The Copper Coast
The Caves near Tramore are the start of a spectacular stretch of steep cliffs, arches, caverns, coves and storm beaches, with precipitous sea stacks offshore.
Garris Beach near Westtown (Photo by Tony Quilty)
“The Copper Coast” derives its name from a long tradition of copper mining, particularly intensive during the C19th and early C20th.
A 25km stretch is designated the Copper Coast Geopark, one of the few European Geological Parks in Ireland.
500 million years ago, many of the rocks now found here were on an ocean floor near the South Pole. Movements of landmasses, seas, icesheets, deserts and mountains, some sudden, most over aeons of time, have led to the current geoogy of the area. The results of a massive volcanic eruption are still to be seen all along the coast.
Inland, the boggy landscape interspersed with woods, lakes and streams, is dominated by the looming backdrop of the Comeragh Mountains.
Kilfarrasy is a secluded cove and beach with a picturesque view of islands and sea stacks. The headland east of the beach contains the remains of a prehistoric Promontory Fort.
Ballyscanlan Forest is beautifully situated overlooking Ballyscanlan Lake.
The Matthewstown Gallery Grave, dating from c. 2,000 BC, is a fine example of a wedge-shaped tomb.
The Bog of Fenor is a natural storehouse of fenland flora and fauna, with an information/picnic area and raised boardwalk beside Carrickavanty Lake.
Fenor village has an excellent pub called Mother McHugh’s, and is also the address of the Copper Coast Mini-Farm, featuring llamas, alpaccas, donkeys, chipmunks, chinchillas, pigs and ducks.
Dunhill & Annestown (Co. Waterford / South)
Dunhill, not far inland, is an attractive village with several thatched cottages.
Harney’s pub / shop is a popular gathering place for the locality and there is often entertainment at night, with occasional traditional music sessions.
The area is rich in historical content, including a number of Stone-age remains, like Dolmens dating from 2,500 BC, one of which can be seen as you approach the village.
Dunhill / Donhill / Don Isle Castle, a spectacularly silhouetted ruin, was founded around 1200 on the site of an ancient fort by a branch of the Norman Le Paor family. (Photo by bunkered2)
They soon “went native” as the Power clan, and took to terrorising the highways around Waterford City, even attacking the town itself in 1345, for which several of them were hanged.
In 1368, in alliance with the O’Driscolls from Baltimore, they took part in a major battle near Tramore at which the Mayor of Waterford was “all hewn and cut to pieces“, but the Power brothers of Dunhill (plus many O’Driscolls) were killed.
Ownership of the castle passes to their cousins, the Powers of Kilmeaden, who then launched a surprise attack on Waterford across Johns bridge but were driven back with heavy losses on both sides. Another battle near Tramore in 1461 ended in a comprehensive defeat for the Power-O’Driscoll alliance.
The castle remained relatively peaceful for the next 180 years, until Cromwellian troops besieged and then “slighted” it in 1649. The fate of the family is not known.
The ruins of a medieval church survive nearby, surrounded by graves dating from later centuries.
The C19th church on the hill enjoys a great view of the upper end of the valley of the Anne Valley.
Dunhill is within striking distance of Kilmeaden on the fringes of Waterford City.
Annestown is a short, colourful street of cottages on a hill overlooking the Anne Valley and a rugged Atlantic bay with a safe, golden sandy beach. Very unusually for Ireland, the village has no pub nor indeed even a shop. There is one small and simple CoI church surrounded by a neat graveyard.
At the bottom of the hill is the stream known as the Anne River, supposedly named for a lady who commited suicide from the ramparts of Dunhill Castle, romantically silhouetted upstream from the bridge. The little road which runs along beside the stream provides opportunites to see several different types of birds, from swans to snipe to pheasants, moorhens, kingfisher, herons and others. The Anne Valley is the subject of an on-going constructed-wetlands project.
Annestown Strand, with its sea arch and islands, is an attractive bathing place, also popular with surfers. Near the beach is a castellated lime kiln.
Annestown House, a rambling early C19th Country House on a clifftop overlooking the strand, was until recently run by John and Pippa Galloway as an exceptionally pleasant B&B, full of books on every conceivable subject, with a proper billiards table and croquet lawn. Let us hope that they re-open it soon.
Boatstrand is a pretty little harbour with several attractive walking routes nearby.
Dunbrattin Promontory Fort is an Iron Age fortification that can be reached via a spectacular cliff walk.
The Pipes of Baidhb, sometimes compared to the Giant’s Causeway (Co. Antrim). The Baidhb (pronounced “bide”) is a local banshee. (Photo by Serapis)
Bunmahon & Stradbally (Co. Wexford / South)
Bunmahon (formerly aka Knockmahon) is best known for its lovely beach, a white jewel flanked by haunting cliffs. Spectacular cliff views reveal themselves a few minutes walk up-hill, west of the village. An ancient allignment of Ogham Stones casts strange mystic shadows on the evening of the Summer Solstice, (and most other evenings too!).
The Heritage Centre houses a wealth of material relating to the life of the village. For much of the C19th, copper mines around Bunmahon employed 1300 people. The mines are nearly a quarter of a mile deep and extend out under the seabed.
The ruins of the Cornish engine house on the cliffs at Tankardstown are the most spectacular remains on the mining trail identifying the main features of Bunmahon’s industrial past.
When the mines closed, many locals emmigrated to find similar work in Butte, Montana.
Bunmahon is linked by the R675/7 to Kilmacthomas on ByRoute 2.
Stradbally (pop. 700) is a picturesque crossroads community of neat thatched and slated cottages set around an attractive village Green situated close to the “Copper Coast”.
Stradbally’s Main St.
Woodhouse, a very impressive Georgian mansion, is private property. The estate, held at various times by the Fitzgerald, Uniake and Beresford families, has no doubt shrunk, but still dominates Stradbally. The many mature trees, planted in the C18th, give the district a tamed, sylvan character that contrasts with the wild stretches of windswept cliff and rock nearby.
The leafy Tay River Valley is a lovely place for walks.
In the grounds of St. James’ church (CoI) are the ruins of the largest medieval church in rural Ireland. It had a fortified presbytery, probably built for protection during disputes between the Powers and the Geraldines, whose land boundaries ran through the area.
The Cove Cottage, an award-winning thatched house, is the pride and joy of Stradbally.
The Cove Hill water garden / wildlife area is a good place to spot eels, and is also home to squirrels, rabbits, foxes, songbirds and refugee pheasants from the nearby estate.
Stradbally Cove is ideal for families while rugged Ballyvooney Cove is spectacularly set under a dramatic headland.
Littlewood Gardens are well worth visiting.
Visitors should ask for guidance to the locations of Drumlohan Ogham Stone (a National Monument), the Promontory Forts and Standing Stones.
Clonea Bay has an excellent sandy beach, popular for family holidays.