Famous the world over for its exotic glassware, the House of Waterford Crystal glass factory has been in business since its humble beginnings on the town quayside in 1783. Around 60,000 pieces of Waterford Crystal – about 55 per cent – is still made in Waterford, and the main factory in The Mall offers visitors guided tours that give a look at the fabulous crystal being made, and how red hot liquid can be formed into such delicate and beautiful pieces. At the end of the tour, visitors can browse the exclusive store and maybe take home a piece for themselves.
St Declan's Church:
The small seaside village of Ardmore, about 45 miles up the coast from Waterford City, has a long maritime history and several lovely beaches, as well as the 95 ft tall, twelfth century round tower on the site of Saint Declan's Church. Saint Declan founded a monastery on the hill overlooking Ardmore during the fifth century, preceding the patron Saint Patrick's bringing Christianity to Ireland by some years. The Church, built on the monastery site, more than 800 years later, features medieval carvings, an eighth century Oratory – said to have been Saint Declan's grave – and two Ogham stones inscribed with some examples of the first forms of writing ever in Ireland.
On the eastern end of Waterford City quay sits Reginald's Tower, the oldest complete building, the oldest civic building, and the only urban structure to still be known by its Viking name, in Ireland. An original structure of the city's defences, built from wood in 1003, it was upgraded to a stone building by the Norman's in either the twelfth, thirteenth or fourteenth centuries. During the tower's history, it's been used as an arsenal, a mint and a prison, and now exhibits some of the different artefacts from its varied roles. At the rear of the tower, some of the remaining wall has been converted into a pub and restaurant.
Just over forty miles west of Waterford, in the town of Lismore, is the stately home known as Lismore Castle, dubbed the 'most enchanting castle in Ireland'. Originally built on the site of Lismore Abbey in 1185 by Prince John. Passing through the hands of people such as Sir Walter Raleigh and Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork, it became the property of the Duke of Devonshire in 1753. The 6th Duke of Devonshire had the Castle reworked in Gothic style, halfway through the nineteenth century, into its current state. The grounds include seven acres of the oldest manicured and ornate gardens in Ireland.
Copper Coast Geopark:
Along the seafront, fifteen miles south west of Waterford, stretching out for more than ten miles, is the European designated Geopark of Copper Coast. Named for the abundant copper mines of nearby Bunmahon, Copper Coast's spectacular beaches and coves are recognised for 460 million year-old examples of former volcanoes, and remnants from the last Ice Age including fossils and quartz blocks. Guided tours are provided through the summer.