Things To Do

Things to do in The Blackwater Valley, Waterford City & East Cork

Blackwater Valley

For more details on Lismore & The Blackwater Valley visit…

Lismore Castle

Lismore Castle, which dates from 1170, is a one of a kind and a repository of extraordinary history: from walls marked by Cromwellian cannon balls to the days it was owned by Sir Walter Raleigh to Cecil Beaton, Lucian Freud, Fred Astaire and JFK, all of whom slept a night or more in this private castle on the banks of the River Blackwater.

While the Castle itself is a private residence the historic gardens are open to the public throughout the year. Meandering paths lead you through this informal setting of trees and shrubs and out onto open lawns. The stately yew avenue in the heart of the garden is much older than the garden itself. From the spring flowering magnolias and rhododendrons through to the later flowering shrubs and borders there is always something in bloom.

The Castle Arts gallery, is housed in the once-derelict West wing of Lismore Castle, currently hosts one major exhibition per year, as well as a dynamic programme of tours, workshops and other arts related events. Visitors are also invited to stroll through the beautiful Gardens at Lismore Castle and enjoy several pieces of contemporary sculpture that have been installed on permanent display.

Lismore Heritage Centre

At the heart of Lismore town, situated within the old Courthouse building, visitors will find Lismore Heritage Centre. Since 1992, Lismore Heritage Center has been sharing Lismore’s formidable history and heritage in increasingly ingenious ways. In 2020, highlights include a virtual reality tour that zooms over the Blackwater River and straight into the rooms of the ancient Castle, a tricky escape room, walking tours led by experts and much more.

Lismore Heritage Centre holds the key to the hidden secrets of the gem of Lismore: its famous gothic castle, dating back to 1185. Boasting a breath-taking location at the foot of the Knockmealdown Mountains and overlooking the River Blackwater, the castle has welcomed many illustrious guests. The list includes Lucian Freud, Fred Astaire, and John F. Kennedy. It was also home to Sir Walter Raleigh and Robert Boyle, “The Father of Modern Chemistry.” For the first time in 2020, visitors can see inside the private castle’s walls through virtual reality.

No matter your area of historical interest, the Lismore Heritage Centre has something to intrigue and inspire as it brings to life this town’s colourful history. Join us in learning about turbulent Viking invasions, Lismore’s time as the greatest Monastic School of the 8th century, or about the secret artifacts hidden in the castle walls. Those interested in book history will be drawn to the fifteenth-century vellum manuscript, The Book of Lismore, while architecture lovers will be drawn to the castle itself, as well as the ancient St Carthage’s Cathedral. For a contemporary twist, learn about Fred Astaire and John F. Kennedy’s connections to the castle and about what it is like to live in Lismore today. Last but not least, the Robert Boyle Escape Room promises thrills for the whole family.

Through a suite of experiences that include virtual reality tours of the Castle, bus tours, guided walking tours, and much more, Lismore Heritage Centre offers visitors all the ingredients for a fascinating and fun-filled day out.

The Courtyard Gallery, Salterbridge House, Cappoquin (P51 H985)

Festival Exhibition Wednesday 27th May – Monday 1st June

‘I am of Ireland’ Collection presents a contemporary exhibition of Irish fine arts and crafts. It is distinguished for its adherence to quality and its inclusive approach to allow for both emerging and established artists. Much of the work shown through ‘I am of Ireland’ has been supported by collectors, museum curators, and critics. This year at Salterbridge it will exhibit many of the established names that have grown up with ‘I am of Ireland’ since its inception over 5 years ago as well as adding several new names. The focal point of this year’s exhibition at Salterbridge will be natural material and reference to place, an interplay between the past and present, to bring us on a journey of exceptional Irish work.

Sasha Sykes will present ‘Caliology’, a collection of work where the central theme is birds’ nests. Using acrylics and hand-cast resins she embeds these found objects in resin, heightening texture, form, and colour as well as the very fragility of the nest. Sasha deliberately seeks out objects that tell intimate stories about physical locality as well as shedding light on the values and priorities of people living in the area. It is a wonderful combination of natural habitat and man’s influence in the world. Her aim is to preserve, present and contextualise in an innovative and functional way.

Isabel Henihan LandscapeIsobel Henihan is a Dublin based Artist, where she plays out her passion for the sea and its vast skies. She works in a variety of media, predominantly concentrating on oils on canvas. Isobel began drawing and painting in Florence, where she attended the Cecil School of Fine Art, continuing her practice in a classical artist’s studio. She then moved to London, where she focused on portraiture and life drawing at Heatherley’s in Chelsea for two years. Since moving back to Ireland, her work has been widely collected both in Ireland and internationally and has been included in several publications.

