Things To Do

Things to do and places to discover on your visit

Things to do in the Blackwater Valley, West Waterford, Waterford City & East Cork and beyond.

For more details on Lismore & the Blackwater Valley visit…

Lismore Heritage Centre things to do

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 always find fascinating things to do at Lismore Heritage Centre. Since 1992, Lismore Heritage Centre has been sharing Lismore’s formidable history and heritage in increasingly ingenious ways. 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, visitors can actually 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 many more things to do, Lismore Heritage Centre offers visitors all the ingredients for a fascinating and fun-filled day out.

Blackwater Distillery, Ballyduff

In the nearby village of Ballyduff, discover the home of the world-famous Blackwater Gin and explore things to do within their elegant distillery and production house. Our guided tour enables guests to explore our working distillery and discover the ancient art of Irish whisky and gin production. Witness the skill and passion that goes into each of our spirits. Experience first-hand the sound, smell and feel of a fully operational distillery and enjoy a tutored tasting at the gallery bar. Whether you are interested in whisky, gin or even cocktail making, there is something for everyone on our range of tours.

Please note: tours and masterclasses are cancelled until further notice in 2022 due to Covid-19 restrictions. Visit: Church Road, Ballinlevane East, Ballyduff, Co. Waterford, P51 C5C6

Blackwater Valley Makers, Fermoy

Formed in 2018 the Blackwater Valley Makers brings together the very best of unique and excellent craft, art and design work from the Fermoy and surrounding Blackwater hinterland. All of the artists’ studios and businesses are based in and around Fermoy and the Blackwater Valley in North Cork. Their members include fine artists, textile and visual artists, jewellers, glass artists, ceramicists, furniture makers, printmakers, woodturners, carvers, photographers, graphic designers, illustrators and more. The goal is to showcase the art, craft and design work of our members both locally and nationally while promoting the Blackwater Valley as a region of artistic excellence. Visit the new arts centre, gallery and craft shop on Fermoy’s McCurtain Street, which was opened by RTE producer Sarah Ryder, in November 2021. Visit: 12 McCurtain St, Rath-Healy, Fermoy, Co. Cork, P61 AF59

I am of Ireland fine art exhibition 2023

I am of Ireland, Salterbridge House, Cappoquin

This year’s I am of Ireland exhibition takes place on 2-3 Juen 2023 from 10am-5pm at Salterbridge House, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford. The exhibition coincides with Blackwater Valley Opera Festival – tickets still available.

I am of Ireland, since 2012 has a reputation for exceptional Irish craft and fine art.  This exhibition brings together many of the makers who have worked with I am of Ireland since it first began 10 years ago. 2023 fine art will include work by Eamon Colman: The Stone Sang, A Song of Labour, Long Silent, But Whispered Every Dawn. Tel: 087 7997317

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 and offer many things to do 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, as part of the Blackwater Valley Opera Festival.


Salterbridge House & Garden

The gardens of Salterbridge House and Garden is part of the Waterford Garden Trail, located near Cappoquin. The Victorian country house grounds are filled with camellias, magnolias, rhododendrons and many other woodland shrubs. The original house was built in Salterbridge around 1751 by Richard Musgrave. The house which was at the centre of an 18,000 acre estate in the 19th century remained in the Chearnley family until 1947 when it was purchased by the Wingfield family. Salterbridge House and Garden has a new enthusiastic owner – watch this space as great things are happening in 2022.                 

