Ireland. It was the middle of the summer and I had a sudden craving for (real!) sun, ice-cream and surf. Last minute flights to any summer destinations on the continent were out of reach. The dream combo would have to be found under the Irish sky, I thought, doubtful.
My earlier research about Bundoran and Ireland’s love story with surfing had brought another seaside resort to my attention. On Ireland’s south coast, the little town of Tramore had embraced the surfboard since the late sixties. Tramore had even hosted the first Irish National Surfing Championships in 1967. That sounded promising.
Accommodation and train ticket booked, I was heading to Ireland’s south coast for the very first time. Would Tramore be the summer destination I so badly needed? My fingers were crossed…tight.
Getting to Tramore
I boarded the train to Waterford city from Dublin Heuston Station. With a train every 2 or 3 hours, departures to Waterford were fairly regular. I nonetheless booked online to make sure I had a seat (which I recommend to anyone, plus buying online can be WAY cheaper in Ireland).
As I sat comfortably aboard the train and started daydreaming about beaches and sunsets, booking online soon revealed itself to be the best idea I had for this trip. The train was suddenly besieged, the alley obstructed by sleeping bags, yoga mats and backpacks too big to fit into the overhead compartments. A young crowd was taking over the train, heading to a music festival I had never heard off. Slightly delayed the train finally departed, full to the brim.
A smooth two-hour ride later, I disembarked in Waterford Plunkett Station among the joyful crowd working hard to gather their camping gear. I noticed an Irish Cinderella sadly lose her welly in the turmoil.
The journey to Tramore wasn’t over yet. I made my way to Waterford bus station located along the city’s quay, a mere 10 minutes walk from the train station. Bus 360 was heading to Tramore every 15 minutes. Buying a ticket at the automat, I was soon on my way to my final destination, the craving for ice-cream growing stronger as Tramore drew closer.
I set foot in Tramore a half-hour later. The sun was radiating over the town, casting the shadow of seagulls over well-maintained green lawns. Like a cowboy drawing his gun, I reached for sunscreen in my bag’s side pocket. Sun lotion all over my pasty white face, I smelled of coconut like a tourist who just landed in sun-kissed Antigua. Not a bad start I thought.
Staying in Tramore
As is typical in small Irish coastal towns, b&b’s in Tramore offered a cheaper alternative, maybe not as glamorous but still very decent and comfortable. Conveniently located just a short walk from the bus stop, Beach Haven House was going to be my port of call for the weekend.
Breakfast was served at the back of the house, the morning sun warming up the room. On the menu: Irish breakfast, pancakes, French toasts and never-ending refills of coffee. Stuffed and fully awake, I was ready to enjoy a real slice of summer.
My Favourite Things to Do in Tramore
Enjoying the Beach and Seafront
Tramore. The name said it all. That is if you knew Irish. Like I did. Yeah… right! The truth was I made the connection only because the clue was written right under my nose on the free illustrated map I found at my b&b, courtesy of Tramore Tourism Office. Tramore in Irish writes “trá mhor” meaning the big strand. With a 5 km long stretch of sand and pebbles that disappeared into the horizon, Tramore rightly deserved its name.
The sun shone high above the blue flag as it waved over the lifeguard station; all Tramore was at the beach on this hot summer day. Kids were running around collecting the smoothest stones. Teenagers were bracing up before diving straight into the crashing waves, the cold water swiftly forgotten as they disappeared once more into the green water.
On the Promenade overlooking the beach, fast melting ice-cream was the sweet treat of choice. I couldn’t resist any longer. From Brooklyn Cafe’s beach hut I soon emerged with a 99 ice-cream in hand, resolute to not let the beating sun ruin most of it. Risking a brain freeze, I swallowed the ice-cream as fast as I could. Yet my fingers were already sticky.
The long stretch of golden sand and pebbles offered the perfect spot for a long walk along the shore. As I looked eastwards towards Brownstown Head, two distinctive white pillars were standing above the cliffs against the blue skyline. Like the remains of a Greek temple overlooking the Aegean Sea, three more could be seen facing the Celtic Sea on Newtown Head on the opposite side of Tramore bay.
The pillars had not been built to celebrate or appease the Gods though. They were here to warn against the bay’s treacherous waters. At the top of one of the pillars standing on Newtown Head was the Metal Man. Built in 1823 after the sinking of HMS Seahorse and the loss of 360 lives onboard, the giant metal sculpture dressed in British sailor clothes warned ships to keep out of the dangerous rocks.
Visiting the Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens
Among those who enjoyed Tramore beach as a child was a man who would travel the world and settle in Japan. Looked after by his Irish great-aunt, Patrick Lafcadio Hearn spent his childhood summers learning to swim in this seaside town. Later working as a journalist in the United States, he then moved to Japan where he achieved fame as a writer.
Hiding behind tall stone walls in the middle of town, the Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens celebrated the life of the literary figure. Opened just a few years ago, the gardens had been quietly taking shape as vegetation grew to form a living story book recounting Lafcadio Hearn’s eventful life.
