On 19th October 2009 the much-awaited new bridge finally opened as part of the N25 Waterford bypass roads scheme.
The bridge is spectacular and dominates the skyline along the borders of Waterford City/Waterford County/County Kilkenny. It is the longest bridge in the country and is even longer than the Boyne Cabe Bridge near Drogheda (which used to be the longest).
It has become a great focus for photographers, particularly when lit up at night.
It also allows road travellers to go straight from, say, Wexford to Cork without passing through Waterford City.
Waterford is lucky to have a very large public park right in the City centre, about five minutes walk from the Quay. It's been around since the 19th century but a great deal of work has been put into it over the past couple of years.
In addition to the lovely ancient trees and grassy areas, there's a cycle track, a running/walking track, an unusual water feature, a band stand, a couple of original canons, children's playgrounds (one for young kids and one for those a little older), and even a skateboard area.
The former park - keeper's house has been converted to an extremely popular cafe serving the most delicious home baked sweet and savoury dishes.
An ornate bridge leads over a tributary of the river Suir to access the Courthouse next door.
After lunch we headed back to our hotel and stopped by the Christ Church Cathedral, designed by architect John Roberts. Construction started in 1773 and it was completed in 1779.
Inside you can see the ornate Baroque interior and the rather grotesque tomb of 15th century Waterford Mayor James Rice which shows a decaying corpse being eaten by worms and a toad eating his stomach.
My guidebook says its 4E to enter but I'm sure we didn't pay any admission fee
No village has the right to be this be this pretty but Dunmore East is Waterford County's most pituresque village. Located approx 10km from Waterford city and built on a sloping hillside, this sleepy fishing villages comes alive during the summer with the arrival of summer visitors. However the village still has a hidden quality in that not too many foreign visitors find this little coastal village. No national routes pass near the village and its not on the well known coastal road, and so the only people who actually come to Dunmore East are locals and Irish holiday makers, hearing of Dunmore East by word of mouth.
The jewel in the crown of the village is the quantity and quality of the quaint, traditional thatched cottages complete with colourful doors and white washed walls, which line the streets. I have never seen such a concentration of thatched cottages in any one place. Another big draw is the gorgeous bay and sandy beach which lies below the village and is a great place to swim and sunbath on hot summer days, as rare as they might be in Ireland!
St. Andrews Church is another beautiful addition to the village and its tall spire can be seen above the trees of Dunmore East from the far side of the bay.
Dunmore East is a also a busy fishing port and the harbour with tall lighthouse and breakwater walls, is located in the west of the village. Dunmore East is one of the South East Ireland's biggest fishing industries. This has an added bonus, in that Dunmore East is the location of one of Waterford's best Seafood Restaurants in 'The Spinnaker'. I must make a special mention of the Dunmore East coastguards and rescue crew who work tirelessly and bravely to protect the lives of sailors, fishermen and visitors to the coast of Waterford.
Not my favourite Waterford town by a long shot, but Tramore does have it's draws, namely a beautiful blue flag beach and is an easy sidetrip from Waterford City and a great beach to escape to on sunny days.
The beach in Tramore has been a favourite with Irish sun seekers for years and is rightly noted as being one of Ireland's finest. It's what lies beyond the beach which turns me off. The attraction of Tramore's beach has led to a certain tacky and commercial offshoot, primarily in the growth of fun fair rides and amusement arcades which line the beachfront. This is great for families and when I was younger I used to love all these 'attractions'. Looking at them now is slightly nauseating but kids still love the fun fair and arcades, although they are starting to look a bit run down...maybe they always did and I just didn't notice!!! Another family favourite is Splashworld, an indoor waterpark, which is very handy considering Ireland's penchant for terrible weather.
Tramore's other main draw is it's sufing reputation. Although nothing compared to the west of Ireland, Tramore has gained a steady surf following in the south and lessons and equipment hire is available right along the beachfront.
If you visit Waterford for one reason and one reason only, you have to make it The Granary Museum. The building itself was a former grin store on Waterford’s busy quay but this is not reason enough to visit this old red bricked building. The Granary has been converted into one of Waterford and Ireland’s best museums, known as Waterford Treasures, and has several great exhibits and displays charting Waterford’s history from Viking and Norman times right through to the present day.
The highlights of the museum include gold Viking jewellery, bejewelled Norman artefacts and 18th century church relics, chalices and silver. The exhibits are displayed over several floors with each one dedicated to a specific time period.
There has been a lot of development around the main square in Waterford recently, some welcome, some controversial and unnecessary. What is sure, is that the area has come a long way from the rather drab and downright ugly square it once was. Today the square is a popular meeting point for Waterford locals and despite the presence of several fast food joints, the square is now a pleasant place to wander through. Trees, sculpted outdoor seating, a modern abstract water fountain and fresh stone paving has turned this fully pedestrian area into a nice central point to the city. It is also one of Waterford’s main shopping streets. Most of the buildings are modern developments but there are several Georgian era buildings around the square as well as Holy Trinity Cathedral and Blackfriars Abbey, which are located just off the square.
Located on Waterford’s Quay is the rather lonely looking clock tower, one of Waterford City’s main symbols. The Clock Tower dates from the mid 19th century and has a public water fountain also incorporated into the side. A door on the northern side of the clock tower allows access to the clocks interior and workings although this is not open to visitors.
