Wexford is a small, easy-to-explore town consisting of a series of quays parallel to the water, with a compact network of smaller streets parallel to the quays. Crescent Quay is decorated with a large statue on a plinth of locally-born Commodore John Barry (1745–1803).
Wexford, which has an interesting selection of small, old-fashioned shops and pubs, is at its best in October during the two-week run of the Wexford Festival Opera. Three full-length operas are performed at the Wexford Opera House (a €33million landmark building that opened in 2008), with an international cast of up-and-coming stars. The tradition is to choose little-known works, with consistently interesting results. A series of fringe events guarantee musical entertainment from 11am to midnight.
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The Irish National Heritage Park at Ferrycarrig, is an open-air theme park on the banks of the River Slaney. A couple of hours among its life-size replicas of typical dwelling places will make you an expert on Irish history and architecture, from Stone Age man in 6000bc, up to the 12th-century Norman settlements.
The 35-acre (14-hectare) open-air museum includes a prehistoric homestead, a crannog (lake dwelling), an early Christian fortified farm, a Christian monastry and a Norman castle. All the exhibits have guides dressed in the styles of the various periods.
The castle is a grandiose grey stone Gothic building dating from the mid-19th century. Only the entrance hall is open to the public but the attractively landscaped gardens can be visited. Built for the Morgan family around 1810, the estate contains splendid plantings of Japanese cedars and Lawson cypresses, lakes, ornamental gardens, nature trails and the Devil’s Gate walled garden set around the ruins of Rathlannon Castle.
The Irish Agricultural Museum is in the stables. It has extensive displays of artefacts from Ireland’s rural past, and a collection of Irish country furniture.
New Ross was built on a steep hill overlooking the River Barrow at a strategically important river crossing. On the river bank you will see the tall masts of the Dunbrody Famine Ship, a full-scale replica of a sailing ship built in 1845 to transport emigrants to North America. On board, actors tell the stories of the passengers, who travelled in appalling conditions in this ‘coffin-ship’ in order to escape the Great Famine. It is both entertaining and a sobering reminder of the ordeal suffered by the 2 million plus people who emigrated from this port.
Read more about Ireland in Insight Guides: Ireland
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