Dramatic peninsulas, fertile valleys and plains, and a history of Celts, Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, and Normans have all left their mark on Southeast Ireland. The counties of Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Wicklow, Waterford, and Wexford comprise this area strewn with castles, abbeys, fortresses, medieval towns, and ancient settlements.

Old stone bridges pass over bubbling brooks and the mountains are shrouded in mist. Pretty villages with thatched cottages house friendly residents, and the local pub is the best place for meetings and greetings.

Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city, founded by Vikings near the Hook peninsula in an area known for coining the term “by hook or crook.” This is where the world’s oldest operational lighthouse still stands, beckoning weary sailors back home. Climb the 115 steps to take get a view of the windswept seaside’s cliffs, coves, and golden beaches hitting the blue surf. You can also kayak around the waters and peek at the nests of cormorants.

Bicycle through the towns and fishing villages and hit the green on one of the many world renowned golf courses. You can also visit what was once the largest glassworks in the world to see how the famous Waterford crystal is made by hand.

Visitors interested in the link between Ireland and North America will find the Dunbrody Famine Ship fascinating. An exact replica of the original vessel that carried thousands of immigrants from Ireland to North America from 1845 to 1851 offers the opportunity to learn more about the voyage, and listen to actors playing the roles of the travelers as they recall their cramped quarters and meager possessions.

Kilkenny still feels medieval – its castle was built in 1172 and in its beautiful gardens it is easy to imagine the time of knights and damsels. The 12th-century St. Canice Cathedral with the Celtic round tower are also must-sees. Ruins dot the landscape, cows graze in the green fields, and the past is nestled everywhere here. Southeast Ireland is a gem on the Emerald Isle that begs to be explored.