The Hook Peninsula is found in County Wexford and is a beautiful area full of great beaches, fishing villages, estuaries, rivers and rolling hills. It’s also known as the Pinnacle Point of Ireland’s Ancient East.
Things to do along the Hook Peninsula:
1. Bannow Bay
There is a great coastal walk in Bannow Bay, which would be of great interest to an avid bird watcher. It is designated as a Special Area of Conservation.
The area has an interesting history, with Norse names given to places such as Bannow itself and Skelskar suggesting that the Vikings called the area home. It was in 1169 when the three Norman ships arrived at Bannow Bay as part of the Norman Conquest of Ireland.
2. Loftus Hall
Do you like a good ghost story? Well, if you do this will be a riveting stop for you! If you not into that kind of thing, this is still worthy of a stop due to the scenic location that this old mansion is in and to see the old building and its gardens.
The first building on this site was known as the Redmond Hall and was built in 1170. In 1350 the Redmond family rebuilt the hall. In 1642 the Hall was attacked by English soldiers and played a role in the Irish Confederate Wars. It was said that the Hall’s owner, Redmond, was sympathetic to the rebels and assisted the rebel cause. Eventually, the Hall was dispossessed and fell into the possession of the Loftus family who repaired the Hall in 1684.
It was between the years 1872 and 1884 that the Hall was extensively rebuilt, adding luxury items such as a grand staircase (the same kind of staircase that was in the Titanic), mosaic tiled floor, parquet flooring (wooden flooring in a geometric pattern), flushing toilets and blown air heating which was very rare in Ireland at that time. The elaborate features added to the Hall was believed to be in preparation for the visit of Queen Victoria who ultimately didn’t arrive. This left the family in financial ruin.
In 1917 the property was bought by the Sisters of Providence who turned the Hall into a convent school for girls.
In 1983 it became a hotel after the failure of the convent and subsequently closed for business in the 1990s, thereafter falling into disrepair.
Today the Hall has tours available (I recommend checking if they are open as it seems they are open sporadically) and photographs are not allowed in the building during the tour.
To be honest, I’m not sure about the validity of the ghost story although it is very convincing… but I can tell you for SURE it’s creepy. At the end of the tour while I was at the back of the group, I looked down the dark corridor and had a very creepy feeling.
3. Hook Lighthouse
Hook Lighthouse is situated at the tip of the Hook Peninsula and is one of the oldest operating lighthouses in the world.
From as early as the 5th century, a beacon served at the site to guide ships around the peninsula but it was in the 13th century, just over 800 years ago that the lighthouse was built to assist the shipping industry.
The medieval lighthouse’s walls are up to 4 meters thick and reach up to 35 meters.
Knights originally looked after the lighthouse, followed by monks until the mid 17th century. Following the keep of the monks, the lighthouse was occupied by lighthouse keepers and their families until 1977.
It was in 1972 that the lighthouse was converted to electric operation and in 1996 that it was automated.
Today the Lighthouse offers tours, affording visitors great views of the peninsula as well as a visitors centre with a gift store and cafe.
4. St. Dubhán’s Church, Hook Head
In the 5th century, a Welsh monk named Dubhán established a monastery at this site. The region where the church was situated was called Rinn Dubháin which in English is called Hook Head. The medieval church building which lies in ruins today dates back to the 13th/14th century.
It’s convenient to visit the church on the road to the Hook Lighthouse.
5. Slade Harbour
The one interesting thing that can be said about the harbour in Slade village is that it was built in 1845 as a famine relief project.
6. Slade Castle
The castle in Slade Village is an unexpected treasure. Its construction began in the 15th century by the Anglo-Norman Laffan family as a 4 story tower, followed by the construction of a 2 story hall to the North of the tower.
The castle consists of the main living room with a fireplace and garderobe (toilet); an entrance protected by a murder hole from which hot liquid or objects can be dropped onto unwanted guests; a vaulted ground floor most likely used as a warehouse and separate chambers likely used for sleeping quarters.
7. Dollar Bay
Dollar Bay is a stunning relatively quiet beach with a calm ocean and soft sand. There is a bit of a walking path to get to the beach and it’s well worth it. The view of the beach from the road is also something to behold.
8. Tintern Abbey
The Abbey was founded in 1200AD by the Earl of Pembroke, William Marshall. After having almost been in a shipwreck, he vowed that the place he would land safely he would build an Abbey. The Abbey was built along Bannow Bay where his ship docked.
He named the Abbey Tintern de Voto (Tintern the Vow) after the vow he made. It was Monks from the Tintern Abbey in Wales who colonised the Abbey and took up residence.
In the 16th Century, Irish Abbey’s were closed and destroyed. Tintern Abbey’s main building, the church, managed to survive due to being converted into a residence. The rest of the buildings on the property were dismantled.
Today we are lucky to be able to visit the Abbey and walk through the beautiful grounds.
I would recommend the Hook Peninsula to anybody, due to the beauty of the area and the activities that can be found.