Those who have travelled around Ireland’s coast knows well the beauty of the west of Ireland. Ranging from the rugged Aran Islands to the battered Cliffs of Moher it is truly magnificent.
But what about the south east of Ireland? Believe it or not, it is home to some of the most awe-inspiring locations in Ireland.
Here are 10 places you should visit on a trip through the South East, beginning the journey in Co Wicklow.
1. Lose yourself in the magic of nature in Glendalough, Co Wicklow
Translated from the Irish language, it refers to the valley of the two lakes. Dating all the way back to the 6th century this early medieval settlement is a place you can go to get away from the hustle and bustle of Dublin City.
The views are spectacular as there are not one, but two lakes to see and who could forget the 33-metre tall round tower? This settlement was a place of refuge for St Kevin, a man who rejected a life of wealth and chose to live among nature in Co Wicklow.
There are endless ancient monuments to be seen for example St Kevin’s bed, Temple-na-Skellig, a small church and St Kevin’s Kitchen.
2. Take in the refreshing view of Powerscourt Waterfall, Co Wicklow
Located on the Powerscourt Estate, this 121m high waterfall is a place suitable for people of all ages. There is a fairy tale atmosphere about the place, shrouded in tall leafy trees and complemented by the roaring water as it falls down to earth.
You can view the waterfall in its glory from the gardens below, which is home to a playground for children, or stand at the top of its rushing waters if you decide to hike in Crone Woods. There is a café located on the terrace to satisfy your hunger pangs.
3. Transport yourself back to the 17th Century with a visit to Huntington Castle, Co Carlow
One of the main attractions to this ancient site are the gardens, which were planted by the Esmondes centuries ago. There is a wealth of beautiful French lime trees which border the ornamental lawns and fish pond.
Also located on the grounds is one of the first water turbine houses in Ireland which enabled Huntington to generate its own electricity as far back as 1888.
The castle’s dungeons are home to a temple of worship for the Egyptian Goddess Isis, founded by the late High priestess of Carlow, Olivia Durdin Robertson.
4. Visit an ancient burial site with Brownshill Dolmen, Co Carlow
The largest of its kind in Europe, this portal tomb is one of the hidden glories of Ancient Ireland. Weighing an impressive 103 tonnes, this prehistoric burial site belonged to the megalithic people. There many theories as to how these magnificent monuments were built.
This portal tomb’s official name is the Kernanstown Cromlech. While its history is largely a mystery since it has not been fully excavated, this tomb is a reminder of a long-ago past in which the ancestors of many Irish people lived.
5. Dare to visit the site of a ghostly haunting at Loftus Hall, Co. Wexford
If you’re a fan of getting spooked, this tourist favourite is for you. Located on the Hook peninsula this house is most famous for its ghost story which detailed the supposed visit of the devil. A visit which resulted in the incurable madness of Anne Tottenham.
The house is visible from Dunmore East, Co Waterford on the other side of the sea and every Halloween visitors are challenged to spend a few hours in its darkened hall. The house itself is a seven-minute drive from 800-year-old Hook Lighthouse which boasts views of the rugged South East coast.
6. Feast your eyes on the sights of “Ireland’s Ancient East” on a visit to Irish National Heritage Park, Co. Wexford
The largest open-air archaeology park in the country, visitors are taken on a 9,000-year journey through Ireland’s history. Key features include a full recreation of a crannog (an ancient Irish dwelling constructed in a lake), Fulacht Fia cooking sites and a multitude of ringforts.
A recently opened 180m trail shows those brave enough to venture, through a marshy, wet landscape so that you can experience first-hand a landscape that may have been familiar to our Stone Age ancestors.
7. Roam to your heart’s content through the gardens and rooms of Kilkenny Castle, Co Kilkenny
Built at a crucial point in the River Nore, this castle can be found in the heart of Kilkenny city. Visitors young and old can explore the sights this Norman Castle has to offer, ranging from a café located within the castle walls, a long stretching garden, a forest walk adjacent to the river and a playground for children.
The Butler gallery is the site of an ever-changing collection of art, being host to an exhibition in 2015 including artwork from Oscar-nominated Kilkenny animation studio “Cartoon Saloon”.
8. Unlock the secrets of brewing a world-famous beer at Smithwick’s Experience Brewery Tour, Co Kilkenny
Opening to the public in July 2014, Smithwick’s Brewery offers an insight on the brewing of Irish draft beer Smithwicks, a draft that allegedly “took over 300 years to perfect”. Situated five minutes from Kilkenny Castle, visitors are shown the process of creating the ideal ale.
The tour is extremely interactive and those over 18 are offered a complimentary pint of Smithwicks at the end of the tour. The tour is also family friendly, with an offer of a complimentary soft drink for young visitors.
9. Take in the beautiful Comeragh Mountains, Co. Waterford.
Less than an hour from the Viking city of Waterford, this mountain range boasts incredible views of Co Waterford. Hikers can get the chance to see Coumshingaun a lake formed as a result of a glacier thousands of years ago.
You can hike from the coastal Co Waterford town of Dungarvan to the Tipperary town of Clonmel. There are a few trails to take such as Crouhan Walk and The Mahon Falls and Coum Tay, you can choose depending on your desired length of hike.
10. Learn about the Norman Connection to Reginald’s Tower, Co Waterford.
This ancient tower stands at the eastern end of Waterford City’s quay and is part of the historical tour of the Viking Triangle. The tower is one of six towers that aided in the defence of this Viking city. Its existence dates back to the 12th century.
The only building in Ireland named to honour a Viking, the tower is famous for being the marriage place of Aoife and Strongbow, a Norman lord. On display is a 9th century Viking Sword, the Waterford Kite Brooch and the exhibition details the Vikings’ voyage to Ireland. Next to the tower is a magnificent recreation of a Viking longboat.
This article was beautifully written by Eilis Walsh.