Southeast Ireland enjoys the warmest climate in Ireland. Its highlights include the Neolithic tombs in the Valley of the Boyne, early Christian monastic sites, and towns such as Waterford that grew from Viking settlements. The wildest landscapes of the region are to be found in the forested hills and desolate moorland of the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Castletown was Ireland’s first grand Palladian-style country house. The most distinctive features of the house is the magnificent long gallery at the top of the house, with its Pompeiian-style friezes, cobalt-blue walls, and niches framing Classical statuary. From the long gallery, visitors can admire the curious obelisk-topped memorial to its former owner, William Connoly, the Speaker of the Irish Parliament.
Newgrange is one of the most important passage graves in Europe. Built around 3200 BC, Newgrange was rediscovered in 1699. When it was excavated in the 1960s, archaeologists realized that at dawn on the winter solstice (December 21), a beam of the sunlight shines through the opening above the entrance to the tomb – a feature unique to Newgrange. The light travels along the 62-ft passage and hits the central recess int the burial chamber. It is thus the world’s oldest solar observatory. Newgrange is very popular, especially in the summer, so you may have to wait for your turn at the Brú na Bóinne Interpretive Centre.
Glendalough is one of Ireland’s most atmospheric ruined monasteries. Founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century, it functioned as a monastic center until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. Most of the buildings date from the 10th to 12th centuries.
Many of this lovely city’s houses feature the local black limestone, known as Kilkenny marble. Nearby Kilkenny Castle is a 12th-century castle that was remodeled in Victorian times. It is set in extensive parkland and was the seat of the Butler family for almost 600 years from around 1391 until 1967 when it was presented to the people of Kilkenny. The round tower at St. Canice’s Cathedral offers spectacular views of the city. The Gothic cathedral dates from the 13th century and has a finely sculpted west door and an array of 16th-century tombs.
Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city. Founded by the Vikings in 914, the city was later extended by the Anglo-Normans. Its commanding position on the Suir estuary made it southeast Ireland’s main port. The 18th century saw the establishment of local industries include the world-famous glassworks. The original Waterford Crystal Factory was founded in 1783 but closed in 1851.