Press Release 26 May 2017
Forward thinking experience
Wexford unveiled a fascinating story of Norman descent, with the official launch of The Norman Way heritage and cycling trail on Wednesday last by Minister of State for Tourism and Transport, Patrick O’Donovan TD at Lady’s Island, County Wexford.
The Norman Way trail was developed by Wexford County Council with support from Failte Ireland as a true treasure of “Ireland’s Ancient East”. The route uncovers Medieval Ireland via a series of authentic, protected medieval sites which tell the compelling story of the Normans and their way of life over 800 years ago. The Norman Way is a heritage and cycling trail that combines historic Norman sites, unspoilt countryside, and provides an enthralling experience through which visitors can travel off the beaten track to retrace the steps of their ancestors and celebrate the arrival of the Normans to Ireland, in the very landscape where it all began.
Discover religious structures, architectural ruins and other hidden gems
“This forward thinking experience brings visitors back to Ireland’s past on a road less travelled, to discover religious structures, architectural ruins and other hidden gems along a route from Lady’s Island, through Tomhaggard and Kilmore Quay, and eventually onto Bannow, Tintern, Fethard and Hookhead to New Ross and beyond,” commented Minister O’Donovan.
One of the most enjoyable ways to experience the 22 kilometres of undisturbed landscape which makes up this first phase of The Norman Way is on two wheels, sailing down quiet country lanes, through beautiful seaside villages and past stunning beaches. And with Rosslare Europort only a short distance away, the trail is easily accessible to overseas visitors. In fact, Europe’s cycle route, Eurovelo 1 closely follows the Norman Way as it traverses County Wexford, so outdoor enthusiasts are bound to meet other like-minded travellers during their escapade.
Currently, the trail comprises ten fascinating sites steeped in Irish history, running from Lady’s Island to Kilmore Quay along an including a wonderful new visitor experience at St Mary’s Church in New Ross, while an additional 21 sites have been identified for a second phase of development. According to Wexford County Council, much work has been invested to ensure the trail offers a complete visitor experience, including a useful website www.thenormanway.com which highlights nearby places to eat and comfortable benches and seats to provide rest.
“Along with brand new Norman Way interpretive panels at each of the sites, new groundwork, seats and bike racks have also been installed at several of these medieval sites, to provide a comfortable experience for all levels of walkers and cyclists,” said Tony Larkin, Director of Enterprise and Planning Services at Wexford County Council. He added “The Norman Way website completes the visitor experience by offering more information about the significance of each site, highlighting key folklore and stories, as well as offering a useful guide of places to eat and stay, and other locations of interest along the route, in some 30 different languages”.
Minister O’Donovan concluded his address by congratulating all those involved in developing the Norman Way. “With a greater number of Norman castles and churches than any other county in Ireland, South Wexford has been left with an extraordinary legacy of Norman descent. The Norman Way aims to promote this rich heritage, both to our own and to visitors, whilst promoting some of the best scenery Ireland has to offer,” said the Minister.
See www.thenormanway.com for more information;
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Wexford’s Norman History
Bannow Bay was the first landing point and settlement of the Normans into Ireland in 1169 on the invitation of Diarmait MacMurchada, King of Leinster. In that same year and from the Bannow Bay settlement, the Normans joined Diarmait MacMurchada’s army to march on the Viking town of Wexford, which was surrendered to them.
In 1170 The Welsh Norman leader Richard FitzGilbert de Clare (Strongbow) married MacMurchada's daughter, and in 1189 William Marshall (signator of the Magna Carta) married Strongbow’s daughter.
New Ross was founded by William Marshall, the 1st Earl of Pembroke. He built St Mary’s Church and also Kilkenny Castle. St Marys Church, New Ross is perhaps the earliest fully Gothic Church in Ireland.
The Normans are best known for constructing formidable buildings, improving agriculture and food production, supporting a change in the character of the Christianity practised in the country and for enhancing military know-how and navigation in Ireland.