Exploring Ardmore & West Waterford

The concept of a staycation will be one of the words of the summer of 2020. I think it’s a great idea to make us all realise we don’t need to jet off far away to have a good time, both physically, culturally and gastronomically. In July, we spent a weekend on holidays in our own county of Waterford. It sounds mad, but I’d really recommend it and can’t wait for the next local trip.

We spent a weekend in Ardmore, a seaside village in West Waterford, about an hour from our home in Tramore. Going from one seaside resort to another doesn’t sound exciting – sure won’t it have chippers, caravans, sand, cold water, cliffs, tourists from Tipperary and Kilkenny and too much wind?

We discovered so much. It was like visiting a new country for the first time. We met nice people, visited historic sights, enjoyed lovely food and stayed in a relaxing hotel. From Friday to Sunday we got to explore Ardmore, drive along the River Blackwater through the villages of Clashmore, Villierstown and the town of Cappoquin.

Cycle holiday

The novelty of the trip also started with my choice of transport. I cycled down along the coast, since (a) the Copper Coast is a beautiful ride, (b) I wanted to explore An Rinn Gaeltacht (c) my parents took my gear in the car and (d) why sit in a car for an hour? The cycle took under 3 hours, nearly 80km. The road hugs the coast from Tramore, so you have views of the headlands down the Celtic Sea – you can nearly see your end destination.

Sights included the Metal Man marking Tramore Bay, Annestown beach, Boatstrand, Dunabrattin beach, the copper mines of Bunmahon, picturesque Stradbally, beach visitors at Clonea Strand, zipping through Market Square in Dungarvan, out to Helvick Head to look back at Hook Head over 50km away, entering the Gaeltacht of An Rinn (noticing the “Stad” stop signs), the black & white lighthouse of Minehead near Sean Phobail, then finally seeing the golden strand of Ardmore.

Great food

It sounds like a hard way to go anywhere, but I was buzzing when I got there. It was a pleasure, not a hassle or draining. We had two lovely evening meals. The views from the Cliff House Hotel are worth it alone for a meal on a sunny evening. Even though we sat inside, the terrace was drenched in sunshine, overlooking the still bay below. The food was great too.

The next night we ate in Whitehorses restaurant on the Main Street, which was the best meal in ages. A lovely bright window table and a tasty menu of seafood. The steaks looked great too. The Ardmore Gallery & Tea rooms also is a nice stop for an afternoon snack, with a nice garden terrace. In Cappoquin, make sure to stop in Barron’s Bakery – famous for over 130 years.

Barron’s Bakery, Cappoquin

Blackwater drive

Our drive around West Waterford was leisurely and interesting. Heading inland, following the River Blackwater inland. To the north west you can see the Knockmealdowns and to the east the Comeraghs.

We stopped in Villierstown, which has an interesting history as a small village built to support the Dromana House estate nearby. A nice old church and a granite plaque to their most famous athlete: John Treacy who we all know won the Olympic silver medal in Los Angeles in 1984. What I didn’t know was that he competed in 4 Olympiads, from 1980 to 1992. That’s an impressive record in itself.

John Treacy did a fair bit

Onto Cappoquin, an important town 100 years ago with a bacon factory and large rowing club. The signs of decline are evident with a largely boarded up main street, but impressive old houses give you a sense of the money and heritage in the area. The window display of Lonergan’s tailors’ shop is impressive – locals who emigrated to America would send home their pants to get turned up by two brothers. The handwritten letters from that time are touching of a time long gone.

Another surprise on the drive was the Dromana Gate – a hard to describe piece of architecture which seems out of place but fits in once you know the story. It’s an impressive entrance gate to the Dromana Estate. It looks like it’s been transported from the Indian Subcontinent, but you learn it was built by local people as a wedding present. Nobody had ever been to India but made this unique Hindu Gothic structure.

Hindu Gothic bridge – Dromana Gate

Ardmore cliff walk

Back in Ardmore, we got to explore the lovely cliff walk, which is a 4km looped walk around the headland. The views are impressive of the coast, with some nice features, such as a lookout tower and a shipwreck from the 1980s. The surface has been widened recently, so it’s suitable for all, although has some steep climbs. Perfect for running around too – I got my training run done over 2 laps.

Ardmore Cliff Walk

Ardmore was founded by St Declan, who pre-dates St Patrick on bringing Christianity to Ireland. There’s so much history about Declan – the impressive round tower and cathedral, his well and even a 76km way to Cashel.

St Declan’s Round Tower

It was the weekend Jack Charlton passed away, so listening to the radio and reading the papers brought back lots of memories of growing up in the 1990s. We all remember Big Jack, no matter who you were, or whether you’d ever been to Lansdowne Road.

Given all the crazy news of 2020, remembering the carefree good times of Italia 90 and USA 94 was a welcome relief that brought smiles to our faces. Andy Townsend’s story about what Jack said to Packie Bonner after Schillachi scored in 94 (the one about the Pope) is class!

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I loves me county boi #Waterford #Ardmore

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