The south eastern corner of Ireland is said to be the country’s sunniest place. But everything is relative here, and relatively sunny can also mean relatively wet when there’s a southerly wind blowing in from the Bay of Biscay.
It’s a nice enough drive out of Wexford towards Waterford. On the advice of Lorcan – the more sober of the clientele at Mary’s Bar last night, I’m sticking as closely asI can to the coast. The pretty village of Arthurstown, looking across Waterford Harbour, leads to the neat little car ferry at Ballyhack.
The weather continues to close in as I reach Waterford, which I’m certain would be a pretty enough city in the sunshine. The harbour itself is windswept, with a few yachts moored in the marina. The boats themselves are probably worth millions, though the marina’s washrooms don’t exactly fit the Riviera lifestyle.
The city is, of course, best known for its crystal. The visitor centre is sheltering tourists from the incessant rain outside, but I can’t bring myself to wander among what’s essentially shiny, expensive tat. Of more interest is Waterford’s “Viking Triangle”, complete with the ruins of Greyfrairs Abbey and a Viking sword.
I thought the rain had been pretty bad here, but it’s a mere shower compared with the torrential downpour as I head out of town on the M25; it’s so heavy I can barely make out the lanes leading to the toll booths. The road itself is another toll route – costing just under 2 Euro for barely 10 kilometres of driving.
Having praised Ireland’s road system, Patrick – in Heffernan’s bar last night – had told a different story. The gleaming new carriageways certainly get you form A to B quickly, but they’ve been at the expense of the many small towns and villages which were bypassed,the communities relying heavily on the tourists and truckers passing through. The motorways have been blamed for the death of some places.
The weather finally breaks as I head towards Dungarvan, a pretty town built on the fishing industry. The views from above it show off the beauty of the south coast, while the town itself offers a castle and an array of cafes and bars, making the most of the late summer trade.
Onwards into County Cork – but before I get to the city itself, a quick stop off in Youghal. Pronounced “Yawl”, it’s full of historic buildings, including the sixteenth century Clock Tower, once the gateway to the walled town but also used as a prison.
Cork beckons, and as I approach, the relative emptiness of the rural roads make way to a more organised, industrial landscape. The unspoilt coast is replaced by hundreds of shipping containers stacked up at what is still am important and sizeable port. As the Republic of Ireland’s second city, it’ll be interesting to see what it has to offer.