Friday, October 14, 2011

Wexford, Ireland

In September my husband, Darren and I took a trip to Wexford, Ireland to visit his family. Darren grew up in Wexford but hadn't been home in many years and while this would be my third trip to Ireland it was my first trip to Wexford. 

Wexford has a few "claims to fame." First, it's known as the county where the Kennedy family comes from. Second, Curracloe beach is where the movie "Saving Private Ryan" was filmed. And last but not least, Wexford is known for its strawberries. 

On our first day there we visited Tintern Abbey and the Hook lighthouse. In the year 1200, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, set out to pay his first visit to Ireland as Lord of Leinster. Threatened with a shipwreck off the south coast, he vowed to found an abbey wherever he should reach safety. On landing in Bannow Bay, he redeemed his vow, bequeathing about 3500 hectares of land for the foundation of a Cistercian abbey. Situated on the west shore of Bannow Bay in Co. Wexford, Tintern Abbey was one of the most powerful Cistercian foundations in the south-east until the mid-16th century.

Our next stop was Hook Lighthouse, the oldest operational lighthouse in the world. Hook Lighthouse offers guided tours of the lighthouse tower, a 13th Century Norman structure, built by William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke as part of the development of his Lordship of Leinster. 
Allegedly, the prase. "By Hook or by Crook" comes from the names of the villages of Hook Head and the nearby Crook, in Waterford, Ireland. Hook Head and Crooke are on opposite sides of the Waterford channel and Oliver Cromwell is reputed to have said that Waterford would fall "by Hook or by Crook." 
Over the weekend we took a tour of The Dunbrody in New Ross. The Dunbrody is also known as the "Famine Ship" or "Coffin Ship". Coffin ship was a nickname given to ships transporting the Irish to America, due to the number of people who died on board. Compared to most ships, the Dunbrody had a very low mortality rate. The ship we visited is an exact replica of the original ship built in 1845. The original Dunbrody carried thousands of Irish people from the desperation of the Great Famine to hopes of a better life in America.

The next day we visited Irish National Heritage Park, an authentic recreation of Ireland's heritage. The park has over 35 acres with full-scale reconstructions of ancient houses, forts and tombs, a fully reconstructed early Christian monastery, mill, cooking place and Viking boatyard and boats. 


On our last day we went to Johnstown Castle. The castle was built  for the Grogan-Morgan family sometime in the 1800's. The property was presented as a gift to Ireland in 1945. The Johnstown Castle Estate extends to 1,000 acres, of which 100 acres is open to the public. Within that area you can explore the outside of the castle, the Meat store, Sunken garden, Castle lake, the Statue walk, the Lower Lake, Rathlannon Castle, Garden Lake, the Walled Garden and the Irish Agricultural Museum. 


The Museum displays an extensive collection of artifacts relating to rural life in Ireland in the 19th and 20th centuries including an Irish furniture exhibit and a new exhibit about the Great Famine. There is a separate admission fee for the museum. Darren's grandfather's farming equipment was donated to the museum so of course we had to go see it. We really enjoyed all three exhibits and would recommend not skipping the museum if you decide to visit Johnstown Castle. It is worth the extra admission. 

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