The South West Wexford Region
Interesting facts and links for you to explore in Wexford

Discover Great Islands – Wexford 

Please find some options for activities in our area;

Kite Surfing. Horse Riding. Freedom Surfing at Carnivan Beach.

Bike Tours on the Hook peninsula. Hook Sub Aqua Club. Loftus Hall Haunted House Tours. Golf Afternoon.

Dingy and Board Sailing. Sea and River Kayaking. Snorkelling. Sand Yachting. Rock Climbing.

Hill Walking and Orienteering. Archery or simply relaxing at Kilmokea in our indoor heated pool, Jacuzzi and Sauna!

Looking to be guided around Ireland with a tour guide? Take a look at “My Ireland Tour run Luxury Tours of Ireland”

Enjoy! Is mise, le meas. Emma Hewlett

South West Wexford is “the secret Ireland” – unspoilt, awaiting discovery. It is distinctly different and possesses a landscape, history, culture and character undeniably its own. Its uniqueness is due in no small part to some early visitors from across the seas – the Celts, Vikings and Normans who came, conquered and stayed.

Indeed the coastline, which offers a beach a day for a fortnight, is one of the special attractions of this area. Pretty fishing villages, bird watching on the mudflats of Barrow river, deep sea angling, snorkeling and swimming are part of the area’s maritime life. Rivers, valleys, estuaries and rolling hills have long provided South West Wexford with rich grazing land. There are 11 golf courses within an hours drive of Kilmokea, the closest of which is 10 minutes away, a beautiful par3 course carefully tended by John Deely.

And best of all are the people – warm, friendly, funny, interesting, philosophical, they always have time for a chat or to tell stories about days gone by. The people, the history, the coast, the country – all the ingredients for a great holiday.

Two cultural and scenic touring itineraries starting from Kilmokea CountryManor and gardens.

  1. Take the R733 road for New Ross. Stop off at John F. Kennedy Arboretum. This stunning gem will keep you entertained for as long as you like with woodland and parkland walks amongst rare and exciting trees from around the world. For the adventurious, walk up Slieve Coilte hill, or drive up and when you reach the top you will be greeted with a view that is one in a million. You can see the Black stairs and Commeragh Mountains and the Saltee Islands and The Hook Light house all from one spot! Continue on the R733 to New Ross to visit the The Dunbrody Ship a full scale reproduction of a 19th Century famine ship, is an authentic replica of the Three Masted Barque built in 2000. They take you on a brilliant tour of the ship with a reconstruction of life on the ship. Take the R road to Innisteague to visit Woodstock Demense and gardens, a restoration project well worth a visit. Take in the beautiful village of innisteague as you relax at one of the gorgeous cafes or bistros for brunch or tupper before driving back to Kilmokea for a well earned swim and evening stroll in the gardens before dinner.
  2.  Tour of the Hook Peninsula – it is a beautiful area where the term ‘By Hook or by Crooke’ originates. Your tour should include a visit to the Hook Lighthouse (there is a guided tour available of the lighthouse which is the oldest in Europe – it tells you all about the history and local shipwrecks, etc as well as the nearby haunted house called ‘Loftus Hall); Duncannon Fort (star chamber garrison that is open to the public at the end of a 3 mile long sandy beach); Tintern Abbey (sister to the one in Wales – built by the Duke of Pembrokeshire as a result of surviving a major storm whilst at sea); Dunbrody Abbey & Maze (serious maze where you will get lost!); Kennedy Homestead (owned by Patrick Grennnan a direct descendant of JF Kennedy); JFK Arboretum (460 acres of trees and ponds to commemorate JFK’s life – horse drawn carriages, etc) and Slieve Coilte (an amazing viewing point from which you can see swathes of land once inhabited by Vikings and Normans.
    For all to do and see in our beautiful area;

Gardens to visit

Fishing at . This is a 15 min drive from kilmokea has information about coarse fishing on the river barrow at st mullins. this is a 30 min drive from kilmokea
The following sites have some further information for you;

A must read for any visitor to the South West of Wexford, “the secret Ireland”, awaiting discovery.

By Hook or by Crook – My Irish Experience

By Sindy Chan (People’s Daily Online) 14:45, November 20, 2013

This is a fasinating, highly informative article written by Sindy Chan with excellent photos by Nam Nai Choi. They arrived to stay with us as Chinese Journalists and left as life long friends. We had many extradinary experiences together ranging from visits to the wonders of South West Wexford to a private viewing of Parliament in Leinster House, an introduction by Mark Hewlett to Minister Paul Kehoe. To conclude their stay at Kilmokea Country Manor & Gardens, our boys prepared a musical feast of Guitar playing, French Horn blowing and Irish Dancing for Sindy & Nam to bid them farewell and Slán abhaile!. Our lives are the richer for our meeting. Go raibh Dia libh.

