.[/caption] [lastupdated changes="Revised text. Added image, map and video."] Wexford town, established by the Vikings in the 9th century, is the main town of county Wexford. With a population of around 20,000, Wexford is a small town by international standards, but it is vibrant and busy, especially during summer months. It serves an an urban hub for the many smaller towns villages in the county, and its variety of shops, restaurants, pubs and activities attracts locals as well as visitors. Wexford is a popular summer vacation spot both with overseas visitors and "staycationers" from Dublin. The area is nicknamed the Sunny Southeast, since it receives less rainfall than the rest of Ireland. Don't expect vastly different temperatures though! As Sean (Chris O'Dowd) jokes in an episode of the TV Comedy Moone Boy: "The Sunny Southeast? It's like Africa down there."
This quirky presenter gives a fun tour of a local beach, and then Wexford town. Grainy video but a good sample of the town.
Wexford Opera Festival
It is particularly famous for its Opera Festival, which takes place around the end of October every year. The festival is hugely popular with opera lovers, as many rare or neglected operas are performed in the town’s tiny Theatre Royal.
Wexford Town Beaches
The town also boasts two fine beaches nearby – Curracloe, 8km away, which is a “blue-flag” (the EU mark of high quality) beach, and Ballinesker, which is famous for being featured in the gruesome opening scene of Saving Private Ryan.
History of Wexford Town
The town's 9th century Viking founders gave it the name Waesfjord, meaning “inlet of mud flats”. Throughout the town, there are remnants of this Viking past, particularly the small and winding streets in the town centre, which evolved from the original streets created by the Viking founders. The town prospered for centuries, and the Scandinavian people became integrated with the locals. In the spring of 1169, Wexford was again invaded, this time by Anglo-Norman knights. They too developed the town over the following centuries by building a defensive wall around it and regulating its markets and trade. Wexford was a well-known town at this time, as evidenced by the visit of English King Henry II, when he was said to be repenting at Selskar Abbey for the murder of Thomas Beckett. As a result of these English invasions, a unique dialect of the English language, known as Yola, was spoken in Wexford, and did not die out until the 19th century. In the 17th century, Wexford became the leading naval base for the Confederate Government in its war with the Parliament (Crown) Forces and this led to a massacre in 1649, when Wexford fell to the army of Oliver Cromwell. Wexford’s prominent role in the failed Rebellion of 1798, also brought much suffering in its aftermath. The following century saw another period of growth and development, and Wexford became an important trading port. Many of the town’s important buildings, such as St. Peter’s College and the Mechanics Institute, date from this era of relative importance and prosperity. Indeed, Wexford’s growth as a port was to continue beyond the 1800s and into the following century, as first world war made its location strategic for both Britain and America. By the mid-20th century, Wexford went into decline somewhat, as the industries associated with port shrank. Nevertheless, today's Wexford has many charms and attractions, and tourism has become central to its economy.
Wexford Town. Image by Stefan Jürgensen