County Wexford, Ireland

Johnstown Castle
Departing Dublin, we headed two hours south of the city to Wexford.  The problem with Ireland is that there is so much to see it is difficult to narrow down the choices.  There are literally hundreds of castles in the countryside and guarding the rocky coast.  Abbeys, monasteries and archeological sites are too numerous to count.  Many of the properties are in ruins, but a large number of them have been renovated and provide an interesting peek back in time.  And then there are the places that we wanted to visit simply because they are gorgeous, like the southwest coast.

With a visit to the Wexford Tourist Office, we departed with numerous pamphlets, so we could plot the remainder of our Irish visit.  Our rough itinerary is typically determined prior to leaving home, but with Ireland we had an arrival and departure date and a hotel in Dublin. The pamphlets led us to our first stop.  Located on the outskirts of Wexford, we visited the Johnstown Castle Gardens and Irish Agricultural Museum, on the same grounds.  The castle is not open for viewing at this time but is surrounded by beautifully maintained gardens.  The Museum covers all aspects of rural life in Ireland but also has an extensive and sad commentary on the Irish potato famine.  We were surprised to learn that oat and barley crops continued to be produced throughout the famine years, but these 'cash crops', which came from fields held by large landowners, were exported even as people starved.  No well-organized social welfare systems existed.  Official attempts to provide relief were short lived and inadequate.  Private charities and religious groups (especially the Quakers) provided food and money, but were unable to meet the tremendous needs.

The night was spent in Rosslare Harbor, a ferry town, and home of "The Last Pub in Ireland."  Traditional Irish music at the pub was scheduled to start at 11 PM, but we wanted to get an early start the next day, so passed on that.  After a hearty breakfast, we headed to Hook Lighthouse.  This is the oldest operating lighthouse in the world, and has been guiding ships for almost 800 years.  Monks at a nearby monastery maintained the light until 1671, when the first lighthouse keeper was brought to the site.  During our visit, gusts of 40+ mph and chilly temperatures made walking around the grounds difficult.  It was easy to reflect on how difficult it would have been for the light keepers of the past to deal with this challenging environment.
Slade Castle (late 15th century) near Hook Lighthouse

On the drive to Hook Lighthouse
Dunbrody Abbey in Wexford County built in 13th century 

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