IRELAND: Enniscorthy and surrounding areas

Making crystal at Waterford Crystal lr The Range Enniscorthy lr
L-R: Making crystal at Waterford Crystal. The Range at Enniscorthy.
 
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By Tim Saunders

“That clock is valued at 150,000 euros,” says our guide pointing at an intricately designed crystal longcase clock during our tour of Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland.

It is at this point that Caroline shudders and we wonder whether it is such a good idea to visit the world-renown factory with our daughters Harriett (4) and Heidi (2). But by the end of the informative 50 minute tour we know that we made the right decision.

Established in 1783 when Beethoven was busy composing and the world’s first hot air balloon took flight, Waterford Crystal was established by George and William Penrose. Ireland was the chosen location for the factory because of the large amounts of forest, which could provide the fuel for the furnaces. It cost £10,000 to build and equip the factory. They employed between 50 and 70 staff. I am particularly interested to see that in 1823 George Saunders, who had worked with the firm for many years, became a partner in the business. Today, more than 3,800 staff are employed by Waterford Crystal across 14 countries including at its factories in Waterford and Slovenia. “About 70,000 pieces of crystal are produced annually and this does not include commissions,” we are informed as we watch the expert craftsmen at work as you can see in the videos above. “And 95 per cent of our products are made by hand.” It really is an inspiring place to visit and it is easy to see why over 800,000 people have experienced the factory tour. In July 2015 WWRD, the owner of Waterford Crystal and Wedgewood China, was sold for just over £290m to Fiskars, the Nasdaq listed Finnish metal and consumers brands company, founded in 1649.

We stay at The Range, a 300-year-old converted barn, booked through Sykes Cottages. Located at Dunsinane House it is just outside Enniscorthy. All on one level it is a large and spacious property where our two energetic little daughters can run and roam free without us worrying. There are high ceilings and many windows and doors which allow for large amounts of light to enter the property as well as providing great views onto the surrounding farmland. From the kitchen window we can watch the cows grazing. It is also helpful that there is a substantial private driveway, making unloading easy. The historic accommodation dating back to the 18th century really is comfortable with all the mod cons you would expect, including dishwasher and washing machine. We are able to relax and on mornings when the weather is not so good we snuggle up and watch some children’s television. However, the sun decides to shine pretty frequently during our stay and we enjoy mooching around the extensive grounds to see the cattle. We also meet Freddie, the friendly Jack Russell, who Harriett and Heidi take an instant shine to. He does enjoy rolling over while the girls tickle his tummy. They cannot believe that he is the same Freddie we spot on our arrival with a rabbit in his mouth.

On one occasion our daughters actually allow me to sit outside and relax with a cold can of Guinness. This Irish brewed beer does taste slightly lighter to me than the British brewed equivalent sold in the UK.

You cannot help but notice the extremely friendly Irish way either, which does remind me of Mrs Doyle in popular TV sitcom Father Ted. “Oh go on Father, have another cup of tea.” Stroll into a shop to buy some groceries and the helpful staff will greet you happily, have a chat with you and end by saying “That’s grand. You’re very welcome.” This is really refreshing to me. It is not just in the shops where there is a genuine interest for people but also on the streets. Just watching the television one evening we are introduced to proper Irish music and to Stockton’s Wing, an all Irish band, who are truly talented.

It quickly becomes clear that Ireland does like its pay and display parking machines but it is possible to find free car parking on the outskirts of all the towns and cities we visit. We also like the fact that at the two beaches we visit at Kilmore Quay and Rosslare the car parking is free.

An excellent way of finding out what to do in easy to read, well researched, bite size chunks is to grab a copy of the Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland. We are pretty much able to plan our week thanks to this resource.

There is much history in this part of Ireland and at Enniscorthy, the second largest town in County Wexford, there is a castle built in 1205. Vinegar Hill at Enniscorthy is famous for the bloody Irish Rebellion of 1798, an uprising against British rule in Ireland, which lasted from May to September of that year. We visit St Aidan’s Cathedral with its striking façade and interior. It is quite a hilly town and difficult to find a bench that is not by a roadside.

