Ireland’s Waterford City celebrated its 1,100th birthday last year. Founded by the Vikings in 914AD, the city lays claim to being the oldest area of continuous urban settlement in Ireland. It occupies a strategic spot at the confluence of three rivers which is probably why Strongbow turned up in 1170 determined to conquer the city “by hook or by crook“. In more recent times the city became known worldwide for its exquisitely crafted Waterford Crystal. Waterford Crystal craftsmen created the 2,688 crystals that make up the ball that dropped in Times Square this New Year’s Eve. Waterford is a city steeped in history and well worth a visit at any time of year, but around the Christmas holidays the city gets an extra sprinkle of glamour as the Winterval Festival hits town.
When I visited, wooden stalls lined the cobbled streets of the city centre; the enticing aromas of mulled wine and gingerbread carrying me along winding, fairy-lit streets. I opted to travel around town on foot, but there were plenty of other transport options available – including horse-drawn “sleigh” rides with horses straight out of that Budweiser ad…
…and a twinkly Winterval train that ran in a loop between the main locations.
It was a grey and rainy day, even by Irish standards, when I visited, so I ducked into the Waterford Crystal showrooms for a brief respite from the cold. Even those talented craftsmen at Waterford Crystal seem to have been carried away by the holiday spirit.
Back out on the streets again there were all kinds of market goodies to buy, eat and drink, ice skating, choirs singing, storytelling sessions and a light show that animated an entire building.
There was a Ferris Wheel and a Helter Skelter and everyone’s favourite, a Christmas carousel, filled with bright eyes and smiles and joy and wonder.
Here’s some festive footage from my visit.
Happy New Year!