and a visitor centre making it a great option for families to experiences some of Irelands Ancients easts at all ages.
You can see how Ireland’s earliest settlers lived, worked and fought while exploring replicas of historic sites such as a castle, crannóg, Viking house, monastery, and ringfort. Tours can be self-guided or with a costumed guide and you can even book other unique experiences such as the Birds of Prey display and the Daily Life in Viking Wexford experience.
Secret Valley Wildlife Park
If your family loves animals, then a visit to Secret Valley Wildlife Park is a must. Set across 14 acres, Secret Valley Wildlife Park is the only fully licensed zoo and wildlife park in the South East. While visiting you can see an incredible range of domestic and exotic animals such as monkeys, raccoons, lemurs, rabbits, goats, donkeys, horses, alpacas, llamas, guinea pigs, prairie dogs, skunks and much more.
What makes this one of the perfect places to visit in Wexford for families is the range of activities to take part in at the park, like pony rides, arts & crafts, feeding kid goats, treasure hunts and keeper talks where the keepers share information about habitat, behaviour and conservation issues affecting animal species worldwide.
Wexford boasts 250km of beautiful coastline and has the most hours of sunshine of any county in Ireland so why not take a trip to some of our Blue Flag beaches and feel the golden sand between your toes? Curracloe is the closest Blue Flag beach to the hotel with wide, sandy stretches for walking on, sand dunes for playing on and lots of space to simply relax, it’s a simple but perfect place to visit in Wexford. Whether you just want to paddle up to your knees or go for a proper swim, Curracloe beach is ideal for enjoying those lazy, hazy days of summer. Beach wheelchairs are available at Curraloe Beach.
To add some action-packed fun to your trip to the beach, The Surf Shack Adventure Centre is the perfect way for all the family to spend the day. Enjoy surfing, sand-boarding or stand up paddle, suitable for all ages!
Tip: Discover things to do in Wexford for families and see a guide to Wexford’s top beaches on our blog
Wexford Hotel Offers
If you’re looking for the perfect place to stay when visiting Wexford for exploring, sightseeing, shopping and day trips; look no further than Clayton Whites Hotel. Situated in the heart of Wexford town, Clayton Whites Hotel is within walking distance of some of the towns greatest sites and entertainment hubs and offers stunning rooms to rest your head after a long day of exploring Wexford’s neighbouring counties.