“Guests staying with us arrive by car. As you will see upon arriving, we are 15 km from New Ross and 25 km from Waterford, which is the beauty of where we are in the countryside.”

“If you get a bus to Waterford, I can pick you up at 6.30pm …… This is not so easy for me as I am fitting you in between other appointments. I shall endeavour to meet you at 6.30pm at the bus station.”

“I am driving a medium black dodge car. I am 5’2″ with blonde hair and a multi coloured coat on.”

Irish hospitality is superlative. If you are addicted train traveller, going around on Irish Explorer Pass with Irish train (Iarnród Éireann) and bus (Bus Éireann) but occasionally find it difficult to travel on and off the beaten track, you might still be able to find benevolent accommodation host to collect you at some point.

That’s what Emma Hewlett did. The house lady of Kilmokea Country Manor & Gardens came with her twin boys Myles and Cosmo. After one more stop picking up 11-year old Joshua from his Irish dance class, Emma drove us to the East Passage car ferry across River Barrow to Ballyhack.

By Hook or by Crook, a phrase originates from this area meaning “by any means necessary”, applies very well to Kilmokea, in a sense that the house is accessible either by ferry from Waterford or by car from New Ross.

The house is a Georgian style Manor with a 7-acre garden in abundance of beautiful plants and flowers. Only had I learnt from Emma later on the tremendous efforts involved in up keeping the ground land. Luckily, students in horticulture studies from The Netherlands come to spend their internship here every winter, providing some extra hands for the house lady and her gardener.

The summer Sun still lingers by the time we arrive. It has been a long day for Emma but she quickly shows us around, sets our dinner table with racks of lamb and drinks, then she leaves us in privacy to attend the boys.

I can’t wait to see Wexford, the cradle of many significant figures in modern history, yet little-known to the rest of the world.

Rosbercon, just across river Barrow from New Ross – hometown to grandparents of Eugene Gladstone O’Neill, the American playwright and winner of the 1936 Nobel Prize in Literature.Dunganstown, 6 km south of New Ross – the ancestral home of the Irish-origin Kennedy family who made their name in history with John Fitzgerald Kennedy became the 35th President of the United States of America in 1961.

The Kennedy legend began with Patrick Kennedy emigrated to Boston America in 1849. 112 years later, his great-grandson was elected US President.

In 1963, John F. Kennedy, as the first serving US President to visit Ireland, paid a visit to Dunganstown and gave a speech in New Ross.

Our plans changed after meeting Mark Helwett the next morning. Mark is board member of Hook Tourism, a local tourism promotion organization for Hook peninsular. Mark and wife Emma demonstrated superb Irish hospitality to help putting together our 3-day itinerary and show us around the best of South West Wexford.

We started with The Dunbrody famine ship in New Ross. The great famine of Ireland in 1845, precipitated by a total failure of the potato crop in Ireland, led to steeply rising food prices and then widespread starvation, subsequently caused one million or may be more people died; another million and a half people emigrated mostly to North America by 1852.

The famine ship in New Ross is a full scale replica of the 19th Century Dunbrody. The original Dunbrody was one of eight cargo vessels that sea merchant the Graves Family commissioned to be built by the expert shipwright Thomas Hamilton Oliver.

Built as a cargo ship, the original Dunbrody travelled mostly to Quebec and New York as well. During the great famine, cargo vessels were deployed to carry thousands of emigrants to North America. Despite the bad reputation for cargo ships over-carrying passengers, the Dunbrody is known to have had an exceptionally good safety record under the command of Captain John Williams.

Construction of The Dunbrody replica by the JFK Trust in November 1996 was headed by Michael Kennedy (the sixth of eleven children of Robert F. Kennedy).

Over the course of the five-year construction project more than 150 local people gained hands-on experience of traditional shipbuilding skills.

As visitor from afar, I was offered the opportunity to ring the ship bell on the deck which being the only original object from the 19th century Dunbrody.

The Dunbrody is a memoir of a sharp turning point in Irish History. The bell sounds as if to resonate how the great famine intricate Irish emigration to the new world in America, which had completely changed the historical path of Ireland and the world.

Hook Lighthouse has 800 years of Irish history to tell.

Legend says sixth century Welsh monk Dubhán established the first fire beacon on Hook Head to warn seafarers keeping away from the dangerous rocks.

