The next stop on my European City Challenge is Waterford City in the sunny south east of Ireland. This is my first posting on Ireland and the first of many because Ireland is where I come from, where my roots are firmly placed and where my heart truly lies. This tiny little country has a population of 4.5 million but there is not one place in the world that you will go to without bumping into or coming in contact with an Irish person. We are amongst the most highly travelled nation in the world dating back to the early mid 1800s where droves of Irish headed off to America on boats to find a better life. To this day, Americans and other nationalities arrive to Ireland in flocks in order to experience the culture, scenery and friendly and warm nature of the local people, which is second to none.
If you happen to find yourself in the south east of Ireland, I would highly recommend a stop off in the historical city of Waterford. Here are my top tips for things to see and do in Waterford.
The Viking Triangle Experience
The Vikings descended upon Waterford in 914AD making it one of the oldest cities in the country and along with age comes remarkable antiquity resulting in many interesting things to see and do in the city. The Viking Triangle forms the north east corner of Waterford city centre fronting the river Suir to the north, the central retail area to the west and the new Waterford crystal factory and visitor centre to the south (more on that in a minute!) The area is Waterford’s cultural and heritage quarter with a medieval museum situated in the heart of it all. Other places to visit include the impressive stone fortress of Reginald’s tower which hosts Waterford’s Viking treasures and Bishop’s Palace, where re-enactors take you through grand reception rooms filled with Irish 18th century furniture, silverware and paintings including the oldest piece of historical Waterford glass dating from the 1780’s.
The word Spraoi means ‘fun’ in the Irish language and this is certainly what you will have if you manage to be in Waterford the first weekend in August each year. This international street art festival attracts well over 100,000 people every year. Musicians and performers from Ireland and other parts of the world arrive, entertaining the festival goers from morning to night.
The city is full of narrow medieval streets, historical squares and buildings and the famous Quay where boats, private yachts and quaint fishing vessels are moored to join in on the festivities. Visit www.sparoi.com for full festival details.
There are 49 beaches that run along the sunny south east of Ireland. Waterford luckily holds most and my favourite one by far is Woodstown beach. Situated 7 miles from Waterford’s city centre, the beach is long, the sand is white and vast and in the distance cordoned off areas for mussel fishing can be seen on a low tide. The beach is very shallow which is why it is a great and safe location for families to comfortably enjoy.
The Saratoga pub is near Woodstown beach that has a private walkway from the beach. It's a perfect way to end a day by the seaside. They are famous for their wood fired pizzas washed down with a nice creamy pint of Guinness. Nestled in a cosy authentic Irish bar that might even have some traditional musicians playing depending on the time of the week you plan to visit.
The Crystal Tour
Waterford crystal has for years been a worldwide leader in lifestyle luxury brands. The skilled craftsmanship is unique and the expertise that goes into the exquisite design and manufacture of each piece can be seen on the crystal tour that takes place in their showroom and workshop located in Waterford city. The crystal is stocked in Harrods, Selfridges and a lot of the large department stores dotted around the world. The guided tour takes visitors on a trip around the factory giving first hand access to all areas of traditional crystal production from the mould room to the cutting department and finishing with a walk through the gift store where the items can be seen and bought right on the site they were discovered.
Stay at Waterford Castle Hotel
Just moments from the city lies Waterford Castle Hotel on its 310 acre private island. Inside the Irish castle are 19 luxury rooms and suites while outside lies an 18 hole golf course with mature woodland and parkland. It's a chance to stay in a part of Waterford's history while being set in the middle of nature and still close to the city.
Eat Waterford Blaa
One last thing to mention is the local cuisine which is definitely worth sampling. The ‘Waterford Blaa’ is a doughy white bread roll, floury and delicious, but must be bought first thing in the morning when at their freshest. Smothered with butter, a juicy sausage and lots of ketchup and you are onto a local winner. You can thank me later. Here is the one my aunty made for me, feast your eyes on this.
How to get to Waterford, Ireland
To get to Waterford there are 2 international airports relatively equal distance away. Dublin Airport is our main International airport but Cork Airport also services some great European destinations if you are arriving in via a connecting European flight.