Wexford became the first stop on my tour of Ireland by default – a good friend asked me to come down to the Wexford Strawberry Festival. I love Strawberries and it was just handy that the county she asked me to visit was one of the – ‘never been’ counties on my list.
The outlook for the weekend wasn’t good as I drove down through Gorey and North Wexford in torrential rain I didn’t see much. The Friday night was pretty much a wash out and the only scenery I saw was the inside of the towns watering holes – but then this is probably the central focus of any good Irish festival!
Johnstown Castle & Gardens
Thankfully the rain passed and my own head was also clear enough to tackle the road on Saturday. The first port of call was Johnstown house and gardens near Murrintown. I was genuinely surprised that we were charged €6 to drive into the grounds when the house is not even open to the public. I assume that is for the upkeep of the gardens but this is probably a barrier that would really stop local people from coming in for a walk around the grounds like they do in Killarney National Park. The house itself is stunning though you do long to look inside and the gardens are beautiful to walk around with a somewhat under landscaped walled garden, towers and a large lake forming breathtaking scene.
The Agricultural Museum
What really made Johnstown stand out for me was the Agricultural Museum. I have to admit that I was not expecting much when I saw another entry fee this time of €6 per person to enter – so much for the budget – but I was really pleasantly surprised at the size and variety of the exhibition.
First up was the horse drawn caravan which has been beautifully restored and on display just inside the door. I had always wanted to see inside one of these – it’s like a hidden little world that I never had access to. Next up were the carts, then the tractors, then on to the field equipment for cutting hay and then to the Milking equipment. I come from a rural background but I would never have had a close affinity to machinery yet despite this both myself and my friend were really engaged by the display and descriptions. The care and depth of the exhibition was really fascinating and I could imagine that my father or grandfather who grew up on a farm with this equipment would have loved it.
At this point I expected the exhibition to end but it continued into a street of shopfronts for Tradespeople of Ireland – Coopers, Tailors, Blacksmith and Shoe Maker’s workshops – beautifully recreated. Next was the Irish Furniture exhibition and Irish Cottage Interiors through the years, there was even a little exhibition on laundry through the years. It is a beautifully put together and maintained display with explanations as you move around to keep you fascinated for hours.
The Famine Museum
I had forgotten that the Famine section of the museum existed when we came back around to it. We all know the text book story of the famine but through the haunting story told on the walls, the recreated famine cottage, illustrations, potato farrows, grave markers and most importantly through the audio constantly playing throughout the museum they really brought the emotional core of the famine to the front instead of the political and historical significance that we all know so well. I found myself sitting at one of the areas with tears in my eyes listening to stories of the devastation in Clonakilty, Co. Cork.
As icing on the cake literally – there is a restaurant serving really good food and mouth watering cakes and pastrys to enjoy when you finish your tour of the museum – so filled up on a beautiful salad (I know – salad – so unlike me but it was just gorgeous!) we headed on to our next destination.
Mayglass – Seamus Kirwin’s Cottage
Knowing that Mayglass was quite close to Murrintown we set out on a bit of an adventure through rural Wexford where we went around in circles for an hour or two trying to find the Wexford Cottage conservation project that was undertaken by the heritage council. Eventually after asking a local shopkeeper we found it but it was hard to know if we had the right place – it appeared to be private property – no sign existed to declare its significance or the details of the project. If I didn’t have my book on the project with me I wouldn’t have believed it was the right place! What happened – was the cottage restored and then is now being left to go to ground again or did it revert back to the ownership of the family – does anyone live there? If anyone knows what happened to the cottage I would really appreciate the information? It seems such a shame that not more has been made of it!
The National Heritage Park
We definitely spent more time than we anticipated spending at the Agriculture Museum but were glad to make the last tour group for the National Heritage Park near Wexford Town. The park is undergoing some renovation works at the moment so two or three of the sites were inaccessible but the tour guide was enthusiastic and informative so the tour as a whole was very enjoyable. Of course I loved wandering in and out of the Crannog’s and inspecting their construction and as was the case – destruction as the archaeologists are currently allowing some to decay naturally for documentation purposes.
One thing I thought was excellent and that every county in Ireland should take on was that June the 25th was the first ‘Wexford Day’ so if you were wearing the Wexford County colours you could enjoy free access to many tourist attractions in Wexford. Unfortunatley we didn’t know this before we set off but we certainly found some purple and yellow by the time we got to the Heritage Park.
It was really uplifting and enjoyable to see all of the families and tourists out wearing the county colours and people genuinely felt pride in their county – The country needs more innovative and motivational events like this to promote local pride – Well done Wexford!
As it turns out I’m not great for cutting my visits down to size for these articles – I could have written five times as much about today but I said I’d better curtail myself.
Tomorrow I will post about Day 2 of my Wexford Tour around Hook Head, Kylemore Quay and Rosslare Harbour…
- Cottageology Tour of Ireland
- Co. Wexford – Day 2 – Hook Head, Kylemore Quay and Rosslare Harbour
- The Traditional Wexford Cottage
Links and Further Information:
- Johnstown House & Gardens and The Agricultural & Famine Museum
- The Irish National Heritage Park
- Check out the Visit Wexford Website for more information on Wexford Day