The island of Ireland has a rich cultural heritage – and with a number of historic attractions, Waterford is a prime example of the treasures in store
Where can you meet a virtual-reality Viking, see the only surviving piece of Henry VIII’s clothing and hear the story of the first frog in Ireland?
Waterford may be best known for its exquisite crystalware, but after a visit to Ireland’s oldest city, you’ll take home memories that shine just as brightly as those glass treasures.
Settled by Vikings in 914, access to what would become the city was then by longship up the tidal reach of the River Suir.
Take home memories that shine just as brightly as those glass treasures
Just over 1,100 years later, it’s rather easier to get there. You can fly or sail into Dublin, fly to Cork or sail to Rosslare, and journey through Ireland’s fascinating Ancient East to reach the vibrant southern port, where you will find vestiges of Waterford’s glorious past very much in evidence.
King of the Vikings, a new 3D virtual-reality experience set in a copy of a Viking house, uses cutting-edge technology to bring you face to face with King Reginald, who came to power in 917 and built the city.
It’s merely paces to his castle. Reginald’s Tower is the only monument in Ireland named after a Viking and it houses Waterford’s finest Viking treasures, including the intricately wrought gold and silver Kite Brooch.
If you need any evidence that Waterford’s significance continued into the Middle Ages, visit the Medieval Museum.
Here you’ll find a beautifully preserved set of 15th-century cloth-of-gold vestments, woven in Florence, embroidered in Bruges, buried by Waterford churchmen to hide them from looters and safely rediscovered 123 years later.
Then there’s the painted 1373 Charter Roll and a cap made of Italian velvet decorated with a Tudor rose – the only surviving item of Henry VIII’s wardrobe in the world.
The city has yet more connections to power. In the Bishop’s Palace, a handsome double-fronted 18th-century townhouse, Waterford’s Georgian treasures are displayed, including a lock of Napoleon’s hair, brought to the city by his niece.
Alongside a wealth of paintings and objets d’art of the time is the oldest surviving piece of Waterford Crystal, a decanter dating back to 1789.
The Waterford Crystal factory was founded just six years earlier. At the House of Waterford Crystal Visitors Centre you can watch the expert glassblowers, cutters and engravers at work, who every day turn two tons of molten crystal into beautiful objects. Waterford craftspeople train for a minimum of eight years to master their craft.
But the city’s history isn’t all hidden in museums, as anyone who takes a walking tour with award-winning guide Jack Burtchaell will discover.
Among many tales that will keep your steps light with laughter is the story of the first frogs in Ireland, introduced by Franciscan Friars to get around the rule that meat could not be eaten on Fridays.
Sail with Irish ferries
Frog isn’t on the menu today but foodies will be spoilt for choice at the farmers’ market held every Saturday on Jenkins Lane.
Here’s the place to pick up a blaa – a fluffy bread roll with a secret recipe that has the same protected geographical status as champagne.
After experiencing Waterford’s noble treasures, why not make your cultural experience in Ireland’s Ancient East complete and stay at the 16th-century Waterford Castle Hotel, which sits on its own private island.
Ireland’s Ancient East is a land of legends and unmissable experiences, with cultural riches, fascinating history and beauty that will captivate every visitor.
Tale’s of Ireland’s Ancient East
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