Each September Waterford hosts a busy, fun filled, and talented festival of light opera.
Companies come from all over Ireland and the UK to participate and the standards are very high indeed. All of the operatic companies are amateur so it is an opportunity for singers of all ages and talents to get involved.
The operas are staged at Waterford's Theatre Royal, a grand old building which forms part of the City Hall Complex. At the end of the two week festival prizes are awarded to the best productions - it's Waterford's answer to the Grammys!
The whole City literally hums during this festival. The trees along the streets are hung with fairy lights, there's a festival club at the Tower Hotel which is always packed to the gills, and local groups perform street theatre and other street entertainment.
Tickets for the festival are heavily in demand. Indeed, many local families purchase life interests in season tickets (a bit like getting season tickets for the Red Sox). However, if you hang out in the Munster Bar (beside the theatre) and have a word with the barmen, they'll see what they can do to help you out with tickets. It's also a great bar in which to meet the adjudicators and members of the Festival Committee.
Most of the local restaurants offer special pre-and post-theatre menus at excellent prices.
For the perfect evening out I'd recommend pre-theatre dinner at The Wine Vault, then take in a show (intermission drinks at The Munster Bar), and end your night at the Festival Club in the Tower Hotel (if you can get in).
Waterford is a coastal City and is lucky to have many truly wonderful beaches and seaside towns within fifteen to thirty minutes drive of the City centre. Of course, other beaches are further away so here I'm going to just deal with the closer ones.
Most people, when they think of Waterford, think of Tramore. Others will be familiar with Dunmore - equally popular but in an entirely different way.
Not so many of you will have heard of (or even find in the guide books) Saleens, Bonmahon, the back strand in Tramore, or Woodstown. Each one is very different, and each is a delight. To guide you towards your particular taste in beach, I plan to write a seperate tip on each of them. I will post some of them under "Off the Beaten Path", because they really are local secret spots.
Tramore and Dunmore both have regular bus services from the City. Otherwise you can catch a taxi easily and at reasonable costs.
Hope to see you there sometime soon :-)
The Waterford and Suir Valley railway route follows just six kilometres of abandoned railway track along one of the most beautiful scenic routes in County Waterford. The railway carriages that follow the route are restored historical carriages and some of themn are partially open.
It's a lovely little trip and allows you to see parts of this area that are inaccessible to other traffic.
If you like they can organise special events and cater for group bookings.
They do a champgne sunset express during the summer months, a Santa express at Christmas time, and a Spooky Express at Halloween.
Fares are €7.50 for an adult and €3.50 for a child, with special discounted Golden Years and Family fares.
There's a mini restored engine museum at the station and believe it or not the ticket office itself is a restored carriage!
In my opinion, one of the nicest things about this project is that it's a registered charity.
Every year, over the entire of the first weekend in August (which is a Bank Holiday here), the City centre is transformed and laid open to a delightful variety of street theatre, bands, and fun and games for all. This is known as the Spraoi festival and culminates on the Sunday night of the weekend with a magnificent fireworks display and parade.
Rain or shine, the streets are crowded by this event and it's a great deal of fun. All the live performances on the street are free of charge.
In addition to the official performers, most of the pubs and hotels in the City make sure they have bands playing that weekend.
If you are in Waterford City over the first weekend in August, it will be hard to miss this festival.
One word of warning - the main street along the Quay is closed off for the parade on Sunday night but detours are clearly marked.
Tramore is Ireland's answer to Blackpool or Coney Island. With it's three mile long beach thronged with well managed casual traders on one side and a sheer paradise of amusement rides for young and old alike you could easily get lost here for days. The rides are short and cheap and very varied.
If being scared silly on the ghost train or chucking up your lunch on the big wheel are not your idea of fun, then while the hours away playing the slot machines in our version of the casino. Several really excellent ones line the street that's at an angle to the beach.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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