And it was William Marshal earl of Pembrokeshire undertook to build the lighthouse in early 13th century, as a navigational aid to guide his ships into Waterford Harbour. Standing at the tip of Hood Head, the almost intact lighthouse is a medieval charm which connects Ireland’s present and past.Our guide Kevin walked us through the history of a lighthouse fire – the old beacon light replaced by coal burning lantern in 1671, coal fire was abandoned in 1791 when 12ft. diameter whale oil lantern with 12 lamps in place, source of power changed from whale oil to paraffin oil then taken over by gas lights in 1871, and electricity eventually became the power source in 1972.

Ever wonder what is behind a lighthouse’s humble flashing light? It’s a huge electric lantern of several metres high. A lantern no longer in use is displayed on lighthouse ground floor. The operating giant lanterns on level three are not accessible to the public.

As we followed Kevin climbing up the 115 steps, I easily substituted myself into the life of ancient lighthouse keeper working and living in chill, high-ceiling, 36.6m cylindrical stone freestanding keeps where strong wind and rough wave were usual companions. Because of that, ascetic monks were the earliest custodians of the lighthouse’s light. There is a chamber dedicated to these earliest keepers.

Hook Lighthouse is believed to be one of the oldest operating lighthouses in Europe and probably in the world.

The Tower of Hook became fully automated in 1996 when resident keepers no longer needed. It was then open to the public.

The Tower overlooking the confluence of rivers Barrow, Nore and Suir and landing places (Bannow, Baginbun) and passage of the Anglo-Normans in 1169 triggered much of my imagination of the ancient Irish kingdoms, such as Kingdom of Leinster with its traditional flag features a golden harp on a green background.

Leinster is an old word full of legends. But Paul Kehoe, the Irish Government Chief Whip & Minister of State at the Department of The Taoiseach and Defence, gave a new definition to Leinster.

At the opening ceremony of the new museum “World at War” in Duncannon Fort, Mark Hewlett introduced us to Minister Kehoe.

“Would you like to visit our Parliament in Leinster House?” Kehoe extended tremendous Irish hospitality with his invitation.

Irish Parliament was never on our itinerary but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Leinster House visit is open to Irish national and foreign visitor. We were honoured to have a TD (Minister) sponsored visit.

Wednesday morning Leinster House had Dáil Éireann (the House of Representatives) in session. We made a short stay in the public gallery when debate on legal abortion was going on.

Joined by some patriotic Irish people, we were taken on guided tour of Leinster House to learn about history of the building and the traditions of Ireland’s parliamentary heritage.The house was originally known as Kildare House after James Fitzgerald, the Earl of Kildare, who commissioned the Georgian style house to be built between 1745 and 1947. On becoming the Duke of Leinster in 1776 (Dublin and Kildare are in the province of Leinster) James Fitzgerald renamed it the Leinster House.

Shortly before the insurrection of May 1798, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, fifth son of the first Duke of Leinster, who supported complete separation of Ireland from England, was arrested and died of wounds. It would have beyond his dreams that many years later the Irish Parliament would be located in his family home.

In 1815, Augustus Frederick, the third Duke of Leinster, sold the mansion to the Royal Dublin Society (RDS).

After the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, the Government secured a part of Leinster House for parliamentary use. The entire building was acquired by the State in 1924.

Today, Leinster House is the seat of the two Houses of the Oireachtas (National Parliament), comprising Dáil Éireann (the House of Representatives) and Seanad Éireann (the Senate).

It has been claimed that Leinster House formed a model for the design of the White House in the United States, perhaps due to Irish-born James Hoban, winner of the competition for the design of the White House in 1792, had studied architecture in Dublin.

At the end of the tour, every visitor is presented with a copy of the “Proclamation of the Provisional Government Irish Republic”, a very important piece in Irish history relating to the Easter Rising in Dublin on 24 April 1916.

I have my copy autographed by Minister Kohoe with a hand-written message “All the best to the people of China”, which makes the best souvenir to take home to remember our footprints in Leinster House, the Queen’s staircase, and even the Taoiseach’s Apartment on the other side of Leinster House.

I shared my Leinster adventure with Noel Comer, the bed and breakfast owner of Number 31 on Leeson Close in Dublin.

“I have the same exotic experience. I met President Xi Jinping personally.” Comer said.

Comer was referring to an occasion in 2012 when the then Vice President Xi headed an agricultural delegation to Ireland. Some of the delegates stayed in Comer’s Number 31 – a very popular Georgian style town house accommodation in downtown Dublin and highly recommended by travel social media for its sleeping quality and award-winning breakfast.

Comer recalled President Xi as “attentive listener, serious questioner, charismatic and outstanding.”

I teased him that he knew the President of China better than I.

“So are you. You know Minister Kehoe better than I do.”