Hook Peninsula, County Wexford


Location of Hook Peninsula
I have a feeling not too many visitors to Ireland actually know about Hook Peninsula. I wanted to stay near Wexford and while planning I found an open campground within walking distance of the town of Wexford. But as I researched the campground I decided that probably wasn't the best place so I found another one that was closer to the Peninsula. This turned out to be quite the find! 
Roches Campervan and Campsite is located right on Bannow Bay, which is where the Normans landed in 1169 AD. In fact, you can see where they landed from the campsite.
I think I have the arrow pointing to the correct place
The campground is a working dairy farm complete with farm dogs. There was only 1 other person staying there so we had the campground almost to ourselves. During warmer months they have live music in the common area, but the owner had traditional Irish music playing for us that we were able to enjoy during trips to the bathroom. 
View from the top of the hill as we drove into the campground
We were close to a village, Wellingtonbridge (County Wexford), so we went into town to get dinner and more groceries. I don't remember what we ate at this pub, but it was good and pretty convenient.
More like a restaurant than a pub, but the food was really good.
Enough about the campground. For more details visit the post on our Flyin' the Coop blog. 

Thanks to a lady I spoke with at our first campsite, our first stop on the peninsula was Tintern Abbey. If it wasn't for her, we probably would have missed this gem!
The Abbey as we drove down the lane toward it
The history is amazing. In 1200, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, ran into stormy weather and his ship was almost wrecked. He vowed to find an abbey where ever he would land if he landed safely. He donated 3500 hectares for a Cistercian Abbey. The Abbey was then colonized by monks from Tintern Abbey in Wales. The Abbey became a residence in the 16th century; a member of the family lived here until 1959.
We arrived before the grounds opened, so we took a stroll to see the battlemented bridge and church ruins.
The church is believed to have been used by the villagers
The parts of the abbey that are still standing are the nave, chancel, and Lady Chapel. 
You can tell there used to be another floor
Also on the grounds is a walled garden. We bought entrance to both, thinking we got quite a deal because the guy allowed us to purchase student tickets since he was out of senior ones. We were a few weeks too early to enjoy the beauty of the garden. We saw pictures of it in full bloom and it and I'm sure it is absolutely spectacular at the height of the blooming season.
A glimpse inside...mid-March was definitely not the time to visit!
The main reason we stayed near the Hook Peninsula was the Hook Lighthouse, which is the oldest operational lighthouse in the world. 
The lighthouse dates back to the 12th century
While on the tour, we were told that monks first ran the lighthouse even before there was one. They lit fires on the bank to warn ships of the land and probably helped to build the current tower. One look at the inside and how similar it looks to monasteries of the time supports this.
The ceiling looks very much like the ruins of the abbeys that we visited

The fireplace dates back to the 13th century and spans 3 floors

The chapel was one of the first things we saw as we came in the door of the lighthouse
I didn't take any pictures of the staircase holding the 115 steps to the tower, but it is unique considering that time period. Usually, the stairs within the castles and tower houses are clockwise so the knights coming down the stairs could hold their swords in their right hand, putting the opposing knights coming up the stairs at an advantage. In the lighthouse, the monks needed room to hold the bag of fuel for the light, so the stairs were built going the opposite way of the castles/tower houses.  

Luckily, we didn't have to climb all 115 stairs at one time; we stopped on each floor to hear the history. When we finally got to the top of the tower, the views were breathtaking.
Somewhere out there is the Graveyard of a Thousand Ships. The most recent ships lost were in 2007. There is a memorial close by; however, the guide didn't tell us about it and we didn't see it. Too bad; I like to visit memorials and pay my respects to those who lost their lives.

There is whale-watching and seal-watching on the Peninsula but we weren't there at the right time of the year for that. There are the ruins of a church that is near the lighthouse. St. Dubhán was a Welsh monk who came to the Hook Peninsula in the 5th century. The ruins of the church are believed to be from the 13th or 14th century. It is the monks from the monastery that he founded who were the first caretakers of the lighthouse. Dubhán means "hook", so the peninsula took its name from this monk.
We didn't stop because we were on the way to find a place for the night and we weren't sure how long it would take. I took these pictures as drove by:
County Wexford: DONE. We thought about staying another night at the same place we stayed the night before but I wasn't sure what to expect at the next location I wanted to see. So we headed up the coast toward Dublin. We were hoping to find a parking lot in Wicklow where we could park the van, walk to dinner, and walk around town. I found the town to be very crowded and not van-friendly. Every parking lot we found had a height restriction bar on it. I asked a lady if she knew of any place and she directed me to what would have been a good one, except for the height restriction bar. We actually found one parking lot that was adjacent to a park complete with a skateboard area which gave me a reason to wonder how safe it was. So we decided to just head farther north, staying on a regional road to see if we could find something. We saw signs for a bird sanctuary and thought that may be a place but before we found it, CH saw a pub in a village called Newcastle.
If you know who Hozier is, Newcastle is where he is from. I'm not sure if he still lives there, but Sinead O'Connor does. CH went into the pub and the manager gave us permission to stay in the parking lot overnight. We had an amazing dinner, complete with dessert (and a pint...or 2 of Guinness), and a good night's sleep. The manager even gave us 1/2 of a loaf of brown bread, butter, and homemade jam before we left for the night.
I was happy to see a mama sheep and her lambs in the field next to the parking lot the next morning:
We were ready for our last full day with the van. Next up: County Wicklow.

To find out more about our camping adventure in Ireland, visit Flyin' the Coop.

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