A weekend in Wexford Travel: County Wexford
Image ©Media Wales/Trinity Mirror
Fine food, glorious beaches and history by the bucketful, Ireland has the lot as Sam Moon discovered when she visited County Wexford.
ARRIVING off the ferry in Rosslare the last thing we were expecting to
see were palm trees – but then Ireland is full of surprises.
The town can thank Nicholas Kelly, son of William and Mary who founded
Kelly’s Resort Hotel & Spa in 1895 as a modest, cosy seaside tearoom.
Nicholas, who took over the business in the 1920s, was an avid
gardener and introduced the first cordyline palm trees from France.
Since then the trees have been grown across Ireland and Kelly’s, our
base for the weekend, has grown too, offering first class service
throughout the year thanks to Bill, a fourth generation Kelly who
currently runs the hotel, and his team.
Situated on the Strand, it has many rooms overlooking golden sands and
the sea and it’s easy to see why this stretch is known as the jewel of
Realising early on the need to provide guests with plenty of
activities whatever the weather, the hotel has expanded to include
tennis and squash courts, table tennis, snooker, badminton, bowls and
two pools along with the renowned Sea Spa. Golf is also available,
only minutes away at Rosslare’s excellent golf course.
Our ground floor room opened onto the garden, allowing direct access
to the beach, perfect for an early morning walk. It was well equipped
and spacious, with sumptuous throws although sadly no tea and coffee
Dinner that evening was a rather grand affair in the Beaches
Restaurant. Chef Eugine Callaghan and his team provided an exquisite
meal of marinated salmon, a seafood platter and lime and pistachio
mousse with marinated blackberries and coconut meringue – gorgeous! We
retired to the Ivy Room for coffee and evening entertainment – a three
We took a refreshing early morning walk along the beach and then Jack,
my 12-year-old, joined the kids’ club which has daily activities for
children of all ages up to young teenagers. He happily waved us away
for a few hours.
We retreated to the peaceful surroundings of the Sea Spa for a bit of
pampering with The Oceans Inspired Ritual. A blissful hour slipped by
and I left feeling relaxed and calm.
Keen to explore the surrounding area we headed into Wexford. Dating
back to the 2nd century, it’s a lively town with plenty to offer, with
its winding streets of small boutiques and craft shops. Looking for a
light lunch, we found Greenacres, a large bistro with art gallery
From Wexford we left for our pre-booked horse riding session at the
Shelmalier Riding stables, a large and impressive riding school where
we got kitted out: boots, cap and body armour were all provided. We
were soon trotting around an indoor arena having our riding skills
assessed by our guide Keiran.
With none of us being vastly experienced, the horses were well
selected being both patient and experienced and we were soon riding
out through the local wood. Keiran did his best to challenge us, with
some regular trotting, along with a little banter, stopping frequently
to show us the spectacular views over County Wexford.
A little weary and saddle sore, we headed back to Kelly’s for a swim
before sinking into the Canadian hot tub to watch the sun set over the
Irish Sea. Dinner for the evening was in the French themed restaurant
La Marine. We relaxed in the bar, studying the menu while listening to
the resident pianist, before heading into the restaurant for another
delightful feast. The Irish certainly know how to eat and I really
enjoyed my seafood chowder, monkfish and local cheeses.
The following day we headed for Hook Lighthouse, one of the oldest
operational lighthouses in the world. It’s an imposing 13th century
Norman structure of limestone, standing four storeys high and up to
four metres thick in places. Our guide took us up the lighthouse,
talking us through history, from the time when the local monks climbed
the 115 steps several times a day carrying coal (mined from Wales), to
the fire at the top, to the modern day lantern that now sits on
mercury so it spins easily. A fascinating story and well worth the
trip, as on a clear day you can see for miles.
Our next stop was the town of New Ross for the Dunbody Famine Ship
experience where we were transported back through time, boarding the
full scale replica of the original ship built in 1845 used to
transport emigrants to America. Once on board the grim reality was
clearly portrayed, showing the cramped and squalid living conditions
endured on the passage to America in search of a better life.
Costumed performers provided a real insight into the struggles endured
by the Irish people when faced with starvation. A must see if you are
visiting the area.
Then it was back towards Wexford to the Irish National Heritage Park
where you can walk through 9,000 years of Irish history. Set in 35
acres, the park successfully shows you how people lived, worshipped
and buried their dead, from the first inhabitants to the Normans in
the 12th century. Jack was truly in his element here as he got to
explore the reconstructed settlements. Arriving just as a tour began,
we followed our guide Damian who was both knowledgeable and
enthusiastic as he took us around the park.
With tummies rumbling and our trip home looming, we visited the little
known fishing village of Kilmore Quay, on Wexford’s south coast, home
to pretty whitewashed thatched houses and a marina. We queued for some
cracking fish and chips in a well known chip shop before heading back
to Rosslare for the Stena Line ferry back to Fishguard.
The ferry was spacious with plenty of seating, a restaurant, coffee
bar and shop. The three-and-a-half-hour crossing was very pleasant.
Exhausted from a busy weekend, and with school for Jack early next
morning, we’d booked a cabin and were soon tucked up beneath fresh
Sam Moon travelled to Ireland as a guest of Tourism Ireland and Failte
Stena Line Rosslare to Fishguard from £89 single for an economy
crossing based on a car and driver. Additional car passengers cost
from £30 each way for adults, £17 each way for children and
supplements apply for upgraded flexi and premium fares.
Stena Line operates two return crossings daily between Rosslare to
Fishguard. http://www.stenaline.ie, telephone 08447 70 70 70.
Kelly’s Hotel & Spa Resort offers two-day breaks (Fri-Sun) from £234
or a five-day midweek breaks (Sun-Fri) from £432 per person sharing a
twin or double room on a full board basis including all entertainment,
activities, sports and special interests, with moderate charges for
beauty facilities. http://www.kellys.ie
Prices approximate based on current euro exchange rates.
The Oceans Inspired Ritual, 1hr 25mins, £73. http://www.seaspa.ie
Dunbrody Famine Ship, http://www.dunbrody.com
Hook Lighthouse Visitor Centre, http://www.hookheritage.ie
Irish National Heritage Park, http://www.inhp.com
Horse Riding at Shelmalier Stables, Wexford, 00 353 91 39251.
Other places of interest:
Ros Tapestry, New Ross, http://www.rostapestry.com
Irish Agricultural Museum, http://www.irishagrimuseum.ie
The Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, http://www.wexfordwildfowlreserve.ie
Duncannon Fort, http://www.duncannonfort.com
John F Kennedy Arboretum, http://www.heritageireland.ie