Hook Lighthouse

Traveller's World: South East Ireland by Hook or by Crook

Sandip Hor

Where does the phrase "by hook or by crook" come from? What is its etymology?

One possible explanation comes from English General Oliver Cromwell's attempt to conquer the City of Waterford in SouthEast Ireland. He is reported as saying he would take the city 'by hook or by crook'. Hook is the headland on the Wexford side and Crook is the name of the Waterford side in South East Ireland.

Recently myself, my wife Nilima and son Shuvadip had the opportunity to visit that proverbial Hook Head while we were travelling in South East Ireland at the invitation of our close family friend Atish and Siobhan Sengupta.

Hook Head is famous for the ancient light house which is one of the oldest working lighthouse in the world standing against waves and winds of time. The very scenic Ring of Hook sign posted drive takes visitors along a wealth of historic sites and coastal roads culminating in the arrival at Hook Head.

Ireland is comprised of 32 counties out of which the South East Ireland covers five. They are Wicklow, Carlow, Kilkenny ,Waterford and Wexford..

South East Ireland is distinctly different and possesses a landscape, history, culture and character undeniably its own. Its uniqueness is due in no small part to some early visitors from across the seas - the Celts, Vikings and Normans who came, conquered and stayed. Each have left lasting footprints of their presence in the castles and abbeys, villages and settlements, bridges and buildings along the river valleys of this ancient land.

Wicklow and Carlow are jewels of a county with wealth of scenery – from rich pasture land, colourful mountains and river valleys. The Powercourt House and Gardens in Wicklow is one of Ireland’s greatest treasures. Nearby Glendalough Tower in the middle of a cemetery is a historic site amidst two beautiful lakes. One thing we found that all towers in Ireland are round in shape which is a unique feature of ancient Irish architecture. Adjacent to the tower is ruins of an ancient church.

Kilkenny Castle Kilkenny is the medieval capital of Ireland that offers an abundance of fascinating historical sites, one of which the regal, majestic and ancient Kilkenny Castle, overlooking the River Nore. Nearby is the thirteenth century Saint Canices cathedral. Kilkenny in Irish means the Church of Canice. Fascinating in the Kilkenny city is the narrow cobbled streets with different shops, restaurants and pubs on both sides, serving a pint of Guinness or Smithwicks, for those who prefer the locally brewed stuff. A common sight in Ireland was to see pubs everywhere. We went to the most popular pub in Kilkenny today called Kytlers Inn. The oldest house in Kilkenny, it was the home of Dame Alice Kyteler, a lady of great wealth who married four times and who, in 1324, was accused of witchcraft and of poisoning each of her four husbands. This 13th century pub still maintained its ancient heritage in today’s environment. It was very interesting to see there some old price posters one of which was for Wills Gold Flake cigarettes, which was a very popular brand in India during the British Raj, selling 10 for 3 pence.

Waterford City steeped in history, heritage and culture represents a unique blend of modern shopping centres, traditional pubs and highly acclaimed gourmet restaurants. Waterford City was founded by the Vikings in 853, and was later extended by the Anglo-Normans. It is set in a commanding site on the River Suir's estuary, and became in time the southeast's main seaport. Waterford not only boasts some of the most beautiful countryside in Ireland, particularly the splendid scenery of West Waterford's mountain passes, but you will also find a spectacular coast line with miles of safe sandy beaches, perfect for the whole family.

In Waterford City, along Merchant’s Quay is a Victorian-Gothic structure, which was built in 1861 known as the Clock Tower. The clock was added in 1864. Further along the Quay stands the round Reginald Tower. It is the most historic urban monument in Ireland that has stood on this site for over a thousand years, protecting the Quays of Waterford.

The Cathedral of The Most Holy Trinity has the distinction of being the earliest post-Reformation Roman Catholic cathedral in Britain or Ireland. Designed by John Roberts in 1792, who also designed the Protestant, Christchurch Cathedral. The two cathedrals offer two remarkably different styles from the hand of the same designer.

Waterford is also known as the "Crystal County". Waterford Crystal is a world-renowned quality product and its factory and visitor centre is the premier tourist attraction in the South East.

Wexford County offers cosy coastal villages, sunny seashores and tranquil beaches. We visited the beautiful fishing villages of Ballyhach and Duncanon and saw the ruins of an ancient castle and a fort.

NewRoss in Wexford is a small town that has a charm of its own. It is where US President John F Kennedy’s great grand father came from. In memory of that connection, the Irish and the US government has built the 252 hectare arboretum which contains some 4500 types of tress and shrubs from all over the world. NewRoss also docks the Dunbrody Heritate ship, which played a leading part in the 19th century emigration to the US.

The best of all in South East Ireland are the people - warm, friendly, funny, interesting, philosophical, they always have time for a chat or to tell stories about days gone by. The people, the history, the coast, the country - all the ingredients for a great holiday in wonderful SouthEast Ireland.

To explore the region, the best is to hire a car and travel around. Driving is right hand and easy. However be very careful about the police as they hide round the corner with their speed cameras to raise revenue for their respective counties. Different types of accommodation are available to suit your budget ,however the bed and breakfast is the most popular.

We were fortunate to enjoy the five star hospitality of the Sengupta’s that added extra charm to our holiday. We also toured the historic Dublin city, which I will cover another time.