A visit to the Hook Peninsula is one of our favourite things to do in Wexford.
Although it’s arguably best known for its famous Hook Lighthouse, there’s so much more to this wild corner of Ireland.
Below, you’ll discover everything from the Ring of Hook Drive and where to stay to some mighty things to do on the Hook Peninsula. Dive on in!
Some quick need-to-knows about the Hook Peninsula
Although a visit to the Hook Peninsula is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Situated in the most south-westerly corner of County Wexford, the peninsula is a 25-minute drive from New Ross, a 40-minute drive from both Wexford Town and Kilmore Quay and a 45-minute drive from both Rosslare and Waterford City.
2. An overlooked gem
Despite its rugged beauty and endless attractions, the Hook Peninsula tends to be pretty quiet, especially outside of the summer months. The result is a completely different experience than if you drove the likes of the Ring of Kerry or the Causeway Coastal Route, which are generally always busy.
3. Home to plenty to see and do
Where to begin? This a spot that’s home to pretty beaches, secluded coves, castles, medieval ruins and a truly iconic lighthouse. All of which we’ll be explaining in the sections below, but know that there’s a ton of stuff to see and do here!
4. The Ring of Hook
With the Hook Peninsula’s wealth of sights, something to link them all together would be ideal. And that’s where the coastal drive comes in! We’ll explain it in more detail towards the end, but the coastal drive is an epic way of exploring the area in an easy and accessible way.
About the Hook Peninsula
While the Hook Peninsula’s stunning landscapes need no introduction, it’s also had an interesting social history over the years. Everyone from Vikings, monks and Anglo-Normans landed ashore here and either settled or moved further inland from the Hook Peninsula.
And the ghosts of all those centuries of activity are still visible in the unique range of sights dotted around the peninsula.
Whether it’s the imposing stone remains of Ballyhack Castle overlooking the Waterford Estuary or all the way up to the wind-battered ruins of Churchtown Church at the tip of the peninsula, there’s been a ton of life here down the years and discovering it all is a real treat.
With an area covering 60 km2, there’s plenty to see and there’s no need to rush it either, so take your time and breathe it all in.
Things to do on the Hook Peninsula
There’s plenty of places to visit and things to do on the Hook Peninsula, so I’m going to show you the best of them, in no particular order.
However, at the end of the guide you’ll find a Google Map with the Ring of Hook mapped out, which will help you navigate the sites with ease.
1. Hook Lighthouse
The awe-inspiring Hook Lighthouse is arguably the best known of the many Wexford attractions. Not only is it by some stretch the oldest lighthouse in Ireland, it’s actually the second-oldest operating lighthouse in the world!
Only the Roman-era Tower of Hercules in Spain’s Galicia region is older. Located right at the tip of the Hook Peninsula, the lighthouse has been guiding ships safely away from Wexford’s rocky shores for over 800 years and shows no sign of slowing down.
If you want to poke about inside Hook Lighthouse, tours are €6 for adults and €3.50 for children.
2. Loftus Hall
A pretty conspicuous sight situated about midway down the western side of the peninsula, Loftus Hall is a large country manor that’s almost as old as the lighthouse!
Owned by a number of different local families down the years, it was once attacked and suffered damage during the Irish Confederate Wars of the 17th century.
These days, it’s more well-known as a haunted house and hosted guided tours until it was put up for sale in 2020. And while (at the time of writing) tours aren’t available, it’s still a cool place to see along the coast and one of the Hook Peninsula’s most famous sights.
3. Duncannon Fort
One place that is open for tours (albeit summer only) and is well worth a visit lies further up the peninsula and closer to the Waterford Estuary.
Dating back to 1587, Duncannon Fort is a star fort that was constructed strategically to defend Waterford from possible invasion by the Spanish Armada.
As a star fort, guns were able to be placed looking up and down river and the impressive fort has been visited over the years by Kings, pirates, rebels and World War II heroes. Get a window into the Hook Peninsula’s military history by giving Duncannon Fort a visit!
4. Duncannon Beach
If you want to stay in the area, but enjoy something a little more leisurely and at one with nature, then make the short walk down to Duncannon Beach!
Over a mile in length, its golden sands stretch from beneath the village of Duncannon out into the wide estuary carved by the River Barrow.
Its sheltered location protects it from the strongest waves and makes it a popular spot for swimming during the summer months. There are also some cracking views from the beach across the estuary to Hook Head and the hilly Waterford coast.
5. Dollar Bay
Surrounded by steep rocky cliffs and green fields, Dollar Bay is smaller than Duncannon Beach but is also one the most picturesque beaches in Wexford. Located further down and just south of Booley Bay, Dollar Bay is sheltered well by its cliffs and is a lovely spot for relaxing or taking a dip.
The name Dollar Bay derives from a local legend of an alleged hidden treasure still on the beach to this day! So if you look hard enough, you may find more than just golden sands and pleasant views while visiting this stunning spot…
6. Templetown Church Ruins
Standing handsomely on a grassy mound elevated from the road and surrounded by an old graveyard with some interesting stones, the Templetown Church Ruins are an impressive sight as you drive down the L4045 on the western side of the Hook Peninsula!
Templetown was once the headquarters of the Knights Templar in Wexford and this religious military order was founded in the 12th century to protect Christian pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land.
While the infamous knights are no longer, curious visitors are free to wander around this ancient monument to their medieval power.
7. Churchtown Church
Now here are proper ruins! What remains of Churchtown Church near the tip of the Hook Peninsula are a fine example of what happens when man meets nature (and in this case, nature won convincingly!).
