Hook Head Lighthouse, County Wexford
We haven’t been going too far from home these days now that I’m full term and could pop at any moment, but that hasn’t bothered us at all.
One of the nicest things about moving to a new country and city is the ability to become a backyard tourist – every time we go for a drive I feel like I’m on vacation. Since the weather was so unbelievably great over the past week, we were able to take a few days out here and there when Patrick wasn’t working.
Yesterday, after enjoying my new favourite breakfast of freshly-baked Irish brown bread (it’s similar to soda bread, but made with cracked wheat, oats and other whole grains) with poached eggs, we got into the car and drove to County Wexford. Our destination? Hook Head Lighthouse, which is the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world. It sounds kinda boring when described that way, so let me elaborate on what makes this area special.
The lighthouse itself was first constructed in the 1300’s and has been in use ever since, with much of the original structure remaining. The former lighthouse keeper-houses are now used as a small maritime museum, a café, a gift shop and an art space where you can attend workshops or paint some pottery. The front lawn is a bit of a zoo, with a small play area for kids and a picnic area for families (and it gets seriously busy).
It should be mentioned that there are no ATM’s in the area – the nearest one, according to Niamh Colfer from Hook Heritage Ltd. – is 10 km away from the lighthouse in Fethard on Sea. We didn’t realize at the time, but they accept all major credit cards and take debit at the café, so there are still ways to pay for a guided tour of the lighthouse if you’re cash-less. We will be back with my family in September, so we’ll do the guided tour then! It involves climbing 115 steps to the top, so the view is (most likely) spectacular. Thanks to Niamh for clarifying that for me!
My favourite part of our trip to Hook Head, which took about 1.5 hours driving through New Ross from Waterford City and less than 45 minutes driving back taking the Passage East ferry, was not actually the lighthouse but the picturesque surroundings. The lighthouse is surrounded by volcanic-flow-type rocks that lead straight down to the churning sea. You can walk on the rocks, but I would be careful not to get too close to the water – rogue waves and the like!
We took a walk on the rocks around the lighthouse and had a quick chat a scuba diver who was checking out the surrounding waters. He said he had a great dive and saw lots of fish, crabs and other types of marine life. There were so many people out scuba diving! If you’re interested in that sort of thing, you can do boat dives to some shipwrecks and underwater caves, or you can just dive straight from the rocks on the shore. For more information on scuba diving around Hook Head, check out this website.
After our walk, we thought we’d head back up the road where we saw a busy-looking seafood restaurant. Templars Inn is located in Templetown, Fethard on Sea and is about a 10 minute drive from the lighthouse. We ordered fried scampi & chips and a bowl of steamed mussels. The seafood was wonderful; so fresh and well prepared. The server couldn’t tell me where the chef sourced his seafood, but wagered it was local. The mussels definitely were – plump and juicy with bright orange flesh. The scampi was pretty heavily breaded and as a result tasted like fried bread, but the chips served with it were the best chips I’ve had in Ireland – hands down. We’ll definitely be back with my family.
We took the ferry at Ballyhack-Passage East back to County Waterford and it was a much faster trip (8 Euro for one car trip; 12 Euro for a return trip). I liked going through New Ross, though. It’s a beautiful town with a famous link to John F. Kennedy and deserves a post of it’s own (next time!).
Hook Head is yet another beautiful part of Ireland, but I enjoyed the surroundings more than the actual lighthouse. Sometimes driving aimlessly around the countryside is the best way to spend a sunny day.