Explore the Blackwater Valley

The River Blackwater flows east from the Kerry border through Lismore and Cappoquin, before turning south and reaching the sea at Youghal. It is the second largest river in Ireland, and famous for its salmon fishing. The Blackwater Valley was largely woodland until the 17th century, and many fine trees still flourish. It is known for its many Georgian country houses, and their magnificent gardens, some of which are venues for the recitals programme of the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival.

Arriving at Lismore from the south on the N72 you are greeted by a dramatic view of Lismore Castle, perched on an escarpment above the river. This imposing mid-19th-century building is the Irish residence of the Duke of Devonshire. The town of Lismore was built to house the estate workers. Start your exploration at the Lismore Heritage Centre, situated in the centre of the town in its former courthouse. Pick up a walking map of Lismore Town, and discover the compact town centre with its 17th-century cathedral, and its lovely riverside walks. Across the road is the entrance to Lismore Castle Arts, a centre for contemporary visual arts. A short walk to the right from the Heritage Centre will lead you to St Carthage’s Cathedral, a 17th-century church in the neo-Gothic style, and a festival concert venue.

The Waterford Garden Trail highlights 15 garden attractions, including the sensational gardens of Lismore Castle, Cappoquin House, Salterbridge House and Tourin House, all of which are hosting events for the festival. At the latter three, garden tours are included in the recital admission. The Waterford Garden Trail also features smaller gardens and specialist nurseries.

Get to know the Blackwater River by boat, and imagine a boat trip along the Blackwater in the evening after the Villierstown Opera Recital on Thursday May 31st. Details and bookings from Blackwater Eco Tours on Facebook or call 089 253 8699.

To try your hand at angling on the Blackwater, which has some of Ireland’s finest salmon fly fishing, contact Careysville Fishery, which has 1.75km of double bank salmon fishing on offer, with pools and streams to suit all abilities.

Dungarvan is a coastal town and harbour, dating from the 15th century, formerly the county town of Waterford. Contact Dungarvan Tourism for details of the Art Trail and the Heritage Trail App. The Waterford County Museum is a must for all lovers of local history, and admission is free. A short drive to the east of Dungarvan is the Copper Coast Geopark, a scenic stretch of coastline with a visitor centre providing information on its copper mines, and walking and driving routes.

Hire a bike in Dungarvan to explore the 45km Waterford Greenway, an off-road  cycling and walking track that follows an old railway line across country from Waterford City to Dungarvan. Some of its most scenic stretches are near Dungarvan.

The Blackwater Valley has a great choice of golf clubs: Lismore Golf Club, a 9-hole mature parkland course on the banks of the Blackwater near Lismore Castle, welcomes visitors except on Sunday mornings. Dungarvan Golf Club is an 18-hole championship parkland course adjacent to Dungarvan Bay. The West Waterford Golf and Country Club near Dungarvan was established in 1993 and designed by Eddie Hackett. The Gold Coast Golf Resort offers an 18-hole, par 72 championship  parkland course with views of Dungarvan Bay and Helvick Head, with self-catering accommodation on site.

Try your hand at clay pigeon shooting on the Ballinatray Estate. This offers the fun and excitement of a driven shoot at a fraction of the cost, and has no closed season.

Learn the skills of rally driving on a custom-buil off-road course at the Rallyconnection Rally School near Dungarvan.

Overseas visitors will find all they need to know about visiting Ireland on the offical tourism website Discover Ireland