The waters lapped onto the sands of Baginbun beach on Thursday last, as holidaymakers enjoyed the summer sun on the Hook Peninsula.

It was here in 1169 that the Normans first laid their imprint on our soil, establishing it as the spot where “Ireland was lost and won”, where “800 years of oppression” was born.

Standing in this beautiful spot, looking towards the Saltee Islands on the horizon, it could scarcely have entered an Anglo-Norman mind that their arrival would mould Irish history for centuries to follow.

The peninsula, one of the most spectacular fingers of land in all of Ireland, is one of the many gems that south east residents have at their immediate disposal.

It’s an increasingly popular spot for school tours, camper van-piloting visitors and those from ‘up the country’ who wisely opted to buy holiday homes here.

Word has it that such homeowners have become increasingly regular visitors at weekends, indicative, perhaps of our changing economic situation.

But when the sun is shining here as it has so brilliantly in recent weeks, why would anyone want to fly away from such beauty, history and neighbourly welcome?

Just go for a spin down towards The Hook and take note of all the salutes you’ll get from fellow motorists. For this is one place where one will happily sit behind a tractor pulling a trailer-load of hay along a narrow road to simply enjoy the scenery that little bit longer.

Despite its close proximity to Waterford, when driving to The Hook via the Passage East Car Ferry, one literally feels transported to another world.

This column would, in fact, go a lot further than that: a few hours spent exploring Slade, Duncannon, Fethard and Churchtown, Hook Head’s magnificent lighthouse and the area’s many beaches is just heavenly.

The Munster Express/Dooley’s Hotel Heritage & Culture Awards is providing the public with an opportunity to salute the outstanding work that organisations, centres and individuals in the region continue to brilliantly promote.

In the opening months during which we have received mounds of nominations, forms praising the Hook Lighthouse and Heritage Centre arrived through our letterbox by the dozen.

And that our judging panel opted to present them with the ‘Heritage Organisation’ prize was inevitable given the deluge of positivity that winged its way across the Estuary.

The beautiful Michael Fitzgerald-sculpted award, hewn from bog oak and native oak, is now proudly positioned in the Heritage Centre’s main entrance and it was a delight to see it so prominently placed.

Billy Colfer, the peninsula’s historian-in-chief and a member of the Lighthouse’s Board, is another local treasure. At our first awards ceremony on June 18th, Billy illuminated the gathering with his wonderful words about the headland he calls home.

“It is a great joy to have such a medieval building at our disposal,” said Billy, author of ‘The Hook Peninsula’, when referring to Ireland’s oldest lighthouse.

“The Lighthouse has enjoyed a steady increase in visitor numbers in recent years and that is due in no small part to the excellent staff that we’re fortunate to have at our disposal.”

And so says each of the 30,000 annual visitors who take the guided tour of the famous structure whose beam reaches out across 28 nautical miles (35 road miles) each night.

“I feel it is also important to acknowledge the role played by the Commission of Irish Lights, for it was their initiative that put the Lighthouse at the disposal of the local community, along with the thousands who now visit it every year,” Billy added.

Around our coast, there are similarly wonderful headlands now deemed out of bounds to the public – unless you’ve got a large bank balance and penchant for golf, that is.

That Hook Head itself remains a free amenity for us all to enjoy is one great reason to visit this magnificent location.

That it is also home to so much history, a stunning Lighthouse and so many welcoming people are just three more reasons to fill your engine, pack your picnic basket and pique your curiosity. You shall not be disappointed.