The best day for sunshine sees us visit Kilmore Quay about 20 miles away. Here we are able to carelessly laze on the beach while Harriett and Heidi bury daddy’s feet in the sand. We enjoy seeing the old fishing boats, the smell of the sea and eating ice creams. There is also a play area for the children. Directly opposite the beach are the Saltee Islands, an important bird sanctuary featuring 375 species.

While there are many attractions that can be paid for it is pleasing to cash strapped parents that there are venues that do not charge. For instance, just down the road from us is Ferns Castle, which has a fascinating story behind it and is brought to life by a truly enthusiastic Irishman, Larry Smith, who was in the police force for 43 years. Our tour with Larry is attended by Australians, New Zealanders, Irish and British (us) visitors. We are all astounded by Larry’s ability to remember so many facts and to be so engaging. Even when little Heidi becomes a bit too vocal he calms her down by letting her play with his torch. “William Marshall built this castle,” he reveals. “He never lost a battle.” Inside this 13th century castle, with its dry moat, stone from Bristol can be found. Although now a ruin, we are taken around its remains and up many spiralling staircases to the very top where views of the outlying Normandy brocade landscape are very similar to that found in Normandy itself due to its layout and hedgerows. Larry concludes his fascinating tour by passionately reciting Requiem for the Croppies by Seamus Heaney (below).

Probably the easiest day out with a young family can be found at Carlow, about 30 miles away. Within easy walking distance there is a museum of local history, a cathedral and an art gallery, all free to enter.

We travel to Ireland with Stena Line, one of the world’s largest ferry operators and the largest privately owned shipping company in the world. Certainly their ferries are enormous and ours makes light work of travelling the 50 or so miles between the Pembroke coast and Ireland. Harriett and Heidi do enjoy the process of boarding, the waiting and queuing. Our outgoing crossing leaves at 230pm and so this allows us to leave home at 10am and stop off en route at St Clear’s for lunch. Our return crossing leaves at just after 9pm which allows us to have a full day, all important on holiday, I feel. The magnificent ferry has 10 floors, I discover when little Heidi just refuses to go to sleep on the way home. The main problem, though, seems to be that she wants to meet Curious George, the monkey, who greeted her so warmly on the outgoing journey. “He’s asleep,” I tell her but that just does not cut the mustard. Thank goodness there is a Curious George cartoon playing in the children’s play area, which does pacify her for a little while. And when she drags me to the lift and happily pushes all the buttons, we visit pretty much every floor. I hope that taking her to the outer decks a few times where there is driving rain and wind that takes her breath away will tire her out so much that she will relent. This does eventually happen perhaps half an hour before we arrive at the port… She much prefers the idea of prancing about with her sister by reception and dancing on the shiny wooden floor. This works very well, especially as we are near the leaflet stand, which provides added interest for our two little tearaways. We are impressed with the quality of food on this service, too. The 25 euro family meal deal (for up to five people) is in our opinion good value. For that price we enjoy good quality, tasty fish and chips and soft drinks all round.

Diary

Saturday

Stenaline car ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare, Ireland

Arrive at The Range, Dunsinane House, nr Enniscorthy

Monday

Visit Enniscorthy

Tuesday

Visit Kilmore Quay. A beautiful day on the beach where we enjoy ice creams

Wednesday

Waterford Crystal factory tour

Stroll around Waterford

Thursday

Visit Ferns Castle and have a tour

Friday

Visit Carlow where we learn about the sugar factory, opened in 1925 and closed in the 1990s. We also enjoy some local apple juice

Saturday

Visit Wexford and Rosslare

Stenaline car ferry from Rosslare to Fishguard

Requiem for the Croppies
The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley…
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp…
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching… on the hike…
We found new tactics happening each day:
We’d cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until… on Vinegar Hill… the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August… the barley grew up out of our grave.

Seamus Heaney

Recommended reading:

The Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland. Price £16.99. ISBN: 978-1-74220-749-0.

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