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East Waterford Gaultier Coast Drive


Waterford • Faithlegg • Cheekpoint • Passage East • Woodstown • Dunmore East • Ballymacaw • Brownstown Head • Waterford •

The name Gaultier was given to this east Waterford area in the 13th century. It is a corruption of Gall Tir, land of the strangers. This is certainly not an apt description of the people you will meet on this drive, whose friendship will overwhelm you.

Leave Waterford city via the Dunmore East road. The People’s Park is on the right, described under Waterford City. Continue, following the Passage East/Dunmore East signs. Shortly after the Regional Hospital a sign leads to Waterford Castle and Waterford Castle Golf & Country Club. The castle, now a hotel, and the golf club, although adjoining, are separate enterprises. Both the castle and the golf course are on an island in the Suir and are served by a very short ferry trip.

The old medieval castle, which stood here, was a Fitzgerald stronghold. The Fitzgeralds are descendants of Maurice, son of Gerald, who came with Strongbow at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion. Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883) was a famous literary member of the family who translated the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The present castle is the result of extensive remodelling which occurred in 1900 in a lavish Edwardian-Elizabethan baronial style.

Waterford Castle Golf & Country Club is the only truly Island course in Ireland. The ancient woodlands of the Fitzgerald estate are used to great effect in the shaping of this fine 18-hole parkland, which includes many water features. Visitors are welcome and should telephone in advance to secure preferred tee times.

Return to the mainland and follow the Passage East/Cheekpoint signs, keeping right for Cheekpoint at the first fork passing under the bridge at the pub. “Under the Bridge” on the Cheekpoint road is Jack Meades Pub, which dates from 1705. It has extensive grounds against a background of a millrace, lime kilns and tidal stream walks. A display of historical pictures and antiques offer a fascinating diversion.

Turn left at the next junction and follow the road to Faithlegg Golf Club, left. The course is laid out on the estate of Cornelius Bolton, who built his house here in 1783. It was later extended by the Powers. It then became a college of the De La Salle Order of Brothers, before it was purchased by the golf club. The house stands near the fine, new clubhouse. The course is laid out over 6079m, using the mature trees and undulating parkland to great effect. Its par 72 presents a real challenge. Visitors are encouraged to telephone in advance to secure desired tee times.

Continue towards Cheekpoint, past Faithlegg Chapel and Graveyard. The chapel spire was erected by Nicholas Power. Nearby is the ruin of a nave and chancel church with a medieval font.

Cheekpoint is a pleasant fishing village, set on a headland above the confluence of the Suir and Barrow rivers. There are very pleasant walks in the area, notably along the Suir, south of the village and up Minawn Hill to Faithlegg Forest, which commands wonderful views of the two rivers and the estuary. There are extensive forest walks through Sitka spruce, noble fir and some Japanese larch. Rhododendron can be seen among the bracken and bramble. Guests include many species of song birds, as well as the ubiquitous rabbit, fox and badger. There is a scenic car park and a picnic site in this Coillte managed wood.

The twin stacks on the opposite bank mark the electricity generating plant at Campile in Co. Wexford.

Ray McGrath is the expert on walks in the area. He offers country-walking holidays in county Waterford and the southeast where his intimate knowledge of the county and his easy manner makes him a fascinating and charming companion and guide.

Along the shore at Cheekpoint anglers can bottom fish for flounder and dogfish. Codling and coalfish are rewarding in the winter.

Return on the road travelled, past Faithlegg Golf Club again and turn left at the sign for Passage (An Pasaiste ¾). This is an old black and white mileage signpost, and these can be encountered along with the newer posts, which give the distance in km.

Turn left at the next junction where this point is illustrated by a sign indicating that Passage is 2km away. Enjoy spectacular views of the estuary and the long arm of the Hook Peninsula, opposite, into which is set the village of Ballyhack.

Passage East is an ancient port and is closely linked with pivotal times in Irish history. It was here Strongbow came ashore in 1170 to consolidate the Anglo-Norman foothold, tentatively made at Bannow Strand in Wexford the year before. He arrived with 200 knights and 1,000 men in preparation for his attack on Waterford. Henry II landed with 4,000 men in 1171 and Cromwell’s son in law took the fort in 1649.

It is now a tranquil fishing village of great charm and because of the ferry, linking Co. Waterford with Co. Wexford and Rosslare, is a gathering place for leisure travellers.

Shore anglers can bottom fish for bass and flatfish at high tide. Spinning from the bank south of the pier will produce bass at low tide and in the first two hours of the flood. Passage East serves Ballyhack, and the Hook Peninsula by car ferry. No reservations necessary. Fare payable on ferry.

Follow the sign for Woodstown, 5km. A sign, right, points to the ruin of Geneva barracks, which can be viewed outside the walls, as the structure is unsafe. In 1778, a project was devised to build a town for Swiss émigré watchmakers and intellectuals. It was planned to have a university here and establish a European centre for learning. The plan fell through and the ruin now standing was used as a prison during the 1798 rebellion, when it earned a notorious reputation for the savage treatment of prisoners within its walls. Geneva barracks is commemorated in the ballad “The Croppy Boy”.

The Barracks is in the tiny village of Crook, which lies opposite Hook Head across the estuary. Cromwell vowed to take Waterford “by Hook or by Crook, thus giving rise to the popular expression.

Woodstown is the next stop. Imposing gateposts, right, lead to Woodstown House, private. The lands here were owned by the Waddings, a prominent Waterford family in the 17th century. The statue of Fr. Luke Wadding, a cousin, stands opposite Reginald’s Tower in the city. (See under Waterford’s Famous Sons). The present Regency style house was built by Robert Shapland Carew, later Lord Carew, as a gift to his wife. The house was owned at one time by Major C.D. Cholmeley-Harrison, who let it during the summer of 1967 to Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of the assassinated President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Drive through the village, keeping left for the beach car park. Woodstown is a very protected sandy beach, encompassed by wooded hills and is a beautiful setting to while away the hours on a fine day.

