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Tintern Abbey: History, The Walks + Why It’s Well Worth Visiting

Tintern Abbey: History, The Walks + Why It’s Well Worth Visiting

Tintern Abbey and the surrounding area is one of the most overlooked places to visit in Wexford.

The Abbey itself has a very interesting past while the surrounding area is an absolute joy to explore on foot.

In the guide below, you’ll find everything from info on the various Tintern Abbey walks to the history of the area.

Some quick need-to-knows about Tintern Abbey

tintern abbey walks

Photo via Shutterstock

Although a visit to Tintern Abbey in County Wexford is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

Tintern Abbey is located in Saltmills, right at the start of the Hook Peninsula. It’s a 10-minute drive from Fethard-on-Sea, a 25-minute drive from New Ross, a 30-minute drive from Kilmore Quay and a 35-minute spin from Wexford Town.

2. Opening hours

Tintern Abbey is open from March 10th to November 1st from 10:00 to 17:00 daily. Last admission to the Abbey is at 16:15.

3. Admission

An entry ticket will cost you €5 for adults, €4 for senior citizens and groups and €3 for children and students. Special discounts are also available for families. 

4. A whole lot of history

Tintern Abbey is more than 800 years old and it has served as everything from a Cistercian monastery to a living headquarters for the Colclough family. Despite being built in the 11th century, Tintern Abbey is still in excellent condition, making it a joy to explore.

5. The Tintern Abbey walks

There are five different trails to tackle around Tintern Abbey with something for most levels of fitness. The gardener’s trail is only 0.9 km (0.6 miles) and will take you to the Colclough Walled Garden, while the Bannow Bay Trail is 7.2 km (4.5 miles) in length and passes through the old estate village of Saltmills (more on these below).

The interesting tale of Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey

Photos via Shutterstock

Tintern Abbey has a very peculiar origin and it is in fact the result of a violent storm. It all started on a usual day in the late 10th century, when the Earl of Pembroke, William Marshal, decided to spend a day sailing on his boat.

However, the weather quickly changed and he was caught up in a violent storm. Afraid he would not survive, the Earl of Pembroke made a vow to God – he promised to build a Cistercian abbey if he managed to return safely back home.

Luckily, he managed to come back alive and decided to be faithful to his vow, ordering the construction of Tintern Abbey, which was finally completed in 1,200. 

The monastery and its dissolution

Soon after its completion, the Abbey was inhabited by monks coming from the famous Cistercian Abbey located in Tintern, Wales. In order to distinguish this abbey from the one in Wales, the newly founded abbey came to be known as ‘Tintern de Voto’ meaning Tintern of the vow.

After the dissolution of the monasteries, between 1536 and 1541, Tintern Abbey was granted to the English politician, Sir James Croft, and then to a soldier of Henry VIII, Anthony Colclough of Staffordshire.

For years, the abbey was inhabited by the Colclough family till its last resident, Lucey Marie Biddelph, donated it to the Irish state.

The present day

From 1982 to 2007, the National Museum Service undertook a number of excavation and heritage development projects on this site such as special conservation measures to protect the bat colony inhabiting the structure.

Unfortunately, in 2012 a fire destroyed part of the 19th-century outbuildings and, as a consequence, additional restoration works had to be undertaken. 

Things to do at Tintern Abbey

One of the reasons that a visit to Tintern Abbey is one of the more popular things to do in Wexford is due to the volume of things there is to see and do here.

Below, you’ll find info on everything from the tours to the various Tintern Abbey walks. Dive on in!

1. Admire it from the outside, first

Before heading inside, make sure to admire this ancient building from the outside. Around the outside walls of the chancel, you will find decorated corbel tables and 22 carved heads of monsters and beasts.

On the east side are located carved ecclesiastic figures while, just a short distance from the abbey, you will find a 16th-century bridge. This structure, made from locally sourced stone, is approximately 16 meters in length and features three arches.

2. Then step back in time inside

If you head towards the north wall of the chancel you will see three low arches. These were probably used as burial places for important locals and abbots. If you keep walking you will arrive at the cloister, where, in ancient times, monks used to gather to read sacred scriptures and eat together.

Here you will also find the remains of a collation bench and an abbot’s seat. If you look west, you will see an arched gateway dating from the 13th century. In the past, this was probably used as the main entrance to the cloister. 

3. Head off on one of the trails

The Tintern Abbey walks are some of my favourite walks in Wexford (especially as they’re often much quieter than some of the other nearby trails). Here’s an overview of each trail:

  • The Gardener’s trail (blue waymarks): 0.9km in length and can be completed in about 20 minutes
  • The Demesne trail (red waymarks): 2.4 km in length and follows the Tintern River. Takes around 40 minutes
  • The Foxboro trail (purple waymarks): 3.5 km long, and leads you to tranquil landscapes. Takes around 1 hour
  • The Bannow Bay trail (green waymarks): 7.2k in length and takes around 1.5 hours to complete
  • The Buggy Trail (pink on blue waymarks): 5km in length and takes around 75 minutes to complete

4. Visit Colclough Walled Garden

Just a 5-minute walk from Tintern Abbey you will also find the Colclough Georgian Walled Garden. It was built more than 200 years ago and features the same design it had back in the 1830’s. A river flows through the garden and two intramural structures divide the terrain in half.

The east part served as an ornamental garden while the west side was used to cultivate plants and herbs for the kitchen. Colclough Walled Garden is situated in a verdant tranquil valley regularly visited by a variety of birds. If you’re lucky you may even be able to spot a Colclough eagle!

Things to do near Tintern Abbey

One of the beauties of Tintern Abbey 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 Tintern Abbey.

1. Duncannon Fort and beach (15-minute drive)

Duncannon Fort

Photos via Shutterstock

Located in the heart of Duncannon, this ancient fort dates back to 1587-88. Its construction was ordered by Queen Elizabeth I to protect Waterford city from an attack by the Spanish Armada. Next to Duncannon Fort, you will also find the sandy Duncannon Beach.

2. Beaches galore (20-minute drive)

dollar bay wexford

Photo left: @ameliaslaughter. Right: @justpatcassidy

There’s heaps of beaches in Wexford and you’ll find some of the best, such as Dollar Bay and Booley Bay, a short drive from Tintern Abbey. Dollar Bay, in particular, is an absolute stunner.

3. Loftus Hall (20-minute drive)

loftus hall

Photos via Shutterstock

Loftus Hall is a large country house is known by the locals for being haunted by the ghost of a young woman. In 2011, this mansion was bought by Aidan Quigley who organised tours of the allegedly haunted house and in 2020, the house was again put on the market for sale. 

4. Hook Lighthouse (25-minute drive)

hook lighthouse

Photos via Shutterstock

Hook Lighthouse is another building whose construction was ordered by William Marshal. This is the world’s oldest operational lighthouse and it was built more than 800 years ago. Guided tours are available on a daily basis and will take you to the top of the lighthouse from where you will have a spectacular view of your surroundings. 

FAQs about visiting Tintern Abbey

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Which of the Tintern Abbey walking trails is the easiest?’ to ‘Where is Tintern Abbey?’ (there’s one in Wales and another in Wexford).

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.

Is Tintern Abbey worth visiting?

Yes! You can explore the Abbey, head off on one of the Tintern Abbey walks and then visit the nearby walled garden.

Are the Tintern Abbey walks any use?

The Tintern Abbey walking trails are well worth sauntering along. They vary in length and difficulty and each makes a pleasant morning ramble.

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