From the symmetry of the colourful Victorian garden to the tranquil pond of the garden of peace and harmony, the place revealed countless interesting features as I wandered along its winding path. I stumbled upon fairy doors suddenly appearing at the bottom of trees, teasing the existence of a magic world. From the top of the gardens, a spring gently made its way through successive ponds carrying soothing sounds to the lowest point of the gardens.
Like the final phase of a meditative journey, I reached the Zen Garden. Suddenly aware of my own serenity, I wondered if the untold ambition of the Lafcadio Hearn Gardens was after all for the visitors to leave with their mind in peace.
Watch the video of my visit below:
LAFCADIO HEARN JAPANESE GARDENS
Address: Pond Road, Tramore, Co. Waterford
Opening times: Every day, from 11am to 5pm.
How to get there: Located right in the centre of Tramore, the gardens are easy to find. Just follow the signs and go up!
Taking Surf Lessons
Brightly coloured surfboards stacked up against the wall of a surf shop, an old cottage painted in red now home to a trendy surf school. On Riverstown Road minutes away from the beach was the surfers’ corner.
Home of Ireland’s oldest surf club, Tramore has been a centre of surfing since the 1960’s. Its beginner-friendly beach-break saw countless children and older daredevils learning to ride the waves of the cold but invigorating Celtic Sea.
Hidden in a quiet cul-de-sac off Riverstown Road, a palm-tree and parasols were casting their shade over picnic tables outside the Freedom Surf School. Behind the reception desk, tanned (or sunburnt?), friendly faces waited to fill up their teaching slots for the coming days. The wind was picking up and some good waves were to be expected. I was in.
Sitting outside among a small group of strangers trying to look comfortable in their tight-fitting wetsuits, I was listening closely to the instructors going through the basic surfing techniques. We were soon on our way to the beach, walking in pairs, a surfboard under each arm.
For 90 minutes or so, the group chased the waves under the instructors’ supervision and cheerful encouragement. While some vanished under their board (and reemerged!), I was happy to show off my improved surfing skills, reaching the shore still standing (ungracefully though) on my board.
Time flew. The lesson was soon over and the surfers regrouped on the beach, slowly dragging their board back to the shore, relief for some, regret for most. Back to the surf school and not yet freed from my wetsuit, I was already planning more time in the waves the next day.
FREEDOM SURF SCHOOL
Cost: a surf lesson costs from €35 for a group lesson to €95 for a private lesson (equipment included).
Address: The Gap, Riverstown, Tramore, Co. Waterford
How to get there: From the Promenade, take a left turn at the roundabout. The surf school is located in a cul-de-sac off Riverstown Road.
Other activities available:
- Stand-up paddle-boarding (SUP)
Eating in Tramore
The food scene in Tramore was a real surprise. From restaurants to pubs, from fish n’ chips to cafes, Tramore had plenty to satisfy my hungry belly. These are my favourite spots.
The Copper Hen: this classy restaurant in the old part of Tramore was an absolute delight. The bacon and cheese stuffed chicken was a feast. But it was soon eclipsed by the even more delicious apple and berry crumble with ice-cream. Maybe the best restaurant in town.
On The Waterfront: a new addition to Tramore’s food scene, this restaurant had the best view over the bay if you fancied having a drink on its terrace before relishing on a tasty burger.
Fish n’ Chips
Judging by the queue forming outside Dooly’s, this fish n’ chips was clearly a popular choice in Tramore. It had two locations: one down the Promenade and one up the hill on the Main Street. The crowd wasn’t lying. Dooly’s Fish n’ Chips was clearly the best I had in a long time.
Dragging my feet along Tramore’s steep streets looking for an afternoon snack after surfing, I stumbled upon Mezze. Located on the Main Street, Mezze was a deli offering original Middle-Eastern food and home-made treats. Sitting by the window, I enjoyed a delicious caramel and raspberry square with an orange blossom iced tea, all I needed to put back some energy in my tired body. The cafe also doubled up as a shop selling local food and products like the lusciously scented Kilfarrasy vegan soaps.
ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR VISITING TRAMORE
- Getting There | Book your train ticket early from Dublin to Waterford with Irish Rail. You’ll find the best price online. No booking is available (or even necessary) for local bus 360 from Waterford to Tramore.
- Where to Stay | Tramore is a small town with few hotels and B&Bs so make sure to book early especially during the high season. It is best to stay closer to the beach and the town centre where the restaurants and pubs are located. Check the latest prices.
- Where to Go Next | Known as the Viking city, Waterford is well worth a visit; its Medieval Museum and the Bishop’s Palace are two of my favourite attractions. On the way to Dublin, the medieval town of Kilkenny boasts a superb castle that shouldn’t be missed.
- Planning | To help you plan further, why not buy Lonely Planet’s Ireland Travel Guide. I like to bring a hard copy on my travels for last minute research and inspiration.
- Travel Insurance | Don’t forget to buy travel insurance before visiting Tramore. Heymondo has a nifty app to help you get the assistance you need while on the go.
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Meet the Author
Hi! My name is Chris and I am a Dublin-based travel blogger, originally from France. Travelling from the Shetland Islands to Brittany, from Cornwall to Donegal, I hope to inspire people to make the Celtic frontier their next adventure.Learn more