Since returning home I’ve been discovering many beautiful parts of Ireland and the more I travel around, the longer my list of places to visit keeps growing. It really is amazing how much stunning scenery there is packed into this little country! The Hook Peninsula is one area I have been keen to explore for a while, so it was top of the list when we headed to Wexford at the end of June.
After starting the day with a visit to Curracloe beach for sunrise and walking the Raven Point loop trail, we then set off for the Hook Peninsula. It’s possible to do the entire coastal drive around the Hook Peninsula in an hour but why would you! There is so much to see and do that I can’t imagine many people actually completing the drive without stopping. In reality, you could easily spend a few days in this area taking in everything it has to offer. It’s an area rich in history and heritage, with some beautiful beaches where you can kick back and relax too.
Unfortunately for us we didn’t have days to explore, so rather than trying to squeeze in everything we picked just a few places to visit.
Our first stop was the beautiful Tintern Abbey. It is named after the larger Tintern Abbey in Wales and is also known as Tintern de Voto (Tintern of the Vow). This refers to a vow allegedly made by the Earl of Pembroke upon encountering a violent storm on his voyage to Ireland. He swore to God that if he survived he would found an abbey. Clearly he was a man of his word.
After being disestablished in the 1500s, the Abbey and grounds were granted to the Colclough family. The family remained there until 1956 and the Abbey was then passed into the care of the State. A lot of work was done to restore the Abbey and we took a tour to hear more about the history and restoration. Tours are around 45 minutes and well worth it.
There are a number of number of trails in the grounds also or you can spend time exploring the Colclough Walled Garden, which has been lovingly restored by volunteers. Of course all that effort deserves a treat! Grab a bite in the Abbey tea rooms. The cakes are seriously yum and we just had to indulge in some Wexford strawberries and cream too. When in Rome and all that!
Touted as Ireland’s most haunted house, I was looking forward to checking out Loftus Hall. I can’t say that I was left scarred by the experience but in fairness I am a sceptic of the paranormal and also there were very young children on the tour so how scary could it be! I might just have to return and try one of the night tours at some stage.
Regardless of the scare factor (or lack thereof for me) I still really enjoyed the tour and it was worth it to view the interior of the house alone. Upon first entering the house there is a beautiful mosaic tiled floor. It was so lovingly and perfectly put together by two tilers over a two year period that they were rewarded with having their hands cut off. This was to ensure that they couldn’t replicate the work elsewhere. Who said hard work doesn’t pay off?!
The highlight for me though was the magnificent oak staircase. It’s one of only three in the world and and many people recognise it straight away because one of it’s sister staircases was on the ill-fated Titanic and has therefore been recreated for several movies. Another is in the Pope’s residence in the Vatican, so it’s pretty fascinating to me that the third is hidden away in this dilapidated mansion in a quiet corner of Ireland and that is somehow survived while the rest of the house fell into ruin around it. Now that’s spooky!
Just a five minute drive from Loftus Hall, you’ll find Hook Lighthouse sitting pretty on the tip of the peninsula. It’s the oldest working lighthouse in the world and we took the tour as it’s the only way to get inside the lighthouse. From the balcony of the lighthouse the views are beautiful and sunset tours are offered over the summer, which I can only imagine would be really spectacular.
Even if you don’t take the tour, this is a beautiful spot to just while away an hour or two relaxing and enjoying the views. Take a wander along the coast, explore the rock formations or just grab an ice-cream from the shop and stretch yourself out on the expansive lawn under the watchful eye of the lighthouse.
Before heading back towards Wexford we briefly stopped off at the picturesque fishing village of Slade nearby. Slade Castle, which dates back to the late 15th century, stands overlooking the small harbour area. Unfortunately there is no access to the castle but it was nice to walk along the harbour area and watch the kids jumping from the pier and hear the laughter from a group of elderly locals having a catch and enjoying the sunshine by the pier.
Our tour guide at the lighthouse told us that after visiting this area on a trip home, he decided to pack up his life in New York and return to the Hook Peninsula to raise his family and enjoy the relaxed lifestyle it had to offer. After just a short time there, we could definitely see the appeal too.
For more on what the beautiful Hook Peninsula has to offer check out the Hook Tourism website.