Peter Murray has produced this series of flower paintings, begun in Paris in Photograph of Peter Murray's Series of Paintings for the opera festival in 2020November 2019, takes a simple approach. The medium is watercolour, the paintings are on good quality paper, and the flowers are those sold everywhere by florists and supermarkets, and given as tokens of appreciation and thanks. Starting with a pencil, then Japanese ink brush, the flowers and vase are sketched in, then watercolour is added. The paintings are best done in one sitting. Sometimes they can be completed in two sessions, but this is risky as each painting reflects the way of seeing of a particular day, and trying to pick up the same rhythm the following day can be difficult.

Great Houses of the Blackwater Valley

Located in the Blackwater Valley and surrounding the heritage town of Lismore there are several great houses which open their door and gardens throughout the summer months. These houses are lived in and maintained by their owners who welcome groups and provide guided tours of the property. All of these properties are or have been hosts for our recitals series.


Salterbridge House

The gardens of Salterbridge House are part of the Waterford Garden Trail. They are located near Cappoquin. The Victorian country house’s grounds are filled with camellias, magnolias, rhododendrons and many other woodland shrubs. The original house was built in Salterbridge around 1750 by Richard Musgrave. The house which was at the center of an 18,000 acre estate in the 19th century remained in the Chearnley family until 1947 when it was purchased by the current owner’s family.                

Cappoquin House

A hidden treasure’ is how many visitors have described Cappoquin House and Gardens. Blink and you may easily miss the the driveway, which flows unceremoniously from the pavement to meander up the hillside to the beautiful Georgian house. The high vantage point of the House, situated on the prominent site of a medieval Fitzgerald Castle, offers stunning views across Cappoquin and beyond to the river Blackwater. The entrance to Capoquin House is via the yard, where visitors are met by the current owner, Sir Charles Keane whose family have lived here since 1735. The recitals at Cappoquin House have become a tradition in our programme and we are looking forward seeing you there again.


Tourin House

The gardens at Tourin House extend over 2 hectares and include a walled garden. A fine collection of camellias, rhododendrons, magnolias and rare mature trees including a Champion London Plane Tree, give beautiful displays of colour. Lovely walks along the paths lead to Tourin Quay and a pond with duck and other wild life. The House and Gardens are situated about 5km from Cappoquin and the heritage town of Lismore in Co. Waterford. Overlooking the River Blackwater, the main house was built in 1840 in the then fashionable Italianate style and the original historic 16th-century tower house can still be seen from the garden.

Dromana House

Dromana House is a true gem, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the strikingly beautiful, unspoilt river Blackwater. It is surrounded by a 600 acre privately owned estate with numerous woodland and garden walks. Several interesting historic follies are also to be seen throughout the grounds including an ancient outer fortification, boathouse and slipway down to the river. This period property has been lovingly maintained by its owners whose family have lived on this location since 1200, the present owner being the 21st generation.                 


River Boat Tours of the River Blackwater

Blackwater Eco Tours is a community established and not-for-profit ecotourism company that offers eco pod accommodation, river activities and walking trails in the Blackwater River Valley based in Villierstown Co. Waterford. From Villierstown Quay you can explore the natural beauty of the Blackwater River.  Our options include a 90-minute guided tour on our tour boat ‘Zingara’ which can take up to 11 people and a self-drive option in which you can skipper one of our boats yourself. We offer scheduled tours and private tours. Whatever you group size or interests we can provide an itinerary to match. You can also explore the river valley with our woodland walking trails, where there are extensive trails adjacent to the river and in nearby Dromana Woods. With Blackwater Eco Tours you can enjoy the un-spoilt natural beauty and unique historic heritage of the Blackwater River Valley, ideally located within the Munster Vales and Ireland’s Ancient East.

Blackwater Eco Tours also have 4 Eco Pods located in the center of Villierstown. Each pod can accommodate 4 adults or a family of 5 and contain a kitchenette, shower and toilet. The pods also have a picnic area and BBQ facilities. The pods are conveniently located close to Villierstown Quay, woodland walking trails and the local coffee shop and pub. To book your stay in these fantastic Eco Pods – Call  089 2538699 or visit their partner websites or Airbnb

Waterford City

The Waterford Crystal Experience

The House of Waterford Crystal opens the door to more than 200 years of crystal manufacturing. Come and be a part of the story as you witness craftsmen making crystal stemware, giftware and masterpieces before your very eyes. From the heat, noise and fire of the blowing room to the exquisite skills of cutting and engraving, a guided tour immerses you in the time-honoured processes behind the creation of each sparkling piece of crystal. With the largest collection of Waterford crystal in the world, our opulent Retail Store gives you the opportunity to, literally, hold on to your magical experience by choosing a piece of crystal to take home.


