Bray to Wexford Harbour

ByRoute 1.1 Co. Wicklow – Co. Wexford (E)


Tara Hill (253m / 833ft) is forested with conifers. There are pleasant walks among the trees and great views to be had fro the summit.

Castletown & Ballymoney (Co. Wexford / Northeast)

Castletown (Baile na Chaisleáin), historically Ballycaslane, between Tara Hill and Clones Strand, is a popular area for summer vacationers, many enjoying the sandy beaches and staying at the local caravan & camping grounds.

Saint Patrick’s Cemetery contains the grave of the independence activist Liam Mellows, executed by the first Free State Government for his part of the Civil War of 1922.

Kilgorman is an ancient site, with evidence of Pre-Christian and later monastic settlement. Saint Gorman is thought to have come here from Wales, probably via Saint Kevin‘s Monastery at Glendalough (Co. Wicklow).

Castletown is connected via the scenic Kilgorman route through the attractive village of Scarnagh to Inch on ByRoute 2.

Ballymoney is a relatively upmarket resort, with expensive holiday homes, a luxury spa hotel and, inevitably, a championship golfcourse. It is also the location of one of North Wexford’s premier nightclubs, which hosts discos and shows throughout the year. Its two sandy beaches are probably the most popular in the area, with amenities such as shops, toilets and a lifeguard station.

There have been many famous shipwrecks off the coast of Ballymoney; some are recalled in house and pub names. Many items of nautical memorabilia adorn the walls of local pubs.

Saleen is a lovely unobstructed sandy beach with interesting caves. It is reached from the Coastal road by a long narrow lane, overgrown in parts. (Feedback required, please leave a comment.)

Ballymoney is not far from Gorey on ByRoute 2.

Courtown (Co. Wexford / East)

Courtown Harbour (pop. 1200) is an attractively situated seaside town. Claiming one of the lowest annual rainfall levels in the South East, the village has been a popular summer holiday resort since at least 1863, when the railway reached nearby Gorey .

Courtown History

Late C13th records indicate that the land, once part of the MacDemores territory, belonged to Christiana de Marisco before passing to the Crown; in 1291 a document from the reign of King Edward I refers to it as “Curton in the county of Wexford, part of the dowery of Queen Eleanor, now in the King’s hands from the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle“. In the year 1312 it is recorded that Maurice MacMurrough held the Manor of Courteton as tenant at will of the King. In 1314 King Edward II granted “to our most beloved and faithful brother Thomas de Brotherton our town of Courton in the country of Wexford with belongings to hold during pleasure at the same rate as Maurice MacMurrough held it.” It was later acquired by Sir Edward Fisher (d.1631), whose daughter and heir married Edward Chichester.

The land was bought in 1711 by James Stopford, MP for Fethard. His son was created Baron of Courtown in 1758 and Viscount Stopford & Earl of Courtown in 1762. The 2nd Earl was a prominent Tory politcian who served in the British government of William Pitt the Younger, and was granted an English baronial title. The family residence, Courtown House, was looted by both sides during the 1798 Rebellion, but unlike other houses in the neighbourhood was not destroyed. The family carried out many local improvements in the C19th.

Courtown began to thrive as a fishing village in 1830, when James George Stopford, 3rd Earl of Courtown, sponsored the construction of the pretty harbour; the present pier was built in 1847 as part of relief work for labourers suffering the effects of the Great Famine. Kilns built around this time to make tiles and bricks were still in use until 1972.

The 5th Lord Courtown was a leading opponent of the Land League. Land Reform reduced the family’s income considerably, forcing them to abandon Courtown House, first for their other local mansion, Marlfield House, and eventually for England (where the 9th Earl continued the family tradition of Conservative politics in the House of Lords).

Despite recent urbanisation, Courtown retains something of its Victorian charm, with genteel seaside hotels and guesthouses alongside less charming amusement rides, video arcades, slot machines, ten-pin bowling, crazy golf, caravan & camping grounds, and numerous fast-food joints, including the Dinky Take-Away (voted the best chipper in Ireland on a popular national radio show). The resort has splendid beaches, a modern marina, a golf course of some repute, and some good pubs and restaurants, notably the Bayview Hotel overlooking the harbour; which has self-catering apartments in addition to its normal bedrooms. Another good place to stay is Harbour House, built in 1852 for the staff of Courtown House, and now a superior B&B.

