The Norman Way at Kilmore Quay

The content below appears on the Norman Way interpretive panel at Kilmore Quay.

The text makes for interesting reading but there is nothing quite like visiting these authentic and under-explored heritage locations in person. Visit the beautiful Norman Way in Wexford to feel the history and age-old atmosphere coursing all around you.

The Graveyard of a Thousand Ships

Norman ships weren’t that different from Viking longships. They were fast moving and agile but the dangerous waters off the South Wexford coast proved a challenge even for them. In fact, the treacherous waters off Kilmore Quay and around the Saltee Islands are known locally as the ‘graveyard of a thousand ships’.

Guiding Lights

Ballyteige Castle, just outside Kilmore Quay Village, and Ballyhealy Castle nearby may have been Norman ‘fire towers’.  ‘Fire towers’ were tall structures close to the coast that had a lit beacon at the top. Passing ships used them to navigate. There is evidence of promontory forts that may have been used as ‘fire towers’ on both nearby Saltee islands too.

The Secrets of the Saltees

The Saltee Islands are dotted with secret caves with names such as ‘Hell Hole’ and ‘Otters Cave’. Smugglers and pirates would have hidden their treasure on the islands from medieval through to modern times.

Discover the Norman Way for Yourself

A local tradition, believed to have been brought to this area by the Normans, is to place a small wooden cross in a particular tree after the funeral of a loved one.

Look out for these trees, covered in tiny wooden crosses, as you explore the Norman Way, especially around Kilmore Quay.

Send us your contribution to the Norman Way by emailing thenormanway@wexfordcoco.ie

The Norman Way at Grange Church

The content below appears on the Norman Way interpretive panel at Grange Church.

The text makes for interesting reading but there is nothing quite like visiting these authentic and under-explored heritage locations in person. Visit the beautiful Norman Way in Wexford to feel the history and age-old atmosphere coursing all around you.

Religious Orders and Ordered Religion

The Normans founded several new houses in Wexford for religious orders such as the Cistercians and the Augustinians. The Normans and these religious orders supported and expanded the pre-existing Christian parish system that was already in Ireland at the time. They also promoted a more strict Christian Church here, as dictated by the Pope in Rome.

Growing Religion and Growing Crops

A place-name like ‘Grange’ suggests that Christian monks worked the agricultural land in this area.

As well as encouraging their more structured approach to the Christian faith, these monks shared their farming methods with the native Irish. They helped to spread the new and improved Norman way of working the land.

The Normans introduced crop rotation and even hay-making to Ireland. Before the Normans arrived, the Irish would have butchered many of their cattle before winter as they had no way to feed them during these harsher months.

Discover the Norman Way for Yourself

Many Norman surnames survive in the area along the Norman Way. Can you find the following Norman family names on the gravestones in this graveyard: ‘Barry’, ‘Browne’, and ‘Keating’?

Send us your contribution to the Norman Way by emailing thenormanway@wexfordcoco.ie

The Norman Way at Ballyhealy Castle

The content below appears on the Norman Way interpretive panel at Ballyhealy Castle.

The text makes for interesting reading but there is nothing quite like visiting these authentic and under-explored heritage locations in person. Visit the beautiful Norman Way in Wexford to feel the history and age-old atmosphere coursing all around you.

Norman Navigation

The Normans came up with an ingenious way to navigate the dangerous waters off of South Wexford.

Being near the coast, a brazier light lit on top of Ballyhealy Castle could have acted as a rudimentary lighthouse for passing ships in the distance. Coastal ‘fire towers’ like this may have helped the Normans to navigate the waters around Ireland.

Further along the Norman Way, a brazier light was also used at Hook Head, the site of the world’s oldest operational lighthouse.

Discover the Norman Way for Yourself

Why not take the short journey to Ballyhealy Beach and admire the coastline? Imagine the ships in Norman times sailing past, guided by this ‘fire tower’ as they sailed up the coast towards New Ross – once the busiest port in medieval Ireland.

Send us your contribution to the Norman Way by emailing thenormanway@wexfordcoco.ie

The Norman Way at Ishartmon Church

The content below appears on the Norman Way interpretive panel at Ishartmon Church.

The text makes for interesting reading but there is nothing quite like visiting these authentic and under-explored heritage locations in person. Visit the beautiful Norman Way in Wexford to feel the history and age-old atmosphere coursing all around you.