Blasted by wind and rain for hundreds of years after its initial construction in the 14th century, it was actually a Welsh monk named Dubhán who first built a church here back in the 5th century.
But while the Church is no longer able to function, its roofless stone ruins are still a unique sight as you make your way around the peninsula.
8. Baginbun Head and the Martello Tower
A peninsula within a peninsula? Well, not quite but the way that Baginbun Head juts out from the Hook Peninsula’s eastern side could give that impression. Its wild headlands are beautiful and there’s a beach which is well sheltered.
But Baginbun is also one of Ireland’s more historic locations, as in 1170 it was from here that the Norman conquest of Ireland began. There’s also a Martello Tower here to check out that comes with its own military connotations, but that was obviously built many years later!
9. Fethard Castle
While the Hook Peninsula doesn’t have any towns to speak of, the community of Fethard might be the closest thing to one. And when you do visit here, there’s no mistaking the sight of Fethard Castle!
With its handsome four-story stone tower, the castle dates to around the 15th century and was probably built by the Bishop of Ferns.
Though it’s not possible to enter the castle, visitors to Fethard are allowed to walk around the grounds and get a look up close to it. While it has been passed through many hands, the castle has essentially been in ruined condition after being abandoned in 1922.
10. Saltmills Village
Receiving its name after the tidal mills built here by the monks of Tintern Abbey, Saltmills village was built over 200 years ago in 1815, followed shortly afterwards, in 1817, with the construction of its bridge, while nearby St Mary’s Church was built in 1819.
It’s a quaint little place located just south of Tintern Abbey at the head of a small inlet that enters Bannow Bay. Saltmills is a pleasant place for a stroll on a sunny day and make sure you stop by for a pint at the excellent Vine Cottage Bar.
11. Tintern Abbey
Another of the Hook Peninsula’s sublime medieval sights, Tintern Abbey was a Cistercian abbey located just north of Bannow Bay.
Founded in 1200 by William Earl Marshal on lands held through his marriage to the Irish heiress Isabella de Clare, the abbey was also known as “Tintern de Voto” (Tintern of the vow).
Come down and explore the elegant ruins before taking advantage of the surrounding woodlands, in which there are a few walking trails that explore a different side to the Hook Peninsula’s typical coastal image. And don’t miss the restored Colclough Walled Garden situated within the old estate.
12. Dunbrody Abbey
The furthest north that you’ll go on your journey around the Hook Peninsula, the impressive ruins of Dunbrody Abbey have been part of this lush green landscape since the 13th century.
In fact, with a length of 59 metres the church is one of the longest in Ireland. Though despite all of this, the abbey was dissolved under Henry VIII in 1536.
It was eventually handed over by the Chichester family to the Office of Public Works in 1911 and nowadays you can visit the abbey and also the nearby maze. Open from May to September, adults can enter the abbey for €4 while children get in for €1.
13. Ballyhack Castle
Towering over the tiny fishing village with which it shares the same name, Ballyhack Castle was built around 1450 by the Knights Hospitallers of St John.
The castle was occupied by Cromwellian forces during the Irish Rebellion of 1641 and was later used as a transportation point for those displaced by the Act for the Settlement of Ireland of 1652.
It’s from this association that the phrase “Go to Ballyhack” was coined. While admission is free, the castle is only open to the public during the summer months so make sure you visit then.
There are a few ways of getting the most out of your time here, and some of the finest are simply putting yourself in the hands of those who know the area best!
Hook Tourism run Hook Adventures which specialise in eco-tourism experiences including sea kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and adventure biking.
The Irish Experience also offers expert local tours and similar unique experiences that make the most of the stunning wild landscape. Some of these include Sea cave kayaking, sunset kayaking and coastal canyoneering.
If you want to really get to grips with the Hook Peninsula’s gorgeous scenery, then get in contact with these guys!
The Ring of Hook Drive (with map)
While the Ring of Kerry might be the first place you think of when considering a scenic drive in Ireland, don’t sleep on the Hook Peninsula drive either.
In fact, this gorgeous drive covers all of the area’s most famous sights in the space of an hour! Of course, you’ll want to get out and some of the fabulous sights along the way but this compact drive is perfect for an afternoon or a whole day.
Starting just north of Tintern Abbey, it winds down to Hook Lighthouse before meandering back up north and looping back around to the beginning.
Where to stay on the Hook Peninsula
If you’re looking for places to stay on the Hook Peninsula, Seashells in Duncannon and Baginbun Lodge in Fethard-on-Sea are two excellent options. Here’s some info on both:
1. Seashells B&B
With bright and airy rooms looking out to Waterford Estuary, you can’t really go wrong with Seashells B&B. Located in Duncannon, there’s easy access to the rest of the Hook Peninsula and plenty of nice pubs and restaurants nearby serving superb seafood.
2. Baginbun Lodge
Crossing from the western to the eastern side of the Hook Peninsula, Baginbun Lodge is a 12-bedroom lodge that’s ideal for couples or families. With cosy rooms and a host of beaches and trails nearby, it’s a great spot to appreciate the epic surrounding landscape.
FAQs about visiting the Hook Peninsula
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘How long does it take to get around?’ to ‘Where’s good for food?’.
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.
How long is the Ring of Hook Drive?
It takes around 1-hour if you drive it without stopping, but allow at least 1/2 a day to get out and explore the various attractions.
Is the Hook Peninsula really worth visiting?
Yes! This is a stunning example of ‘wild Ireland’. There’s endless, unspoiled natural beauty and loads of things to see and do.
What is there to do on the Hook Peninsula?
You Hook Lighthouse, heaps of beaches, Duncannon Fort, castles, unique tours and lots more (see above).