Courtown Woodland and the neighbouring Coillte plantation are all that remain of the once vast Courtown Estate. The former site of Courtown House (knocked down 1948) stands beside the River Owenavorragh / Ounavarra, which flows into the harbour through a magnificent variety of scenery, featuring California Redwoods, Swamp Cypress, true cypress, Japanese Cedar, Cedar of Lebanon, pine, yew, ash and oak, under-planted with shrubs to provide food for pheasants for shooting parties. The woodland used to be regularly cleared by local tenants for firewood. The estate was acquired by the State after WWII and planted with commercial timber in the late 1950s. A comprehensive thinning programme was started in Spring 2000; in order to minimise damage; two specially trained horses, Kate and Sam, help in extracting the timber, and are a delight to watch at work. Tracks in varying states of repair include the Lime Walk, the Chestnut Walk, the River Walk and the Top Walk (particularly attractive in April, when bluebells carpet the woodland floor).

Ballinatray Bridge spans a deep gorge, and is reputed to be one of the highest old stone-work bridges in the country. There is also an ancient seven-foot High Cross standing in the woods beside the bridge.

Riverchapel is believed to take its name from a mud chapel erected in the vicinity in 1703.  Nowadays, the area is notable for its many caravan parks and holiday homes; large housing estates are home to the families of commuters working in Dublin.

The Star of the Sea church (RC), dates from 1880.

Ardamine is mainly made up of summer houses and caravan parks, where families stay in summer to take advantage of the lovely curved beach with a stoneless sandbank where the waves break early before reaching the shore.

The church of St John the Evangelist (CoI) is a lovely little edifice designed c.1870 by George Edmund Street (1824 – 1881), the English architect who designed the Royal Courts of Justice on London’s Strand and restored Dublin’s Christchurch Cathedral. In the cemetery next to the church stands a cross erected to Saint Aidan, the first Bishop of Ferns, who founded a church here around 400 AD. (Photo by Christopher Doyle)

The Bosun’s Chair is a good local restaurant in a spectacular setting overlooking the sea.

Cap de Creus, a local Spanish restaurant specialising in Catalan cuisine, is named after the northeasternmost promontory of the Iberian Peninsula, jutting into the Mediterranean just south of the French border.

Poulshone Beach is hidden between the rocks south of Ardamine. Its natural shelter ensures calm waters. There is also a lovely cliff top walk from which you can see most of the coastline.

Courtown is not far from Gorey on ByRoute 2.

Roney Point is best known for the colony of seals resident on the little island just offshore.

Ballygarrett (Co. Wexford / East)

Ballygarrett is a small village at the centre of a large district taking in the ancient parishes of Donaghmore, Glasscarrig, and Clonevan.

The high-towered parish church (RC), built in 1839 to replace a chapel razed in 1798, contains pews made from the timbers of the 3-masted American ship Pomona, wrecked offshore in 1858 while taking emigrants from Liverpool to New York, with the loss of 386 lives.

The church grounds contain two interesting monuments. One is a memorial to those who died in the Great Famine. The other, inaugurated in 1996 by the US Ambassador, commemorates the village’s curious Mexican-American connection.

Ballygarrett is “twinned” with Refugio, Texas, where in 1833 Cahore-born James Power and Kilkennyman James Hewetson founded the Irish settlement of San Patricio just in time for the Revolution which saw their Mexican government land grants annulled by General Lopez de Santa Anna, against whose troops they and other colonists fought a bloody war,  the most famous engagement being the Battle of El Alamo.

Donaghmore (Domhnach Mor – “the great church”) is reputed to have been visited by Saint Patrick, and there is some evidence of an even earlier Christian settlement on the site occupied by the ruined Church of Ireland edifice, disused since 1840.

Glascarrig contains the remains of a C13th Benedictine Priory and a well preserved moat, probably the site of Glascarrig Castle, built in the late C12th, the stones of which were incorporated into the nearby C15th Peppard’s Castle, known to have been inhabited at the beginning of the C18th. Glasscarrig was the scene of a 1649 massacre by Royalists of Cromwellian troops ambushed nearby while trying to catch up with the main army occupying Wexford.

St. Patrick’s church (CoI) at Clonevan is an elegant building in well-tended grounds.

Clonevan House was the home of the Kavanagh family whose members emigrated in the early and mid-C19th to Argentina, where their descendants became well-known estancieros and world-class polo players, and Cora Kavanagh (1890 – 1984) famously built South America’s tallest skyscraper in Buenos Aires.

Shrule Deer Farm is not only a commercial deer farm but also a domesticated animal centre,  with nvarious types of poultry and a range of sheep breeds. Many animals may be handled under supervision, and the deer like to be hand-fed.

Ballygarrett is not far from Ballycanew on ByRoute 2.

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