There’s tons to do in County Wexford

by Gazette Reporter
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ON A recent break in County Wexford, I discovered the provenance of a phrase, well known in the English language.
“By hook or by crook”, came about, so the story goes, when Loftus Hall in County Wexford was discovered by Oliver Cromwell.
At the time, this pile was known as Redmond Hall, and after two failed attempts to take the mansion, Cromwell hatched a plan that would involve the use of one of either two ports, Hook Head or Crook. Cromwell insisted “we will take this house, by hook or by crook”.
I was walking into the driving rain, just below the Hook Head lighthouse when my husband regaled me with the story.
“By hook or by crook, I will make it into the nearest pub,” I said, using the line in perfect context, I think.
Loftus Hall describes itself as “the most haunted house in Ireland”, and offers a range of tours for history buffs and the curious alike.
However, whether or not you’re a would-be ghostbuster or a fan of history, this area is steeped in history, from Cromwell’s time right up to recent history, and a visit from JFK, who we all know hails from this part of the world.
There is absolutely tons to do in Wexford, from the aforementioned and supposedly haunted Loftus Hall to the Famine Ship in New Ross.
On our first night in the Model County, we stayed in Dunbrody House. We had been promised a tour of Kevin Dundon’s new brewery, which is built and ready to go on the grounds of Dunbrody.
He already has a micro brewery, where he makes Arthurstown Ale – a very drinkable pale ale which my husband gave the thumbs up to.
After a delicious dinner of rib of Irish beef, a constant and favourite on the menu, in the main or big house, as the locals call it, we made our way to the pub, a new addition to Dunbrody.
A spit on the floor joint, as Catherine Dundon herself puts it, but I wouldn’t quite call it that.
The outdoor seating area was lit up with twinkly fairy lights and a band was playing in the bar that night. This is a lovely place to come after a ramble around the area, as you feel under no pressure to dress up and can relax with a beer and a burger or pizza.
After a restful sleep in one of Dunbrody’s superb rooms, we checked out the brewery, where Kevin will make the ale which will be stocked in four Dublin pubs to start off with.
They grow their own hops, and we were amazed to see the Jack and the beanstalk nature of these hops, which grow to about 20ft in a matter of weeks.
We said our goodbyes to Dunbrody and headed to Duncannon beach. The inclement weather meant good times for the kite surfers, but not so good for us beach walkers, and soon it was back indoors.
We drove to our next destination – Kilmokea House, a Hidden Ireland house run by Emma Hewlett. This house is an old rectory which belonged to Emma’s father. The stunning gardens are open to the public and are a must-see.

Gardens
A large water garden extends on to a planted woodland area and the walled garden is brimming with roses and iris. Across the road, there is a magical fairy garden, a Norman fort and a Viking settlement, as well as the dragon from The Hobbit!
This garden is a real treat for adults and children.
After a swim in the pool, a great asset to this house, we ate in a small dining area with just four other couples who were staying in the house. Emma’s cooking is perfection, with lots of ingredients straight from the gardens.
The choice is limited, but who wants to make decisions when you are this relaxed? A starter of crab and shrimp baked in the shell was delicious whilst the rack of lamb and monkfish mains were fresh and cooked just right. My highlight was dessert, strawberry parfait made with in season Wexford strawberries. Divine.
After dinner, we chatted to the owner, who shared many tales about the house and the area and made us feel really at home, in what is their home.
Therefore, it has that really special feel of escaping to the country with friends.
After a cooked breakfast, we sadly packed up the car and made our way back to Dublin, vowing to return to a county where there is still so much left to discover.
For further information on Wexford, see www.visitwexford.com. For information on Dunbrody, see www.dunbrodyhouse.com, or for Kilmokea, see www.hiddenireland.com.

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