Experience 5,000 Years of Irish History

Ireland’s Ancient East is Ireland’s newest touring region, bringing you on a relaxing journey through 5,000 years of European history.

Uncover the stones and stories of Ireland’s Prehistoric Past. Step into the Golden Age of Saints and Scholars at our Early Christian monuments. Hear tales of invasions and rebellion in Medieval Castles and Fortresses and explore Anglo Ireland’s finest mansions and gardens. You’ll discover it all in Ireland’s Ancient East.

On this part of the tour, visit Wicklow - the Garden County of Ireland, and the historic sights in Kilkenny, Wexford and Waterford before kissing the famous Blarney Stone in County Cork.

Note: This tour suggestion is only intended to show you some of the possibilities for exploration and enjoyment along part of the Ireland’s Ancient East Route, and particularly highlights Heritage Island Attractions in the area and on the map below (Ireland's Premier Attractions and Heritage Towns). We always recommend that you create your own route, taking in the attractions that are of greatest interest to you. Always check your route and distances and allow plenty of time for stop-offs, diversions, rest and relaxation.
 

County Wicklow

Known as the ‘Garden County of Ireland’, Wicklow is home to some of the most ornate gardens in the country - and the world! While here, make sure to explore Powerscourt House and Gardens - named as one of the National Geographic’s Top 3 Gardens in the World. The Gardens stretch over 47 acres and offer a sublime blend of formal gardens, sweeping terraces, statues and ornamental lakes, secret hollows and rambling walks. The Palladian Mansion at Powerscourt features an audio-visual tour and the best of Irish design, craft and home-cooked cuisine.

For another stunning garden and palatial home, head to the 18th century Russborough House and Parklands. Located in Blessington, Russborough offers guided tours of the mansion, an interactive and self-guided film and photography exhibition, beautiful parkland walks, and, for families, a 20,000 sq. ft. Maze, fairy trail and playground! A Bird of Prey centre will open in 2016.

Russborough House
Russborough House and Parklands


In Rathdrum, Avondale House awaits. This beautiful Georgian House is the birthplace and home of Charles Stewart Parnell - one of the greatest political leaders of Irish history. It also boasts a magnificent forest park of over 500 acres with tree trails and walks, three orienteering courses and an audio visual presentation.

The seaside town of Bray is home to two fascinating attractions. Killruddery House and Gardens is a great place to spend a day, with an Elizabethan-Revival mansion, the Orangery with 19th century Italian statues and Ireland’s oldest gardens.

Killruddery House and Gardens
The Orangery at Killruddery House and Gardens


Kids won’t want to miss the National Sea Life Centre. With 90 species of underwater animals in a range of exciting exhibits, from ‘Seahorse Sanctuary’ to ‘Nemo’s Kingdom’, they’ll relish the opportunity to hold a crab or touch a starfish. 

Finally, the renowned Wicklow Historic Gaol in Wicklow Town will see visitors pass through the ‘Gates of hell’ to re-live the 1798 United lrishman Rebellion, enjoy period-dining with the notorious inmates, take a journey through the famine era to the 1916 Easter Rising and witness dramatic re-enactments of the lrish struggle for independence. If you’re really brave, why not take the Haunted Night Tour, or sleep over in the prison?!

Wicklow's Historic Gaol
Wicklow's Historic Gaol

 

Counties Kilkenny and Wexford

Once the medieval capital of Ireland, Kilkenny city’s rich heritage is evident through narrow winding streets and historical buildings. It also boasts greats shops and restaurants.

While here, check out the Smithwick’s Experience - a multi-sensory and interactive attraction named as one of Lonely Planet's '26 of the World's Hottest New Experiences for 2015'. Immerse yourself in the history of Smithwick’s, Ireland’s oldest beer brand and discover the medieval origins of brewing in Kilkenny.

In the beautiful Heritage Town of New Ross, Co. Wexford, located just over the Kilkenny border, you will find the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience, towering over the quayside. The ship is a full scale replica and authentic recreation of the original emigrant ship built in 1845 that carried thousands of emigrants from Ireland to North America over a period of thirty years.

Dunbrody Famine Ship
Dunbrody Famine Ship, New Ross


While in New Ross, experience the journey from Irish Famine Emigrant to President of the United States at the birthplace of JFK’s great-grandfather - the Kennedy Homestead and Emigrant Trail.  

A forty minute drive from New Ross lies the oldest operational lighthouse in the world - Hook Lighthouse. For over 800 years, it has guarded the entrance to Waterford Harbour. A guided tour will take you through the lighthouse with fascinating insights, stories and facts on this unique building. Enjoy the spectacular views from the balcony and watchtower - in clear weather you can see for miles and in a storm the spray often reaches the top of the lighthouse!

Hook Lighthouse
Hook Lighthouse, New Ross

 

Counties Waterford and Cork

Waterford City is renowned for its ‘Viking Triangle’ - a charming quarter located on the old Viking settlement and characterised by narrow streets and historic architecture.

It’s here that you will find the House of Waterford Crystal. Take a factory tour and go behind the scenes at this world famous crystal brand. Witness every stage of production, from the initial right up to the final engraving. Gift shopping in the 1,000 square meter opulent retail store is a ‘must’!

House of Waterford Crystal
House of Waterford Crystal Factory Tour


Ten minutes from the city, in Kilmeadan, are Mount Congreve Gardens, a ‘great garden of the world’ and a 70 acre oasis with the largest plant collection in Ireland, stunning views and 16 kilometres of paths to explore.

Also in Co. Waterford, is Lismore Heritage Town where visitors can enjoy the award-winning 'Lismore Experience', a 30-minute introduction to the town. Make sure to check out the medieval Lismore Castle, with a long and rich history; and the town’s museum exhibits. On a sunny day, why not enjoy the town walking tour or woodland walking trail?

Nearby the Waterford border, in County Cork, is the Heritage Town of Youghal. In this seaside resort, you’ll find St Mary’s Collegiate Church, the town Graveyard Trail and the beautiful College Gardens. 

Youghal Lighthouse
Youghal Lighthouse, Youghal Heritage Town, Co. Cork


Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens is located not too far from Cork City. This is probably Ireland’s finest example of a Great Country House - where the grand opulent surroundings of the gentry are contrasted with the servant’s wing. Fota house also boasts the award-winning Frameyard Gardens.

The Blarney Castle and Gardens in Blarney, Co. Cork is world-famous for its stone, which legend tells has the power of conferring eloquence on all who kiss it! See the historic castle, wander among ancient trees and stones in the parklands and gardens, and experience the magic and mystique of the Wishing Steps, Witch's Kitchen and Druid's Cave.

Blarney Castle and Gardens
Blarney Castle and Gardens


If that’s not enough history, heritage and culture for you, why not check out the first part of the Ireland’s Ancient East Tour - from the ancient Boyne Valley to County Wicklow?


Route Map

Roll over the map pins to view attraction names. Click on a marker to go to the profile of the attraction.