Waterford was the first officially recognised city in Ireland. Beginning as a small Viking settlement along the River Suir, it has grown into the fifth-largest city in modern Waterford. Even so, it still has plenty of small-town charm to offer guests. Visitors who take advantage of hire car in Waterford get the most out of their visit and are able to divide their time between the fascinating Waterford Treasures museums in the city centre and the rural charms of the surrounding countryside.
Most people arriving in Waterford do so by bus. The bus station is located at Merchant’s Quay and offers daily service to Dublin (3 hours), Tradmore (30 minutes), Dungarvan (50 minutes), Wexford (1 hour, 30 minutes) and Cork (2 hours, 15 minutes). You can also take the train from Dublin to Waterford’s Plunkett train station. The journey lasts 2 hours, 45 minutes.
Waterford is surprisingly unknown to tourists in Ireland. Not only was the first city to appear in Ireland, it also happens to be the fifth-largest at present. Even so, Waterford still feels very much like a small, provincial outpost. That works to visitors’ advantage, allowing them to enjoy an intimate look at south-east Ireland without sacrificing facilities or having to jockey for position with other tourists. All that’s left is to tour the coastline, marvel at ancient ruins and explore a few excellent local museums.
Waterford is a coastal city and important seaport, and waterways play a major role in the layout and administration of the city. The city centre stands on the south bank of the River Suir, and cars driving in from the north generally cross over the Ignatius Rice Bridge into the Quay. The Quay area is an important commercial district – particularly at Barronstrand Street and the Mall. This is the area in which visitors do most of their shopping, dining and drinking while in Waterford.
For a quick walking tour of Waterford, start at the Quay area – which is actually a series of four quays: Merchants, Meagher, Grattan and Parade. These follow the river for approximately two kilometres and have long been a highlight of Waterford. Back in the 1700s, they were even championed as the finest quays in all of Europe.
Archaeologists have been busy excavating the old Viking settlement at Waterford during the last few years, and this has led to the uncovering of some spectacular artefacts and ancient works of art. These have been well-catalogued and collected, and many are on display with the world-class Waterford Museum of Treasures – sometimes simply called the ‘Waterford Treasures’.
Waterford treasures is actually a collection of three museums: Bishop’s Palace, Reginald’s Tower and the Medieval Museum. Bishop’s Palace is a trove of Georgian artwork and artefacts, while Reginald’s Tower focuses on the Viking heyday of Waterford. The Medieval Museum is, by many visitors’ reckoning, the best of these three.
These museums belong at the top of any visitor’s list of things to see and experience. However, these are only the beginning. There are several important religious structures in the city, including Holy Trinity Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral. The ruins of a couple of early abbeys can also be visited from Waterford.
Waterford has a strong reputation for crystal production dating back to the 1700s. The industry exploded toward the end of the 20th century, and at one point the city actually employed upwards of 3,000 skilled glassblowers. As you can imagine, production soared and specimens of Waterford crystal were sent all over the world. However, the global financial crisis took a heavy toll on the local industry after 2009, though it seems to have begun a rebound. Today, the best place to see Waterford crystal being produced (as well as to buy a souvenir) is in the House of Waterford Crystal.
When you arrange car rental in Waterford, you are setting yourself up to make the most of the time you spend here in south-east Ireland. Having your own vehicle makes it easy to explore the Ring Gaeltacht west of Dungarvan. The old Irish language is still spoken here as a matter of course, and all you have to do is take a seat at a local pub or browse the market for the chance to hear what the old Irish language really sounded like.
Exploring the Surrounding Area
While there is plenty to see and enjoy in the city centre, part of the thrill of a visit to Waterford is the chance to get out and explore the county a bit. If you have a hire car at your disposal, you can easily drive the Copper Coast from Renor to Stradbally. This UNESCO Global Geopark is named after the metal-mining industry rather than the actual colour of the sands or rock formations.
Meanwhile, a foray into the Comeragh Mountains delivers you several prehistoric sites. The mountains are criss-crossed with walking trails that take in hidden valleys and secluded looks. Camping and caravan parking are also provided for here.
Driving south of Waterford will deliver you to Dunmore East, a quaint fishing village set on a lovely cove. Other towns and villages in the area include Dungarvan, Passage East and Ardmore. If you are working with a tight schedule, you’ll still want to make time for Ardmore. It offers spectacular coastal walks, access to a lovely Blue Flag beach and some enviable accommodation right on the waterfront.
There are plenty of other sites to enjoy in the countryside, including the following:
Ardmore High Cross – dates to the 4th century
St Carthage’s Cathedral (Lismore)
Mt Melleray Cistercian Abbey
St Declan’s Church (Ardmore)
Whether you plan on spending most of your time in Waterford or getting out into the countryside as much as possible, you’ll be glad that you arranged car hire in Waterford. Having a vehicle at your disposal 24 hours per day gives you the freedom to plan and execute your own itinerary. Rather than having to coordinate your schedule with those of various tour operators and transport providers, you can simply connect to the places you want to see when you want to see them.
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