King of Vikings

Visit the Waterford Viking triangle and sample this medieval experience

  • The King of Vikings is the world’s first virtual reality experience Viking experience and explores the Vikings in Ireland’s oldest city.
  • The Heart of Viking Ireland is a tour of an authentic Viking house in the ruins of a 13th Century Franciscan Friary
  • Handcrafted replica Viking house built in Waterford’s Viking triangle

East Cork

Jameson Distillery Visit & Guided Tour

Visit the workplace of Jameson to see for yourself where it all happens. Today, every drop of Jameson Whiskey enjoyed worldwide is produced here, amid the lush fields of southern Ireland. We like a life full of simple pleasures, and believe us, there’s not much more simple or more pleasurable than enjoying the world’s best Irish whiskey at source. Take a tour of the Jameson distillery and enjoy a host of unique experiences, from a workshop at the state of the art Jameson Academy to developing a new appreciation of Irish whiskey, from grain to glass.

Titanic Experience

Titanic Experience is the home of the original White Star Line Ticket Office, a building steeped in history dating back to the early 19th century and the departure point for many thousands of White Star Line passengers. When you arrive upon check-in you will receive your boarding card. Your boarding card will have the details of one of the 123 passengers who came to the White Star Line Ticket Office on Thursday April 11th 1912. These were the final passengers to join Titanic at her last port of call in Queenstown, Ireland. (Cobh was renamed Queenstown from the period of 1849-1921 in honour of Queen Victoria’s visit to Cobh and so we refer to Cobh as Queenstown for much of our story). Your personal tour guide will take you on a virtual journey to board the tenders and join Titanic for her maiden voyage to New York. The guided element of our tour lasts 30 minutes after which you will be free to explore our exhibition area. Here you can interact with a collection of audio visual presentations and story boards exploring the events that led to the tragic sinking.

Spike Island Tour (Cobh)

In the last 1300 years Spike Island has been host to a 6th century Monastery, a 24 acre Fortress, the largest convict depot in the world in Victorian times and centuries of island homes.  The island’s rich history has included monks and monasteries, rioters and redcoats, captains and convicts and sinners and saints.

Today the island is dominated by the 200 year old Fort Mitchel, the star shaped Fortress which became a prison holding over 2300 prisoners.  Take the scenic ferry ride from Kennedy Pier, Cobh, and enjoy a fully guided tour of our island and fortress, and relax in our cafe and picnic areas.  Get captured in the history and mystery of this magical heritage island.  WINNER of EUROPE’S LEADING TOURIST ATTRACTION 2017 at the WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS!


Fota Island

Fota, an island in Cork Harbour is host to several special visitor experiences. Situated on the island is Ireland’s only wildlife park – as well as the historical Fota House and gardens and  3 golf courses owned by the five star Fota Island Resort.

Fota Wildlife Park

is one of Ireland’s top ten visitor attractions and a perfect place to visit for people of all ages. The park is not like an ordinary zoo with more than 70 species of exotic wildlife in open spaces. Animals include ostriches, giraffes, kangaroos, zebras and antelope. Most of the animals who inhabit the island are allowed to roam throughout more than 202,000 square metres (50 acres) of mature grassland, with the exception of the cheetahs and other predators, which have fenced enclosures. Ring-tailed lemurs, wallabies and other animals freely roam the park.

Fota House

was designed by 19th century architects Richard and William Morrison. From the beautifully proportioned rooms with exquisite plasterwork, to the preserved service wing and kitchens, Fota House offers visitors an intimate look at how life was lived in the past, whether as a servant or as a member of the gentry. Our painting collection is considered to be one of the finest collections of landscape painting outside the National Gallery of Ireland and includes works by William Ashford PRHA, Robert Carver, Jonathan Fisher and Thomas Roberts. The estate also consists of a structured arboretum, walled garden and terraces. The gardens include rare and exotic shrubs and trees, along with an extensive rose garden.

Fota Island Resorts Golf Club

consist of three championship courses named Deerpark (Par 71), Belvelly (Par 72) and Barryscourt (Par 73). The outstanding natural landscapes of Fota Island Golf Clubs parkland courses offer a golfing experience that’s simply unmatched in Ireland. The courses have been home to The Irish Open on three occasions. Golf forms part of an extensive resort  which includes 5* hotel, spa & lodges.

Festival Partners

CRO Num : 484001
CHY Num : 22220

The Blackwater Valley Opera Festival, centered in Lismore, Co. Waterford, is held in the breathtakingly beautiful surroundings of Lismore Castle and Historic Houses on the shores of the scenic Blackwater River.

Lismore Music Festival Clg
t/a Blackwater Valley Opera Festival,
8 Main Street, Lismore,

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