Déise’s tourist gems shine as it becomes top global destination

Ireland’s oldest city and the surrounding county has it all – from 49 beaches, 147km of scenic coastline , 71 festivals, and more than 1,000 years of fantastic history

Mount Congreve Gardens was listed as one of the ‘Best Place To Go in the UK & Ireland’

Waterford is making its mark as an international tourist destination with unspoiled scenery, historic towns and villages, and a treasure trail of Medieval museums. And this year, there are plans to host 71 festivals and events to the tune of over €1.6m.

Waterford City and County Council has allocated €1,653,557, in festival and event funding this year to include Winterval, Ireland’s largest festival, which drew in crowds of over 700,000 over a six-week Christmas celebration last year.

This December will be even bigger, with Waterford City awarded the title of European City of Christmas 2024.

The first visitors to the new Irish Museum of Time twins Kate and Matthew Kirwan

An international jury, chaired by Professor Dr Danuta Hübner, Member of the European Parliament, impressed with Waterford City and County Council’s submission, said: “ The City of Waterford is an extraordinary jewel of Christmas harmony and aesthetics and represents values such as solidarity, which lies with the local communities as well as a strong commitment to its heritage as a hallmark of identity, material and above all immaterial and culture.”

Waterford’s tourism attractions have continued to attract record numbers of visitors, with new offerings like the Irish Wake Museum.

The oldest urban domestic building in Ireland is now home to The Irish Wake Museum, which traces the customs, traditions and superstitions associated with death from the earliest times to the 20th century. The museum is the latest in the Waterford Treasures collective of Museums at Waterford’s Viking Triangle, it is in addition to the Medieval Museum – the only purpose-built museum specialising in medieval history in Ireland – The Bishop’s Palace, The Irish Museum of Time, Irish Silver Museum, King of the Vikings virtual reality experience and the EPIC guided walking tour of Waterford.

The museum houses a remarkable array of objects associated with death in Ireland which the Waterford Museum of Treasures has been collecting for the last 10 years and will offer visitors an opportunity to explore rituals that hold global intrigue and that are entirely unique to Ireland on an intimate guided tour experience.

Sara Dolan, Chairperson at Visit Waterford and Commercial Director Mount Congreve Gardens and Waterford Treasures. Photo by Patrick Browne

“The Irish Wake is one of the iconic parts of our national culture and visitors will get to experience a sense of this at The Irish Wake Museum as we trace the customs, traditions and superstitions associated with death from the earliest times to the 20th century,” said former Director of Waterford Treasures Eamonn McEneaney, who has since retired.

It is in addition to the Medieval Museum, the only purpose-built museum specialising in medieval history in Ireland, the Irish Museum of Time, Irish Silver Museum, King of Vikings reality experience, and the EPIC guided walking tour of Waterford.

Waterford Museums of Time and Silver took top honours in the Heritage and Built Environment category which celebrates the Best in Class by a Local Authority to promote public interest in, and knowledge, appreciation and protection of local heritage sites.

And Waterford’s offerings haven’t gone unnoticed. Condé Nast Traveller, the international travel publication made specific reference to Mount Congreve Gardens in their ‘Best Place To Go in the UK & Ireland’ 2024 listing.

The New York Times, when including Waterford as the only Irish destination in its ‘52 Places to go in 2024’ list cited the gardens as the place to ‘top off your Greenway adventure’.

Coastal trails encompass 147 km of the scenic coastline in Waterford.

Visit Waterford, the tourism promotion organisation, said outside of the city, the county’s towns, fishing villages, coastal trails and mountains continue to grow in popularity. “Coastal trails encompass 147 km of scenic coastline featuring the UNESCO Copper Coast GeoPark,” said a spokesperson for Visit Waterford.

“Blue Flag beaches like those in Ardmore, Tramore and Clonea are the perfect spot for an evening walk or quick dip after a day’s work.

“You can also explore the historic towns of Lismore and Dungarvan, and the picturesque coastal towns of Ardmore and Dunmore East, which are all a short drive from the city centre. “

Last month, the recently renovated Mount Congreve Gardens was recognised as winner at the Irish Building and Design Awards (IBDA) in the Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure Project of the year category.

“This is yet more wonderful recognition for the work and vision of Waterford City and County Council, Fáilte Ireland and Mount Congreve Trust, for reinvigorating and breathing life back into ‘one of the great gardens of the world’,” said Councillor Joe Conway, Mayor of Waterford City and County.