Walk from City Square along Barronstrand St. Down onto the quay. The clock tower is straight across the busy Meagher Quay Road.
Standing proudly on The Mall is the equestrian statue of Thomas Francis Meagher, one of Waterford’s and Ireland’s most famous nationalist leaders. Born in a house at no. 19 The Mall, Meagher was born into a wealthy merchant family in 1823 and son to former mayor of Waterford, Thomas Meagher Snr. Meagher Jnr. protested and fought vehemently for Irish Independence from British Rule and during the battle for independence designed and introduced the green, white and gold tricolour flag which later became the national flag of Ireland still used today.
Meagher was arrested and convicted by the British authorities on charges of sedition and was subsequently sentenced to death. This sentence was later changed and Meagher was instead exiled to Tasmania in Australia, then known as Van Diemen’s Land. In 1852 Meagher escaped to America where he studied journalism and law and later joined the U.S. Army where he gained the rank of Brigadier General and led the Irish Brigade during the American Civil War. Before his death by drowning accident in 1897, Meagher had served as Governor of Montana.
The Mall was laid out in the 18th century and the wide street was built on reclaimed land which had previously been a water inlet which surrounded Reginald’s Tower. The Malls houses the Theatre, City Hall, Reginald’s Tower as well as the Tower Hotel and several pubs and clubs. On the bend leading from the quay is a statue of Thomas Francis Meagher, one of Waterford’s most famous sons.
Apart from the important municipal and historical buildings, The Mall is also a great place to view Waterford’s old Georgian style town houses, which hark back to the area’s past wealth and importance.
Located on Greyfriar’s Street, the ruins of the French Church functioned as a Franciscan Monastery from the 13th century. The unusual name of the Church/Monastery derives from the occupation of the building and grounds by French Huguenot refugees between the years 1693 and 1815.
A sculpture of the famous Franciscan Monk, theologian and historian, Luke Wadding stands in front of the ruins on Greyfriar’s Street.
The Franciscan Greyfriar’s church is adjacent to the French Church ruins. There were Franciscan and Dominican friars in Waterford, The Franciscan were given the name Greyfriar’s due to their grey outfits while the Dominicans were called Blackfriars due to their black clothes.
Located close to City Hall is the towering Christ Church Cathedral, which is the only existing Neo-Classical Georgian Cathedral in Europe. Like the City Hall it was designed by John Roberts and has the grey limestone stone common in many of Ireland’s 18th century municipal and religious architecture. The church now stands on a sight previously occupied by a wooden Viking Church dating from the 11th century. Inside the church is the tomb of James Rice and a collection of Bibles written in the Irish Language.
The large grey limestone building which dominates The Mall is Waterford City Hall. The building was designed by John Roberts and was built in 1783. Many important figures from Ireland’s history have visited the building including the great emancipator, Daniel O’ Connell, and Charles Stewart Parnell. The council chamber is the most interesting room in the building with a painting of Waterford by William Van Der Hagen and a huge chandelier dating from the 1780’s which is recognised as the oldest existing piece of what later became the world famous Waterford glass. A replica of the chandelier hangs in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.
The building houses working council offices and includes the office of the City Manager and the mayor’s chamber from where 200 years of Waterford mayors have received important visitors and dignitaries.
Not many cities or historic towns in Ireland have retained the, once common, stone walls which surrounded many of the country’s medieval and Viking settlements and towns (with the exception of the beautifully preserved walls of Derry). However, you can still explore the remains of Waterford’s ancient city walls which, although not anywhere near complete, are still well worth seeking out and while the Derry City Walls may be better preserved, the Waterford walls predate them by centuries!
The walls and tower fortifications were begun by the Vikings in the eastern section of the town around what is now Reginald’s Tower. When the Normans took the city on 1170 they set about extending and expanding the walls which began to stretch west, although interestingly, they decided to keep the outer Viking wall standing, which divided the Old Viking Town to the east with the newer Norman town to the west. None of this ‘dividing’ wall remains, but many of the towers are still well preserved with remains of others still visible. Apart from Reginald’s Tower, , Beach Tower, Semi-Lunar Tower, French Tower, Double Tower, Watch Tower and St. Martin’s Gate are all still visible in varying degrees of preservation while Turgesius’s Tower was located where AIB Bank is now . The French Tower, Double Tower and Beach Tower are the best preserved examples.
Reginald’s Tower near Waterford city centre may not look overly impressive at first glance but the history of the tower makes it one of the city’s main sights of interest. The wide, round tower located at the eastern end of the quay is one of Ireland’s oldest complete buildings and was the first building in the country to use mortar in its construction.
Originally, the Vikings had a fortification here, which was probably built in the 10th century and was completely surrounded by water. The tower which you see today is a Norman replacement which was built in the 12th century after the Normans took the city. During this medieval period, the tower was the city’s and one of Ireland’s most important strategic fortifications. It was in this tower that Strongbow first met his future wife, Aoife, which would become one of the most famous and historically significant marriages in the country’s history.
The tower has served many functions in the past including roles as a defensive and military position, a mint, a prison and an arsenal. Today the tower houses a historical museum which has displays detailing Waterford’s History which is open year round from 1000-1700.
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