15 places to visit, or things to do, in West Waterford and East Cork

quirky interesting local tours in Ireland 1

If you are staying at Ard na Ciuin on one of our Residential Courses or just taking a few days to relax, you may like to go out and about to discover the local and wider area.

Here are 15 of the favourite things that we and our guests can recommend.

We’ve put approximate travel times by car from Ard na Ciuin for your convenience.

Knockatouk forest trails –  on your doorstep

You can’t get more local than this! Simply step out of the front door, turn left, follow the instructions on one of our ‘forest maps’ and enjoy!

This is not a designated walk but one that we and countless guests enjoy. The forest is a managed pine woodland that is home to a variety of species. Wild deer are ever present, often in large numbers but you will need to be quiet to get near them!

The tiny Goldcrest, Ireland’s smallest bird may be seen regularly. Birds of prey hunt overhead (Knockatouk is Irish for ‘hawks hill’) and if you know what to look for Kestrel, Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Hen Harrier and more recently to the area a pair of Buzzard may be seen.

Following our ‘forest map’ directions you should end up at a fantastic viewpoint. No car park or snack shop here! But a fantastic view down the Blackwater valley past the right hand bend in the river at Cappoquin, all the way to Dungarvan Bay with Helvick Head visible almost 30 miles (48km) away.

The Towers walk – 10 minutes

Only a few minutes’ drive from Ard na Ciuin this designated walk with waymarks, picnic benches and a parking area is a favourite for visitors and locals alike. Owned by a local family many years ago the impressive gate towers and bridge were intended to be a formidable show of wealth and grandeur for visitors to the estate. But they were so costly that the main house was never even built! Now a scheduled forest walk, the impressive stoneworks stand as a monument to a husband’s desire to please his wife.

Lismore, heritage town -15 minutes

With its imposing Castle, Lismore can trace its history back 800 years to the monastic times of Lismore Abbey. Steeped in history since medieval times the town’s Heritage centre has information on all aspects of Lismore. Visit  for details.

 The Vee – 20 minutes

The Knockmealdown Mountains mark the border between County Waterford and County Tipperary. The pass across these mountains is known locally as the ‘Vee’. This refers to the sharp V-shape bend in the road at the well-known breath-taking viewpoint 2,000ft above sea level. The panoramic view stretches beyond the ‘Golden vale’, past the Galtee Mountain Range and over 60 miles into the distance.

Our tip; no good on a foggy day!

Mount Melleray Abbey – 25 minutes

The monastery was founded in 1832 by a colony of Irish and English monks, led by Fr.Vincent de Paul who had been expelled from the French Abbey of Melleray following the French revolution of 1832. The heritage and exhibition centre welcomes visitors from all over the world.


 Mitchelstown caves – 32 minutes

Privately owned, by the same family who discovered it in 1833, they have resisted the temptation to over commercialise this favourite tourist attraction. So, you buy your tickets from the front door of their house, walk up the short path adjacent to the back garden and wait for your tour guide to meet you.

You’ll need to be able to cope with a number of steps down into the caves but it’s well worth the effort. You’ll be rewarded with one of the finest show caves in Ireland and words will not do it justice. The largest of the caverns is a regular venue for concerts performed by Cork opera House! Visit for details.

Our tip; a great idea for a wet day!

Maybe try O’Callaghan’s Deli, Café & Bakery in Mitchelstown for a bite to eat, delicious!


Youghal, heritage town and beach –  35 minutes

Set at the mouth of the Blackwater River, Youghal (pronounced “yawl”) is one of the best examples of a Norman walled port in Ireland. The visitors centre offers a unique starting point from which to explore the history of the town. Their guided walking tours lead you through the most notable areas of the town following the footsteps of Sir Walter Raleigh, Edmund Spenser and Sir Richard Boyle. The 18th century clock tower spans the main street with 13th & 16th century dwellings side by side.

Our tip; try a bracing walk along the beach and back again, starting and finishing at the ‘strand’ next to the old railway station. Maybe try lunch in the nearby Clancy’s restaurant.


Dungarvan – 34 minutes

A harbour town in the heart of County Waterford, overlooked by the Comaragh mountains we love Dungarvan for its bustling streets , art galleries, Waterford County Museum and lovely places to eat.  For more details visit

Our tip; if we had to pick one arts & crafts gallery it would be the Beach House Gallery. Amongst other superb crafts, Pippa Sweeny’s felt work is so much fun and made with great skill and flair.

Somewhere to eat for lunch? Simple!  We love the Interlude restaurant, on the quay overlooking the harbour.


Old Midleton Distillery – the Jameson experience – 44 minutes

The old distillery at Midleton is part of the Irish whiskey trail. Their tour is a journey through the story and making of Irish whiskey. Guided tours are available throughout the year and start with an audio-visual presentation. You are then taken through the period distillery to see the old kilns, mills, maltings, water wheel, still house, distiller’s cottage, cooperage and warehouses. The tour finishes with a whiskey tasting challenge that may see you as an official Irish whiskey taster and a certificate to prove it!

