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Explore the glorious Copper Coast with a trip to Waterford

Treat yourself with a trip to the Irish tourist spot garnering international acclaim — none other than Co Waterford

In light of The New York Times naming Waterford in its 2024 “52 places to go” list, and with so many American tourists coming to Ireland but usually bypassing the sunny southeast, it’s about time the Copper Coast got its just rewards on the other side of the Atlantic.

While Tramore and Dunmore East are popular and well-known holiday destinations for droves of Irish, there are many hidden gems yet to be discovered in Co Waterford. Here are a few you must see this summer.

Lismore Castle

While the castle is out of bounds as it’s still in the private ownership of the Cavendish family (unless you have a tidy sum to hire the entire thing for a night, that is), the castle gardens offer a glimpse into the splendour and are open from mid-March.

Bring a picnic and enjoy the gentle hum of bees as you sip on apple juice made with fruit from the castle orchard. If the intrigue of what lies behind the turreted walls gets to be too much, you can take a 360° VR tour in Lismore Heritage Centre.


Learn about the famous visitors who have stayed in the castle, including Fred Astaire who came to visit his sister Adele after she married into the Cavendish family, or JFK, who holidayed there as a young man of 26.

Examine copies of the Book of Lismore and the Bishop’s Crozier that were hidden in the walls of the castle for almost two centuries. There is also a newly constructed escape room located in the Heritage Centre, great for some family fun on a rainy day.

Enjoy a stroll along the River Blackwater

The Lady Louisa Walk, a 1.3-mile loop trail beside the castle, is generally considered an easy route for walkers and takes about 30 minutes to complete. Lady Louisa was the daughter of the 7th Duke of Devonshire and the ancestor of the current owner of Lismore Castle, the 12th Duke of Devonshire.

Stop to quench your thirst with natural spring water from the Spout, which provided water to the estate workers until the early part of the 19th century and locals still use it regularly today. Look out for woodland plants such as beech, ash, ferns, spindle tree, holly and ivy as well as wood sorrel, golden saxifrage and wild garlic to name a few.

For the more adventurous, and during the summer months, kayak past the castle taking in the rich scenery from the water.

Afternoon tea at Ballyin House

Caroline Fletcher O’Connor, the current owner of the house, will explain the history of Ballyin as you dine on a feast of tartlets, cucumber sandwiches, scones and cakes. Its most famous visitor might just have taken tea at the same window seat in which you sit, which overlooks Lismore castle. Arthur Conan Doyle, writer of Sherlock Holmes, spent many summers at Ballyin House, a Georgian property built in 1820.

Patrick and Elizabeth Foley were the first residents, and the Foley family were very prominent in Lismore life at the time. In his 20s, Conan Doyle regularly visited Ballyin House and even lined out for the Lismore cricket team at the time. After tea and tales, feed the donkeys with apple lollies or visit the chickens, and head off with some freshly collected eggs.

Take a seaweed bath at Sólás na Mara

Situated on Helvic fishing pier, in Irish-speaking Ring, Sólás na Mara offers a unique experience to visitors. A number of treatments are available, but the baths are what people come back for. Each individual room has a steam hut for opening the pores, a bath and then a cold shower to recalibrate the body temperature. Piped and warmed seawater fills the bath before being packed full of nutrient-rich, freshly picked seaweed from the nearby waters. The seawater is taken into the facility during high tide and is filtered to purify it.

For the brave, take a dip in the nearby pebbly cove, before immersing yourself in the warm waters. Seaweed baths have been recognised in Ireland for over a hundred years as an ideal way to help the body recover and the oily seaweed is great for skin, hair and to boost energy levels.

Eat at the Tannery in Dungarvan

Now running for 27 years, the Tannery is known for its excellent food and warm welcome from owners Maire and Paul Flynn. Before Dungarvan became the culinary hub it is today, the Tannery was serving inventive, tasty food with locally sourced produce. Even better, these days after dinner you can toddle off to one of the 14 bedrooms close by in the Tannery Townhouse, a bustling base in the heart of Dungarvan.

Paul runs courses in the Tannery Cookery School throughout the year, offering fun and informative lessons for small groups, hen parties as well as corporate off-site events.

Full breakfast is served in the Tannery Restaurant and they are offering two nights midweek B&B with dinner on both evenings from €280 per person sharing.

Cycle the Greenway

From Dungarvan, hire bikes and discover some or all of the 46km greenway route to Waterford city.

This cycle or walking path hugs the very pretty coastline, with plenty of pit stops along the way. Whizz past the Comeragh Mountains and feel the chill as you pass through the Kilmacthomas viaduct. The sea views are a very special backdrop to this easy cycle, as it’s mostly on flat ground.

There are some places to stop along the way for a coffee or a sandwich and there is even a little playground if the little ones start to tire from cycling.

Glamp in Ardmore

Stay in beautifully elevated glamping pods and watch the sun come up or go down over the Atlantic Ocean from Ardmore.

Several galleries, pottery shops, cafes and pubs are dotted around the small fishing port, with some beautiful secret coves nearby for a late evening swim.

Ardmore strand is situated in the village, where you can partake in lots of water sports, while the cliff walk offers an easy 4km route around the headland, serving up some panoramic sea views along the way.

The Vee

The drive to the Vee isn’t for the faint hearted as you rise to about 2,000ft above sea level in a series of dramatic twists and turns. But once there the views across to beautiful Bay Lough, a bottomless corrie, and the Vee Valley are well worth it.

Make sure a local tells you the haunting tale of Petticoat Loose, a ghost that is said to haunt the local area and the bottomless lake, where no one ever dares to swim.

Mount Congreve Gardens

Mount Congreve in Kilmeadan can be accessed from the greenway and these gardens offer one of the largest and most diverse collection of plants to be found anywhere in the world.

Walk underneath the splendid magnolia trees as they come into full bloom and arch overhead in March, or discover some of the hidden follies, one including a Chinese pagoda. Mount Congreve house was built in 1760 and you can eat in the Stables cafe run by the pantry at Cliff. Some accommodation is due to open this summer, allowing guests to stay on the estate and even get private access to the gardens after the doors close to the public.

Make a detour to nearby Wexford

Looking for a romantic weekend away or a fun girls’ night? Remaining in the sunny southeast and right next door in Co Wexford is Marlfield House, a Blue Book property. It has a couple of new accommodation options in the shape of five pond suites, as well as the Lodge, which sleeps four with a lovely kitchen and living area with open fire.

The suites are built around a pretty old pond, with a wooden humpback bridge crossing it and each individual suite is warm and snug with plush furnishings. Watch from your private decking as a family of ducks swim back and forth and listen to the chirping of birds as a gentle early morning wake-up call.

There are two dining options if you plan to stay for more than one night: the Conservatory, which is a fine dining experience, and the Duck Restaurant for more casual eating.

Rates start from €338 for two people sharing in a standard double room for bed, breakfast and three course dinner in the Duck Restaurant. Or €388 including a five-course dinner in the Conservatory.

From April to September, they offer a rate including B&B, dinner in the Duck and a wonderful falconry display on the lawn on Wednesday afternoons from €328 for a couple sharing in a standard double room.


Mimi Murray

Mimi Murray

Mimi Murray is a Content Studio journalist with The Irish Times