Wexford Town (Loch Garman in Irish) is a pretty coastal town in the South East of Ireland, about a 2 hour drive from Dublin. It is also the town that we’re currently calling ‘home’ as we slow travel on Our Global Adventure. Wexford is said to be a bustling holiday destination in the summer, but on these short, grey January days, we are thoroughly enjoying exploring the town without the tourist crowds.
We only arrived a month ago, but the Vikings found harbour in the Slaney River as early as 850. They went about creating a settlement until the Normans captured Wexford in 1169 and erected impressive structures like a fort, and city walls. Sadly, Cromwell’s forces also took an interest in this port town on the Slaney, and in 1649 they sacked many prominent buildings and murdered two thirds of the towns inhabitants for good measure. It’s a story we hear often at historical sights around Ireland, and 400 years later, it’s a wonder there’s any historical buildings left in Ireland given Cromwell’s partiality for a bit of destruction! So sit back and relax, as we take you on a tour of our Irish home – Wexford…
There are only a couple of the old city walls remaining in Wexford. King Henry II ordered the fortification of the town in 1172, and the Westgate, (Selskar Gate) is the only gate still standing. It’s function was once to collect tolls from people entering the city, but these days you can pass under whilst out for a stroll for free. The Selskar gate is right beside the ruins of Selskar Abbey, some of which is believed to date back to 1190. Apparently Henry II did penance here after arranging the murder of his former ally, Thomas Becket.
It’s hard to miss Wexford’s twin Spires of it’s two Catholic Churches as they tower above the skyline. Both churches where completed in 1858, just 500 meters apart, to serve the towns folk. Why have one, when you can have two, almost identical Churches right? I’m not sure whether attendance numbers are quite as high these days, but we sure do love to hear the bells ringing out over the town, and the stain glass windows in both are very beautiful.
Wexford’s main street in a mostly pedestrian strip that is a reminder of the town’s medieval past. It’s lively and colourful, with plenty of great spots to stop and enjoy a coffee as you ‘people watch’ the locals going about their business. Wexford’s residential streets are narrow and winding, making for a interesting drive for us Australians who are used to lovely wide streets! The photographs above were taken on a quiet Sunday afternoon, on busy weekdays it can be quite a different picture. If you missed it in our earlier post, take a peek at our video, A Drive Around Wexford to get an idea.
We are lucky enough to have found a house right in the centre of town, just one street behind the Main Street. We can walk almost everywhere, including the the Wexford Opera House, which is right across the lane! The newly (2006) refurbished Opera House is the pride of the nation, hosting many events for the Wexford Opera Festival every November. The Wexford Opera House stands on the original site of the Theatre Royal which opened in 1832. We were lucky enough to see “The Nutcracker” just before Christmas.
‘The Bull Ring’ on Main Street was once a beach where boats arrived laden with goods for the town’s markets. The butchers guild began the medieval sport of bull baiting here in 1621 (hence the name) but by 1798 the area was used to produce and repair weapons for the rebellion. More recently (in the last century at least) many political rallies were held on the site, including speakers such as Daniel O’Connell and Michael Collins.
You’ll find this fellow, John Barry, down on the Crescent Quay. This is a monument to Wexford born Barry, who is said to be ‘the father of the American Navy’. The memorial was gifted to the town from the American people in 1956 to commemorate the Commodore’s 58 year navel career which included capturing the first vessel of the American War of Independence and firing the last shot of the same war.
Back to the 142o’s now, and St. Patrick’s Church. This one is also in it’s present condition thanks to Cromwell, and the graveyard contains some of the towns victims of that attack, and the bodies of both locals and British soldiers killed in the 1798 rebellion.
These days the Commercial Quay doesn’t see as much boat traffic as in viking times, but it is lovely to walk beside the Slaney and see some of the local fishing boats anchored there, even if it is a bit chilly in winter!
We’re really enjoying living in this pretty little town, there is a lot to keep us busy, and there is always the feeling of history on our doorstep. Thanks for joining us on our little tour of Wexford, we encourage you to visit should you find yourself in Ireland one day. Wexford is also the perfect base to explore other great spots in the South East as well, like Hook Lighthouse and Glendalough.
We love slow travel, living in one place, using it as a base to explore an area, really suits our family. Do you think it could be a type of travel that could interest you too?