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.
Though it’s housed in a modern building, Waterford’s Medieval Museum encompasses two historic sites: the 13th-century Choristers’ Hall and a 15th-century wine cellar. Rare artifacts, including 15th-century cloth-of-gold vestments and medieval-era records, reveal fascinating details about life in the port city during the Middle Ages.
Viking walls once marked the boundary of this historic district of Waterford. Though the walls no longer stand, the past still echoes loudly, with centuries-old landmarks such as the 13th-century Reginald’s Tower and attractions including the Medieval Museum painting an evocative picture of Waterford in times gone by.
Situated on an isolated peninsula overlooking the Celtic Sea, this large manor house has served as a private family residence, a Catholic school and convent, and a hotel. Now open to the public, Loftus Hall has a reputation as one of Ireland’s most haunted sights—local lore suggests the devil himself made a call here in the 18th century.
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 dank interior of Dunmore Cave has provided not only geological wonders—among them the Market Cross, a 23-foot (7-meter tall calcite formation—but also some fascinating archaeological finds. Viking-era coins and valuables have been uncovered here, as have human remains that many theorize belong to victims fleeing Viking violence.