Our tip; Don’t drink and drive! Please designate a driver before you visit.

Maybe stroll 500yds up the busy Main Street and try lunch at Sage restaurant, delicious and all local produce, guaranteed!


Ardmore, cliff walk & beach – 45 minutes

Ardmore seems to have a micro-climate peculiar to this part of Ireland and on a summer’s day it seems almost Mediterranean. The EU Blue flag beach is popular with holiday-makers and you can buy a bucket and spade if you want to get stuck in! We love to walk up the hill, past the Cliff House Hotel and take the cliff walk. This is the start of an ancient pilgrims walk called St. Declan’s Way, a 56 mile walk across the Knockmealdown Mountains to Cashel in Tipperary. An information board near the Holy well gives a brief history at the start of the cliff walk. Passing a ship-wrecked crane and a viewpoint to the open sea, popular with whale spotters, you’ll eventually turn inland towards the ruins of Ardmore Cathedral, St. Declan’s Oratory and the famed Round Tower.

Our tip; to avoid being disappointed, before you take the walk ask if you need to book a table in the White horses café, great food, warm welcome too!  If they are booked out? The Cliff House Hotel has good food with fantastic views across Ardmore Bay.

Cahir Castle & Swiss Cottage – 45 minutes

Cahir (pronounced “care”) is a heritage town just across the border in South Tipperary. The Castle, built on an island in the picturesque River Suir in 1142, now provides guided tours throughout the year, starting with an audio-visual presentation. The state-owned castle, one of the largest and best preserved in Ireland is known for the siege in1599 and in more recent times as the location of the film ‘Excaliber”.

Only a short 1 minute walk from Cahir castle you can find the delightful Swiss Cottage. Built around 1810 as a cottage orné (an ornamental cottage) for entertaining guests by Lord and Lady Cahir it is now fully restored, open to the public and used as an Historic House Museum.

Our tip;Try lunch at the River House Restaurant & Café bar, opposite the Castle.


 Cobh – 55 minutes

Steeped in history Cobh (pronounced “Cove”) was known as Queenstown until the late 1920’s. The heritage centre is home to the ‘Queenstown story’ a multi-media exhibition in the restored Victorian railway station. One time mooring to the ill-fated Titanic, and convict ships bound for Australia, the busy harbour these days plays host to huge cruise ships bringing in passengers for a day trips.


Cork City – 60 minutes

It’s impossible to see all the great things Cork City has to offer in one day of course, but it should be no surprise that one of our favourites is the English market. A roofed food market since 1788, it’s a vibrant thoroughfare with colourful characters selling fresh organic produce and high quality local food.


Blarney Castle & Woolen Mills – 65 minutes

If you are visiting from overseas a visit to Blarney is a must! We would suggest going to Blarney in the morning and visiting the castle first. As a major tourist attraction it can get very busy. The ruins of the castle are set in the beautiful surroundings to Blarney House and if you didn’t realise it before there’s a lot more to see or do than just bending over backwards to kiss the famous ‘Blarney stone’.

Our other recommendation whilst visiting Blarney is The Woolen Mills. The original mill, built in 1750, underwent change, fire and rebuilding up to 1870, to become the building you see today.  Production closed in 1973 but the vision of Christy Kelleher, who started work there at the age of 13, became a reality in 1977 when the former mill opened as a visitors centre selling ‘all thing Irish’. If you plan on buying gift for friends and family during your stay it will be hard to beat the quality and quantity offered at The Woolen Mills.

Our tip; Visit the Castle first, then have lunch, before going into the Woolen Mills. The Mill has a café but we much prefer The Lemon Tree restaurant, part of The Castle Hotel, adjacent to the village green. We always sit in the pub’s bar, soak up the atmosphere, and enjoy delicious food!


Waterford City – 70 minutes

Last but not least by any means, ‘Down the other end of the County’, Waterford City is Ireland oldest city. Steeped in history for more than 1000years you will need more than one day to appreciate everything on offer. Although the huge Waterford Crystal plant closed in 2010 it’s spirit lives on in the House of Waterford Crystal.

The whole process and incredible skill that goes in to creating the stunning pieces from world famous trophies to glasses and ornaments is on display. To avoid disappointment we recommend buying your tickets beforehand.

Our tip; Try a Blaa!

Wait! What? What’s a Blaa?

Well, it’s a white bread roll, soft, doughy and delicious! Originally brought in from France in the late 1600’s, the roll known as a ‘pain blanc’, was adopted and the name adapted by Waterfordonians to become the iconic Blaa. There’s no preservatives used in a Blaa and ideally they should be eaten within a few hours of baking, so you can’t get a real one anywhere else in the world!

This is a joke right? A load of ol’ blarney? Nope! See for yourself and enjoy!

Guesthouse Waterford

“Learnt to swim and had a great break- highly recommended”

Ard Na Ciuin
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