The South East: a region for all seasons

Jack Walsh

Senior Tour Officer, South East Tourism, Ireland

The five counties of South East Ireland - Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford - contain all the facilities that any discerning visitor, either domestic or foreign, might want.

Known as 'The Sunny South East', the region is indeed 'Ireland in the Sun', holding the record for the longest hours of sunshine annually in the country. The seaside counties of Wexford and Waterford can boast a varied coastline consisting of great beaches and, in the case of Co. Waterford, dramatic coastal cliff scenery.

Seaside resorts such as Courtown, Curracloe and Rosslare in Co. Wexford are household names while in Co. Waterford, Dunmore East, Tramore - with its new indoor water facility - Clonea and Ardmore have traditionally attracted large numbers of visitors from at home and abroad.

Inland, both counties have some very fine visitor attractions, including Johnstown Castle Gardens and the Agricultural Museum, the Irish National Heritage Park, the Yola Farm Centre, the Wexford Experience all in County Wexford, while Waterford City can offer a visit to the Waterford Crystal Factory, to Reginalds Tower and the Heritage Centre, to the extensive seaside facilities at Tramore including Splashworld, and to Lismore Heritage Town and the lovely Blackwater Valley area.

South Tipperary is the most scenic inland county in Ireland as it has the Galtee, Comeragh and Knockmealdown mountain ranges, creating such well-known places as the Glen of Aherlow and the Valley of Slievenamon.

Kilkenny City is the biggest inland tourist centre in Ireland. The wealth of historic buildings and sites both in the city and throughout the county - Kilkenny Castle, Rothe House, St Canices Cathedral, Dunmore Cave, Jerpoint Abbey at Thomastown, Duiske Abbey at Graiguenamanagh, Kells Priory and many more - make this county the Mecca both for those particularly interested in history and archaeology and the general sightseer.

Carlow is a county of rolling countryside, with its border with Wexford straddled by the Black Stairs mountain range including Mount Leinster, the highest mountain in Leinster and the second highest in Ireland. The range is noted for its wonderful opportunities for walking, the South Leinster Way being its primary developed walk. Mount Leinster also shares, with Achill, the claim of being the best two centres in Ireland for hang-gliding.

The region, which is divided by five major Irish rivers, the Barrow, the Nore, the Suir, the Slaney and the Blackwater, also lays claim to having the highest number of national monuments in the country.

Listed amongst these are the Rock of Cashel, Cahir Castle, Kilkenny Castle, Browneshill Dolmen at Carlow (with the largest capstone in Europe), Dunbrody Abbey, Co. Wexford; Ardmore Cathedral and Round Tower, Co. Waterford - the finest round tower in Ireland; the Norman remains at Baginbun in Wexford where they first landed, Swiss Cottage, Cahir and many more.

With an extensive coastline and five major rivers the region is an angler's paradise. The game fisherman can be accommodated anywhere on these rivers, the sea angler is spoilt for choice and while coarse angling is not plentiful, good fishing can be had at Graiguenamanagh , Co. Kilkenny, and Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, both centres having hosted international coarse angling championships in the past.

Sea angling boats are available to hire at Courtown, Wexford Town and Kilmore Quay in Co. Wexford, and at Dungarvan in Co. Waterford, where shark fishing is the big attraction.

A full range of accommodation is available throughout the region: hotels, guest-houses, farmhouses, Irish homes, self-catering, caravans and camping, hostels, etc, and can be booked through any Tourist Information Office run by the regional tourism organisations.

Festivals and entertainment abound. The region's internationally well-known festivals would include the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera (Sept.), Kilkenny Arts Week (Aug.) and the Wexford Opera Festival (Oct.). The Waterford Show, which takes place during the summer at Waterford City Hall, was voted in 1995 by clients of CIE Tours International as 'the best entertainment in Ireland'.

But this is just one of many entertainment opportunities. Bru Boro in Cashel hosts a wonderful Irish show during the summer months featuring the singers and dancers of Comhaltas Ceoiltoiri Eirann, with many other fine cabaret and in-house entertainments in hotels, pubs and entertainment centres. The more energetic are also well catered for with many fine riding establishments, golf clubs, facilities for walking and cycling, indoor and outdoor swimming etc.

Some of Ireland's finest golf courses are in the South East - the traditional courses of Carlow, Rosslare, Tramore, Clonmel and Kilkenny - while some of the latest additions are now vying with the best in Europe - Mount Juliet (Thomastown), Ballykisteen (Limerick Junction), Dundrum (South Tipperary), West Waterford Golf Club, St Helens in Wexford and Mount Wolseley Golf and Country Club at Tullow, Co. Carlow.

The region's best known product is Waterford Crystal. A designated tourist trail throughout the factory has now been installed with a multilingual guide service, the result of which is that the factory is now attracting 250,000 visitors annually, making it the fourth biggest tourist attraction in the country.

The region is also a very popular venue for conferences with major centres like Waterford City, Wexford and Kilkenny capable of hosting conferences of up to 1,200 delegates.

All in all, the South East region, in a very compact area, can boast everything that Ireland has to offer the visitor for an enjoyable and memorable holiday experience..