Return to the drive, swinging left from the car park. Knockadirragh, right, has an interesting megalithic tomb near the summit, access to which will be described below.

The first turn left leads to the secluded Fornaght Strand via a very narrow road with very limited parking near the beach. Back now to the main road and continue towards Dunmore East. At the crossroads take a short detour right to gain access to Harrison megalithic tomb on Knockadirragh. Just over the crest of the hill, park, and walk up a narrow lane, right, which leads up to the site. The tomb is a wedge shaped passage grave set in a round cairn. The views from the hill are magnificent and encompass Belle Lake to the north and Woodstown, Creadan Head and Dunmore to the east. The tomb is said to be on an ancient roadway called Boirin na mBan Gorm, (the road of the black women) which ran from Creadan Head to Cork.

Return to the crossroads and continue straight through towards Dunmore, arriving at Killea (Cill Aodh). The village gets its name from the church established by Aodh in the 4th century. Aodh was a disciple of Declan of Ardmore, whom we’ll meet on the Gaeltacht and Galltacht Drive.

Beside the new school, right, is a tiny old school, built in 1890. It is typical of many rural schools in Ireland, which served generations of Irish children up to the middle of this century and often beyond. There is the ruin of an old medieval church, right.

The more modern church was built shortly after the time of the Act of Union, which came into force in January, 1801. This event is commemorated in the Act of Union symbol in the roof, which depicts the symbols of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. This Act dissolved the Irish Parliament and placed Ireland directly under the parliament in London. The rounded walls of the church render a perfect acoustic resonance, which is a joy to visiting choirs.

On the outskirts of Dunmore East there is a golf club sign, left. Follow the sign, keeping left at the fork to reach Dunmore Golf & Country Club. The 18-hole parkland course commands fine views of the village of Dunmore and the Coast to Hook Head. The par 72 course is laid out over 6083m and provides a stiff challenge in lovely surroundings. Visitors are always welcome. Telephone in advance to secure preferred tee times.

Right of the road from the golf club is Counsellor’s Strand, a lovely protected EU Blue Flag beach. There is a car park above it. The original fishing settlement at Dunmore lay in this area at a time when fishermen launched their boats from the strand. The sheltered cove where the Strand Inn is situated, was a notorious haunt for smugglers. Return to the main road and continue through the village.

Dunmore East is a most picturesque village, which attracts all those who love fresh Atlantic fish and who enjoy the gourmet restaurants who know how to prepare and present it.

Above the village the wooded park offers lovely walks. It was presented for public use by Lord Waterford in 1926. Access via The Ship Restaurant.

In the centre of the village is an Anglo-Norman castle, which was erected in the 12th century. The Church of Ireland church of St Andrew was built in 1815 and the spire and tower were added in 1881.

Built as a mail packet terminal between 1814 and the late 1820s the harbour shifted the focus of the village. Mail for Waterford came to Dunmore from Milford Haven in Wales. The beautiful thatched houses and attractive buildings now in evidence, mostly date from this period.

Dunmore East was surrounded by big houses, where wealthy merchant families and navy officers made their homes during the British occupation. The Haven Hotel was one such house. Formerly the Villa Marina it was a holiday home for the Malcomsons, who had shipping and cotton interests. This Quaker family built the model workers’ village in Portlaw to support the cotton industry, which they set up there. (See Suir Valley Drive). Another dignitary associated with the village is Admiral Westcott of the British Navy at the time of Nelson.

During the 1960s and ‘70s, Dunmore was a major herring port, but when the stocks declined, the fishing boats were forced further afield to harvest their stocks. Today the harbour attracts ocean going yachts from Britain and Continental Europe and, of course, many sea anglers who enjoy hunting the great variety of fish off the Waterford coast. These visitors, together with the many who come by road, enjoy the hospitality and particular flavour of this lovely port.

Nature pays tribute to the tranquillity of the place, through the presence of a huge colony of normally human-shy kittiwakes who have set up their tenement homes in the cliffs beside the fishing harbour, still one of the busiest in Ireland.

Leave Dunmore keeping Dunmore Harbour house on the left. Turn left at the next junction of Ballymacaw. Portally Cove, signposted left, is a very pretty cove. Access and turning is restricted for cars.

Continue westwards, where the panoramas open up with wonderful coastal views to the distant Brownstown Head.

Ballymacaw is a tiny picturesque village, with a cove, signposted. Near the village, in Rathmoylan, are a promontory fort and standing stone situated in fields over rough ground. Enquire locally for directions.

Keep right, past White’s thatched pub, towards Tramore, passing the small village of Cloghernagh. Enjoy the lovely panoramas with the exciting sand-lined peninsula of Tramore strand with its burrow of attractive dunes lying across Tramore Bay.

Where Tramore is signposted 7 miles – one of those old mileage signposts again – turn left to Brownstown Head. After 3km the road gets very rough. Park, and take the short walk to the head. The towers were built in the 1800s as navigation aids, because of the frequency of shipwrecks in Tramore Bay. This is a peaceful, beautiful place, where the eye has difficulty coping with the magnificent coastal scenery. The town of Tramore is visible to the right at the end of its magnificent strand.

Return to the Tramore road. The tour follows the road, right, for Waterford just after Corbally Church. Turn right again at the next junction and left at the second crossroads, signposted Waterford.

Return to the Drive, turning right for Waterford.

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