On the quays of Waterford city, we are witness to a trading and seafaring tradition which goes back at least 1,150 years. But this sense of history also looks to the future, as Waterford – traditionally the city of crystal and quality glassware – is popular as a Tall Shjps assembly port. Today's larger commercial ships may be berthed downstream on the other side of the river at Belview, but the old cityside quays on the south bank retain a nautical flavour which is accentuated by very useful marina berthing facilities in the heart of town.
This fine port was founded in 853 AD when the Vikings - Danes for the most part - established the trading settlement of Vadrefjord. Its strategic location in a sheltered spot at the head of the estuary near the confluence of the Suir and Barrow rivers guaranteed its continuing success under different administrators, particularly the Normans, so much so that it tended to overshadow the county of Waterford, almost all of which is actually to the west of the city.
But for many years now, the county town has been Dungarvan, which is two-thirds of the way westward along Waterford's extensive south coast, which includes the attractive Copper Coast - between Fenor and Stradbally - in its midst. This spreading of the administrative centres of gravity has to some extent balanced the life of the Waterford region. But even so, the extreme west of the county is still one of Ireland's best kept secrets, a place of remarkable beauty between the Knockmealdown, Comeragh and Monavullagh mountains, where fish-filled rivers such as the Bride, the Blackwater, and the Nire make their way seawards at different speeds through valleys of remarkable variety and beauty, past pretty towns and villages such as romantic, castle-bedecked Lismore which has been an overall winner in the Tidy Towns awards, and is architecturally all of a piece.
West Waterford is a place of surprises. For instance, around the delightful coastal village of Ardmore, ancient monuments suggest that the local holy man, St Declan, introduced Christianity to the area quite a few years before St Patrick went to work in the rest of Ireland. And across the bay from Ardmore, the Ring neighbourhood is a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) area with its own bustling fishing port at Helvick.
Dungarvan itself is enjoying the fruits of an attractive revival. It has relinquished its role as a commercial port, but is enthusiastically taking to recreational boating and harbourside regeneration instead. Along the bluff south coast, secret coves gave smugglers and others access to charming villages like Stradbally and Bunmahon. Further east, the increased tempo of the presence of Waterford city is felt both at the traditional resort of Tramore, and around the fishing/sailing harbour of Dunmore East.
Local Attractions and Information:
Ballymacarbry Nire Valley & Comeraghs on Horseback +353 (0)52 36147
Cappoquin Mount Melleray Activity Centre +353 (0)58 54322
Cappoquin Tourism Information +353 (0)58 53333
Dungarvan Tourism Information +353 (0)58 41741
Kilmeaden Old School House Craft Centre +353 (0)51 853567
Lismore Lismore Castle & Gardens
+353 (0)58 54424
Passage East Car Ferry
(to Ballyhack, Co Wexford) +353 (0)51 382480
Tramore Tramore House Gardens
+353 (0)51 386303
+353 (0)51 875589
Waterford Christ Church Cathedral
(18c Neoclassical) +353 (0)51 858958
Waterford Waterford Crystal Glass Centre
+353 (0)51 332500
Waterford Heritage Museum +353 (0)51 871227
Waterford Int. Festival of Light Opera
(Sept) +353 (0)51 375437
Waterford Reginald's Tower
13th C Circular Tower +353 (0)51 304220
Waterford Theatre Royal
+353 (0)51 874402
Waterford Tourism Information +353 (0)51 875823
Waterford Waterford Treasures at the Granary
+353 (0)51 304500