WEXFORD is a happy-go-lucky kind of town with plenty of scope for enjoying music in its pubs, but it has its serious side too, not least in the shape of its internationally renowned opera festival. There are few sights to see in the town itself – more is on offer in the surrounding area – but the appeal of the place lies in its atmosphere and setting: its long, narrow medieval lanes huddle for shelter inland of the exposed quays, which line the southern shore of the wide Slaney estuary, with the railway line to Rosslare dividing the main road from the promenade and a busy little marina.
The town began life as a Viking base for incursions and trading, before becoming an early Anglo-Norman conquest in 1169. Wexford later housed an English garrison whose loyalty to the Crown resulted in vicious fighting against Cromwell’s army in 1649. The town also played a significant role in the 1798 Rebellion, which was finally quelled at Enniscorthy. Wexford’s lengthy quays pay testimony to its re-emergence as a prosperous trading centre in the nineteenth century, though gradual silting of the harbour’s entrance and the development of Rosslare Harbour led to its demise as a competitive port.