County Wexford

A maritime county in the province of Leinster. Worth seeing on any tours of Ireland.

Often refereed to as “the sunny southeast” of Ireland , Wexford (900 square miles) has a population of approx 120,000.

Its terrain falls gradually southeastward from the Blackstairs Mountains (2,409 feet) to the low lying countryside around the county’s capital , also called Wexford.

The origin of its name is Norse , as the town was founded by the Vikings in the 9th century.

But the agriculturally rich county had , of course , been settled thousands of years before that. Beg Eire , on the opposite bank of Wexford harbour , was founded by St. Ibar , who may have been in Ireland before St Patrick. Close by are the Wexford Slobs , an extensive wildfowl reserve.

The Normans first landed in Ireland at Baginbun in Wexford in 1169 , initiating the Anglo-Norman Conquest.

South Wexford has fine tower houses , built by the Norman invaders. Some real hidden gems.

In the baronies of Bargy and Forth , the most ancient English speech was preserved in a dialect known as Yola , until around 1850.

County Wexford was one of few places where the Rebellion of 1798 actually took place under the leadership of Father John Murphy. The disastrous battle on Vinegar Hill outside Enniscorthy ended the rebellion in Wexford.

The county is well endowed with historic monuments , including the great medieval Cistercian abbeys of Dunbrody and Tintern , the Norman church in New Ross , and the castle , churches , and high crosses at Ferns , seat of Dermot MacMurrough , who first invited the Normans to Ireland.

Wexford’s past is imaginatively re-created at the National heritage Park at Ferrycarrig on the Slaney estuary. Kilmore Quay , with its picturesque thatched houses , looks out onto Saltee Islands , one of the great gannet colonies of Northwestern Europe. A must see attraction.

The port of Rosslare offers links with Wales and France by car ferries , which ply routes that have brought people and ideas to Ireland since the Stone Age.

In Wexford town , a fine statue by the American sculptor Wheeler Williams commemorates Wexford-born Commodore John Barry (1745-1803) , father of the American navy.

The internationally renowned Wexford Opera Festival , held annually since 1951 in October/ November , is devoted to the staging of rarely heard operas.

Notable natives of the county include the painter Francis Danby (1793-1861) and the novelist John Banville. The famous English architect A. W. Pugin (1812-52) designed a number of churches in county Wexford , including the cathedral at Enniscorthy. The John F. Kennedy Arboretum near New Ross commemorates the American president , whose ancestors came from nearby Dunganstown.

See Wexford on any Ireland tours …. you will not be disappointed.