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 the BVOF 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, Villierstown

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. Guided tours can  take up to 11 people or choose a self-drive option where you can skipper a boat yourself. Scheduled tours and private tours are available, with all group sizes, interests and itineraries catered for. Explore the River Blackwater  with extensive woodland walking trails adjacent to the river and in nearby Dromana Woods. Blackwater Eco Tours also has four Eco Pods in the centre of Villierstown suitable for 4 adults or a family of five. To book your stay in these fantastic Eco Pods,  call  089 2538699 or visit their partner websites on or Airbnb

Blackwater Boating, Cappoquin

An exciting discovery centre based on the expansive River Blackwater at Cappoquin, Co Waterford. Discover the secrets of the banks of the river from the safety of ICU approved canoes and kayaks. Whether you want to canoe upriver or explore the magnificent stately homes along the shores. Explore breathtaking scenery on the vast expanse of the river Suir on half or full day trips along the river.  Ireland’s third largest river, the Blackwater rises in the mountains east of Killarney and flows east to Lismore, entering the sea at Youghal. There are few if any, rivers in Ireland or the neighbouring isle so beautiful as the Blackwater. At Cappoquin the waters are tidal and salmon are constantly running. It is a major salmon river which also holds a lot of trout. The salmon angling season runs from Feb 1st – Sep 30th annually. For enquiries or to book,  call Denis on 058 54382 or 087 6832872.

Waterford City

 Waterford Museum of Treasures

The award-winning Waterford Treasures – Three Museums in the Viking Triangle, is situated in the heart of Ireland’s oldest city. Three museums within a few paces of each other tell the 1100 year old story of Waterford from its foundation in 914 AD by Viking sea pirates. The massive stone fortress, Reginald’s Tower, houses Waterford’s Viking treasures. The Medieval Museum, the only purpose built museum specialising in medieval history in Ireland, showcases spectacular treasures from the Middle Ages. The elegant Bishop’s Palace, dating from 1743, is the home of the treasures of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Explore the new Irish Silver Museum and the Irish Museum of Time, and families are invited to enjoy a new free ‘Treasures Trail’ in Waterford for 2022.

King of The 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. Visit the handcrafted replica Viking house built in Waterford’s Viking triangle – from Viking fort to medieval monastery. Voted Best of the Best 2020 in the Travellers’ Choice Awards.

The Waterford Crystal Experience

The House of Waterford Crystal opens the door to more than 200 years of crystal manufacturing.  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, the on-site opulent retail store gives you the opportunity to, literally, hold on to your magical experience by choosing a piece of crystal to take home.


East Cork

Explore Youghal!

Within the medieval walls of the jewel coastal town of Youghal, lies the fascinating Youghal Clock Gate Tower. As the most visible landmark in the centre of Youghal Main Street, the tower is inextricably linked with the surrounding landscape and community across more than 700 years of history.

St Mary’s Collegiate Church is the medieval parish church of Youghal and one of the largest churches in the country. It also happens to be the oldest Church in Ireland still in continuous use. Now, however, it has a new story to tell. Voices of St Mary’s is an immersive visitor experience using a variety of interpretative media, to explore the meaning and significance of the site.  

The Mall Arts Centre has unbeatable views of Youghal Harbour and a stage and performance area for theatre, dance, concerts, readings exhibitions and workshops – find out more on Yew Wood Venues.


Jameson Distillery Visit & Guided Tour, Midleton

Visit the workplace of Jameson to see for yourself where it all happens. Today, every drop of Jameson Whiskey enjoyed worldwide is produced at the Jameson Distillery in Midleton, amid the lush fields of East Cork.  It i s often said that life is full of simple pleasures, and 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, Cobh

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. A personal tour guide will take you on a virtual journey to join the Titanic for her maiden voyage to New York, after which you will be free to explore 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 1,300 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 the island and fortress, and relax in the café and picnic areas. Prepare to be captivated by 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 and full of active and leisurely things to do. 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

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

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. Their painting collection is considered to be one of the finest landscape painting outside the National Gallery of Ireland. with works by William Ashford PRHA, Robert Carver, Jonathan Fisher and Thomas Roberts. Designed by 19th century architects Richard and William Morrison, the estate includes a structured arboretum, walled garden and terraces, rare and exotic shrubs and trees, and an extensive rose garden.

Fota Island Resort Golf Club

The Golf Club at Fota Island resort consists 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 five-star hotel, spa and self catering lodges.