The imposing Duncannon Fort is one of the more popular attractions on the Ring of Hook Drive.
Perched at the mouth of the Rive Barrow and overlooking nearby Duncannon Beach, it’s a fine example of the area’s past.
The tours of Duncannon Fort, which are run by passionate, local guides, are well worth booking onto (just make sure the check when they’re on – see below).
In this guide, you’ll find info on everything from the history of Duncannon Fort to what to expect from a visit. Dive on in!
Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Duncannon Fort
Although a visit to Duncannon Fort in Wexford is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Duncannon Fort is situated at the mouth of River Barrow, on the Hook Peninsula. It’s a 15-minute drive from Fethard-on-Sea, a 30-minute drive from New Ross, a 40-minute drive from Kilmore Quay and a 45-minute spin from Waterford City.
2. Opening hours
I’m just off the phone with the Duncannon Tourist Office and they’ve told me that you’ll be able to book tours for July and August and maybe the last week in June, but that’s yet to be confirmed.
3. The tour
The guided tour will tell you everything there’s to know about this 16th century coastal bastioned fort (including to the tunnels!). Ticket prices are as follows:
- Adults: €6
- Family (2 Adults, 2 Children between 6 and 16): €15
- Children (6 to 16 years): €2.50
- Children (under 6): Free
4. Part of the Ring of Hook
Duncannon Fort is part of the Ring of Hook Coastal Drive. This route takes between 1 – 1.5 hours to drive, but allow longer as there’s some excellent attractions, like Tintern Abbey, Dollar Bay, Hook Lighthouse and Loftus Hall.
The history of Duncannon Fort
It’s believed that several forts have sat at this site over the years. A fort was said to have been constructed here prior to the 12th century, but very little is known about it. Later, in the 12th century, the Normans are said to have built a fort here, due to its strategic position
The Duncannon Fort that stands to this day is what’s known as a star fort and it was constructed at the order of Queen Elizabeth between 1587 and 1588. Its purpose was to keep Waterford safe from potential Spanish Armada invaders who could use the River Barrow as an entry point.
The 17th century
Duncannon Fort has seen plenty of action over the years. In 1645, during the Irish Confederate Wars, the fort was captured by the Irish Catholic Confederation forces. Some years later, in 1690, Oliver Cromwell attempted to capture Duncannon, but he failed.
In the same year, the fort played host to two Kings; the first was James II of England who arrived there from Kinsale. The second was William III of England, who used the fort as a place for respite from bad weather conditions.
The 18th and 19th centuries
Duncannon Fort was one of very few places of strategic importance that didn’t fall under the control of Irish rebel forces during the 1798 Rebellion. In fact, during this time Duncannon was used to imprison (and worse…) rebels.
For many years, Duncannon Fort was used by the British Army and in 1922 it was set alight during the turbulence of the Irish Civil War. Many years later, in 1993, the fort was placed in the hands of Wexford County Council.
What you’ll experience on the Duncannon Fort tour
There’s plenty to look forward to at Duncannon Fort, from views and history to some very unique features, like the fort’s underground tunnels. Here’s what to expect:
1. Interesting tales and excellent guides
The guided tour (buy tickets here) lasts about one hour and will take you to all the corners of this ancient fortress. According to reviews, the tour starts at the gate where your guide will give you a brief introduction to the history of the fort.
You will then enter the site and start your adventure. The visit is narrated by a passionate guide who will tell you stories and anecdotes that shaped the history of Duncannon Fort, from its construction to the Confederate Wars and the 1798 Rebellion.
2. Head torches and tunnels
One of the most interesting parts of the tour is what is known as “The Crappy Boy’s Cell”. This place consists of a dark long tunnel that you will have to cross, following your guide. You will be provided with head torches to illuminate the path in front of you and you will then cross this humid dark tunnel excavated in the stone.
3. Views galore
Duncannon Fort’s elevated position offers breathtaking view over the estuary of the River Barrow. You’ll also get an eagle-eye view of Duncannon Beach, which is worth strolling along after.
Things to do near Duncannon Fort
One of the beauties of Duncannon Fort is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Wexford.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Duncannon.
1. Duncannon Beach (5-minute walk)
After your visit, head down to nearby Duncannon Beach, situated south of the fort. This is one of several beaches dotted around the stunning Hook Peninsula.
2. The Ring of Hook Drive (you can start from the fort)
The Ring Of Hook is well-worth doing. This drive will take you about an hour, but it’s worth allowing at least half a day to allow for stops. There’s plenty to see along the way.
3. Tintern Abbey (15-minute drive)
The ruins of Tintern Abbey are another popular stop. You can take a tour of the abbey or you can head off on one of the many Tintern Abbey trails.
FAQs about visiting Duncannon Fort in Wexford
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘How much are tickets?’ to ‘When does the tour run?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
When is Duncannon Fort open?
According to Duncannon Tourism, the fort is open in July of August each year and you can book tickets online or get them in the ticket office.
Is Duncannon Fort worth visiting?
Yes. The tour here is excellent and the fort is home to a fine bit of history. The views from here on a good day are also glorious.