Double Bellcote

Ishartmon Church contains a ‘double bellcote’ at the very top of the ruin on its west gable wall. The double bellcote is a distinct feature of several of the churches found along the Norman Way in Wexford. St Dubhán’s Church on Hook Head Peninsula, contains a recently reconstructed double bellcote.

Holy Water Font

There is a very impressive font made from pink granite in the nave of this long ruined church. This was used to hold holy water in during Norman times.

The Final Resting Place of a Local Family

Ishartmon church and graveyard is the burial place of the Boxwell family from the nearby Butlerstown Castle, which is a Norman inspired stone tower house built around the 15th century.

Discover the Norman Way for Yourself

Can you spot the ‘putlog holes’ in the ruined church wall? These holes were used to support wooden scaffolding during the construction of the church as its walls grew in height. You will see them in many of the other churches along the Norman Way.

Send us your contribution to the Norman Way by emailing thenormanway@wexfordcoco.ie

The Norman Way at Sigginstown Castle

The content below appears on the Norman Way interpretive panel at Sigginstown Castle.

The text makes for interesting reading but there is nothing quite like visiting these authentic and under-explored heritage locations in person. Visit the beautiful Norman Way in Wexford to feel the history and age-old atmosphere coursing all around you.

Norman Skyscrapers

The Norman way of building allowed for multi-storey stone structures that towered over the beautiful green countryside for the first time in Ireland. This changed the country’s visual landscape forever. A perfect example is the tower at Lady’s Island, another site along the Norman Way in Wexford.

In the centuries that followed, these same building techniques were used to construct tower houses such as Sigginstown. There is another impressive tower house on the Norman Way at Ballyhealy.

As you travel along the Norman Way, you may spot several Norman inspired tower houses with more modern extensions built on to the side like this one.

Discover the Norman Way for Yourself

See if you can spot the long, enclosed ‘machicolation’ on the outside of this tower.

A ‘machicolation’ is an opening in the battlements of a Norman tower or castle. This opening allowed for stones, hot oil, or other unpleasant things to be dropped down on to unlucky enemy attackers below.

Send us your contribution to the Norman Way by emailing thenormanway@wexfordcoco.ie

The Norman Way at Tacumshane Windmill

The content below appears on the Norman Way interpretive panel at Tacumshane Windmill.

The text makes for interesting reading but there is nothing quite like visiting these authentic and under-explored heritage locations in person. Visit the beautiful Norman Way in Wexford to feel the history and age-old atmosphere coursing all around you.

Norman Windmills

This type of mill was an alternative to the watermill, which required access to a fast flowing river in order to grind grain into flour. The use of windmills was the Norman way of producing more food locally. In medieval times, the flat and windy landscape of South Wexford was dotted with these unusual structures.

The landscape around this windmill contains evidence of an early field system. This field system may have used crop rotation, a Norman farming method, to increase the yield of grain which supplied the windmill.

Norman Inspired Food Production and Shipwrecked Timber

Tacumshane Windmill is not from Norman times, it was built in 1846. However its very existence here is the direct result of the efficient food production methods introduced to this area by the Normans.

Virtually all the wood used in Tacumshane Windmill’s internal machinery was recovered from shipwrecks found along the dangerous, southern coast of Wexford, an area of sea known by locals as ‘the graveyard of a thousand ships’.

Discover the Norman Way for Yourself

The life of Norman knights inspired a famous book, published in Spain in 1605. It contains a scene about a character obsessed with tales of knights and chivalry foolishly attacking some windmills in an imaginary battle.

Can you name this work of fiction? The answer is at the bottom of this panel.

[Answer = ‘Don Quixote’ written by Miguel de Cervantes]

Send us your contribution to the Norman Way by emailing thenormanway@wexfordcoco.ie

St. Iberius’ Church Relic – Saved from Cromwell but Lost for 200 years…

In 1887, a young boy named ‘Cogley’ found the figure shown in the image on the right near St Iberius’ Church, in the shallow waters of Lady’s Island lake. 

The story of how the figure ended up in the lake is remembered locally as follows:

One evening in October 1649, a warning came that Oliver Cromwell’s troops were marching towards the church from Wexford to ransack and loot it, along with the nearby pilgrimmage site at Lady’s Island.

