Last summer, the Gastognome and I set off on a 10-day road trip around Ireland. Since we were flying in and out of Dublin, we wanted to create a loop that made the most of our time on the Emerald Isle. After months of planning and drafting various itineraries, we came up with a route that prioritized our interests: history, food, and the natural world.
Although much of what’s known as “Ireland’s Ancient East” is generally left out of shorter trips like ours, we decided to make Wexford out first stop on a trip that would take us through Killarney, Galway, and Howth before heading back to the US. If you’re traveling to or from Dublin, you should stop in Wexford too — while we only budgeted for one day in the area, we could easily have spent a week exploring the Ancient East. This week, I’ll be bringing you in-depth reviews of the places we visited during our time in Wexford: Kilmokea Country Manor & Gardens, Dunbrody Abbey, Killiane Castle, and the seaside village of Rosslare.
We spent our first night in a hotel very close to the Dublin Airport (more on this in another post!) so we could pick up our rental car first thing in the morning. Around 10 AM, we hit the road and traveled south to Wexford, not totally sure of what we would do once we got there.
Ireland’s highways and side roads are scattered with brown-and-white signs that tell you when you’re near a castle, museum, landmark, or other tourist attraction. The destinations we discovered via these road signs ended up being some of our favorites. Very often, we’d see a road sign, and then I would do a quick google search to learn more. By the time we drew near Kilmokea Country Manor & Gardens we were starving, and the estate happens to be home to the 4th best tea room in the WORLD. Sign me up!
We had lunch in the Garden Conservatory, a sunny room with floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out over the nearest paths of Kilmokea’s sprawling gardens. After dining on chicken liver pate, lamb & rosemary sausages, and an out-of-this-world citrus drizzle cake worthy of Mary Berry’s accolades, we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the grounds.
If you like any of the writings of Tolkien, the 1993 film version of The Secret Garden (or the book, for that matter), or Irish fairytales of any sort, you will love Kilmokea. There’s a choose-your-own adventure feel to the gardens, a 7-acre sprawl separated by walls, gates, and verdant arches. At any turn, you might find yourself in an herby maze, at a fairy’s doorstep, or in the shadow of a fearsome dragon. If gardens are your thing, don’t skip this stop on your travels through Wexford. Of all the places we visited during our trip, Kilmokea remains one of our top picks.
In addition to day tripping through the manor, you can opt to spend a night or two inside the house, which also comes with complimentary access to one of the best spas in Wexford. We spent the afternoon and slept elsewhere, but on our next visit to Ireland’s Ancient East, the Gastrognome and I are already planning to spend at least one night at Kilmokea. Rooms start at 80 euros per person. Pro tip: in Ireland, many of the rates you see are per guest, not per room! This is because a stay often includes breakfast and another amenities, like access to spas or the grounds of a historic house.
Castles & Lattes Rating: 🏰🏰🏰🏰🏰