Once again the Bluegrass Festival was a roaring success especially as one and all basked in the glorious sunshine in beautiful Dunmore. To follow up, I thought we would travel along what is a great scenic coastal drive of this area. Most locals have enjoyed this spin over the years, just a few miles away from the hustle and bustle of city life. But equally there are very many who are relatively new to these parts who would appreciate an introduction to one of our local natural treasures. There may well be folk out there who are more familiar with the Costas of Spain than the delights of their very own Waterford Costa! This is a magnificent scenic drive from Dunmore East along the edge of Waterford Harbour to the small villages of Passage East and Cheekpoint, 11 to 12 km up-river. Many places of historical interest may be seen on this drive. So off we go!
Up by Killea
Leaving lower Dunmore East and heading north, one first comes to Killea (Cill Aodh). This area takes its name from the Church or Cell established by Aodh or Hugh at the end of the Fourth Century. Aodh was a disciple of St Declan of Ardmore and ministered to him on his deathbed. In the fourteenth century the Normans rebuilt the mediaeval Church, and being devout crusaders, they rededicated it to the Holy Cross. Part of the tower of this Norman Church still stands in the old churchyard close to the existing Roman Catholic Church. Of particular interest are the eighteenth century tombstones in the graveyard with carved crucifixion scenes
After Killea the next stop is Harristown Cross Roads where the road veers sharply to the right for Woodstown. Close by, on the top of the hill, stands the ancient Megalitic Tomb of Harristown dating from about 1600. It is a passage grave in a stone circle. Probably Neolithic, it was used at a later time for burials by Bronze people. This tomb stands at a height of over 120 metres (400 feet) above sea level. The tomb was excavated in 1941 by Jacquetta Hawkes. When excavated a stone axe head and ash filled pottery urns were found. Similar entrance graves are found in the Scilly Isles and Cornwall and they can be clearly distinguished from the Boyne Valley passage graves. Nearby is an old ‘green road’ called ‘Botharin na mBan Gorm’ or the Little Road of the Blue(black) Women’. It is said to have been used in the eighteenth century by smugglers and their slaves. Proceed on then to Woodstown with its beautiful sandy beach. To the south can be seen Creadan Head where there is a flight of forty steps carved into the solid rock of the cliffs, said by some to be a smugglers landing place, but more likely giving early river pilots quick access to incoming vessels.
Continuing from Woodstown and about three miles further on, the ruins of Geneva Barracks are to be seen by the roadside. These buildings were erected in the eighteenth century to house a community of silver workers from Switzerland who had to leave their homeland because of their Huguenot sympathies. When the scheme failed the buildings were converted into a barracks, which became notorious as a prison during the 1798 rebellion. It is referred to in the popular ballad known as ‘The Croppy Boy’.
By Hook or Crooke
Next one reaches the village of Crooke. In the thirteenth century the Knights Templars established a preceptory at Crooke with a strong castle, of which only a corner survives. The door lintel can be spotted at the nearby overgrown holy well. Nearby are the ruins of a fourteenth century church dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Oliver Cromwell is reputed to have coined a phrase when he said on his arrival by sea in this area that he would lay siege to Waterford ‘by Hook or by Crook’, meaning he would land on the Wexford side of the Harbour, or here at the nearby hamlet of Crooke.
From Crooke you descend the hill to the village of Passage East by the rivers edge about 1.5 km away. From Passage East there is a Car Ferry Service to Ballyhack on the Wexford side of the river. In more ancient times Passage East has been the scene of great historic activity. On 23 August 1170 Strongbow landed here with 200 knights and 1,000 men. Next day he was joined by Raymond le Gros with 40 knights, and on 25 August took Waterford by storm. In 1171 Henry II of England arrived at Passage East with 4,000 men in 400 ships. In 1649 Cromwell’s son-in-law took the fort by storm.The scenic route continues by the rivers edge to Cheekpoint (poinnte na Sioghe), meaning ‘Fairy Point’, and ends in this pleasant small fishing village – with many stories of its own to tell.
Over Portally Way
On the western side of the village of Dunmore East a further picturesque drive extends in the direction of Tramore. Passing the old Mercy Convent, the drive continues westwards to a very secluded cove at Portally. A few miles further on, one comes to the beach at Rathmoylan and after that to the small but picturesque village of Ballymacaw with its beautiful cove. Continue then by the sea to Saleen beach with excellent views of the town of Tramore, the sand dunes and the back strand across the Bay. In the days of sail, many ships mistaking Tramore bay for the entrance to Waterford Harbour, having found their mistake, were unable to claw their way out of the bay against the headwinds and were wrecked on the shore. After the worst disaster in 1816 when 363 lives were lost, Lloyds of London had two great pillars erected on Brownstown Head, opposite three more on Great Newtown Head, on the western side of the bay to warn of the danger. One of the three white pillars is topped by a metal sailor facing the sea with out-flung arms, as if to warn sailors to ‘keep off’, and from which it gets its name ‘The Metal Man’. There is a rhyme, which says ‘keep off, keep of, for I am the metal man of misery’. Learn lots more about this great area from its super web site www.waterford-dunmore.com. Can I also refer you to www.dunmorewalks.com for greater detail of the area?
Go Seachtain Eile, Slan.