On hearing the soldiers were on their way, a local man named ‘Duffy’ ran to St Iberius’ Church and took the crucifix holding this figure from the church. Duffy fled across the shallow part of the nearby lake with the figure in a bid to rescue it from the clutches of the English soldiers.

However, as he made his way across the lake, Duffy was spotted by the soldiers and shot dead. Duffy’s body and the relic he carried fell to the bed of the lake where it was concealed for over 200 years before it was discovered again by chance by the young Cogley in 1887.

More details of this story can be found on the Our Lady’s Island parish website here. The tale was shared with us by Paul Doyle from Our Lady’s Island, who’s great-grandfather was the boy ‘Cogley’ who found the relic in the lake in 1887.

The Medieval Church in Tomhaggard

The now-ruined medieval church and graveyard in Tomhaggard stands on what is regarded as the site of an earlier monastery founded in the village.

Below you will see some computer-generated images of what the exterior and interior of the medieval church would have looked like in its prime. Click on the images to take a closer look at them. There are also reconstructed images of some of the key features of the church:

Interior of the Church – East Window

Tomhaggard Medieval Church Exterior from the South East

Conjectural Reconstruction of the Sepulchre Tomb Niche

Conjectural Reconstruction of the East Window

These images were created and shared with us by Dermot Troy, a local architect who has comprehensively surveyed the site at Tomhaggard.

The Norman Way at Tomhaggard

The content below appears on the Norman Way interpretive panel at Sigginstown Castle.

The text makes for interesting reading but there is nothing quite like visiting these authentic and under-explored heritage locations in person. Visit the beautiful Norman Way in Wexford to feel the history and age-old atmosphere coursing all around you.

Forth and Bargy

As you travel along the Norman Way in Wexford, Tomhaggard lies on the dividing line between the Norman barony of Forth on the Wexford side, and the lands of Bargy on the New Ross side.

Changing the Wells of Ireland

The holy well across the road from the medieval church ruin is called St. Anne’s. Local wells such as this have their origins deep in Ireland’s ancient past. They were originally places of worship dedicated to pagan water gods. Early Christians in Ireland then used the wells for their religious rituals. After the Normans arrived, the wells were often re-dedicated and named after the favourite Christian saints of the Norman lords.

A Link to Glendalough

The origin for the name ‘Tomhaggard’ may have connections to another wonderful part of Ireland’s Ancient East; Glendalough in County Wicklow. ‘Tuaim Mosacra’, means the tomb of St. Moshagra of Saggart. St. Moshagra was a saint associated with Glendalough. A yearly mass held in his honour on 3rd March was celebrated at Tomhaggard.

Discover the Norman Way for Yourself

The modern church across the road from the medieval church and graveyard has recreated the shape of the triple arched window from the original medieval church. Can you see the likeness between the two?

Send us your contribution to the Norman Way by emailing thenormanway@wexfordcoco.ie

The Norman Way at St. Iberius’ Church

The content below appears on the Norman Way interpretive panel at St. Iberius’ Church.

The text makes for interesting reading but there is nothing quite like visiting these authentic and under-explored heritage locations in person. Visit the beautiful Norman Way in Wexford to feel the history and age-old atmosphere coursing all around you.

An Early Irish Saint

St Iberius, or ‘St. Íbar’ as he was also known, was a very early saint in Ireland. His influence reaches back to a time even before St Patrick arrived in the country.

The arch you can see on this site at waist-height is actually the top of a doorway into the old church. Over time, crumbling walls and grave burials have gradually raised the floor level inside this church ruin.

A Notable Grave

There is a 19th century grave monument for a local surgeon on this site. It is not by accident that this grave lies within the boundary walls of the ruined church and on the highest point. This demonstrates the doctor’s importance in the eyes of the local community.

Discover the Norman Way for Yourself

From this high vantage point, see if you can spot the swans and terns that nest in the reeds on the edge of the lake which surrounds Lady’s Island. Lady’s Island is the site of a Norman settlement and is designated a Special Protection Area by Ireland’s National Parks & Wildlife Service. It is the country’s largest sedimentary lagoon with a sand or shingle barrier and contains a variety of breeding wildfowl species along with a number of rare plants.

Send us your contribution to the Norman Way by emailing thenormanway@wexfordcoco.ie