Dungarvan is a coastal town in County Waterford in Ireland, with a population in 2016 of 9227. It has a Norman castle and other sights, and is a good base for exploring the west of the county.
Dungarvan sits at the head of a sheltered but shallow bay at the mouth of the Colligan River. It's only suitable for small craft eg fishing boats, and has never been a significant port like Waterford or Cork. Its Irish name Dún Garbhán means "Garbhann's fort," which was actually a monastery, founded in the 7th century on the east bank of the river. The settlement that grew up around it was called Abbeyside, with St Augustine's church now on that site.
Dungarvan itself grew up west of the river, and became the larger settlement, around the castle founded by Prince John in 1185. The castle is an unusually lightweight structure, not like the stout fists of masonry and authority that the Normans would later smack down upon the Irish landscape. It didn't see much medieval conflict, and the town surrendered to Cromwell without a siege or battle. Early modern Dungarvan remained a small agricultural town, though in the 19th century there was copper mining to the east, the railway arrived, and bridges linked Dungarvan and Abbeyside. (Those names are still in use but Google Map is muddled and applies both names to both sides of the river.) From 1898 Dungarvan was the county town, with the city of Waterford forming a separate administration. In 2014 the two councils were merged and Waterford became the county town, but some offices remained in Dungarvan so local government is a significant employer.
Only 3% of the town's residents have Irish as their primary language, but the area to the south around Ring remains Irish-speaking and is known as Gaeltacht na nDéise.
The Tourist Information Centre is on Dungarvan Main Street towards the castle. It's open M-Sa 09:30-17:00.
Bus 363 runs M-Sa hourly from Dungarvan to Cappoquin, Lismore and Tallow.
Bus 361 runs between Dungarvan and Ardmore via Helvick and the Ring peninsula. It's every two hours M-Sa but only three run on Sunday.
Bus 367 runs three times M-Sa along the coast from Tramore via Fenor, Bunmahon and Stradbally to Dungarvan.
Dungarvan's 1 main bus stop is on Davitts Quay west bank of the river. Buses also stop on Sexton Street east side then rejoin the main road N25.
By road from Dublin follow M9 to Waterford then N25 west. For a scenic alternative you could take M8 to Cahir then over the hills via Lismore.
The town is compact, and the "Gold Coast" and Clonea Beach are within an hour's walk along the Greenway. You need wheels to reach the Ring Peninsula.
There's bike hire from Waterford Greenway on Sexton Street (daily 09:00-18:00). They also have outlets in Waterford and Kilmacthomas, and in summer they run a shuttle bus for the Greenway (see below).
- The Quays and old town centre are on the west bank of the river. They're colourful but traffic-choked and interspersed with modern buildings, so you don't get an old town atmosphere.
- 1 Dungarvan Castle, Castle St. June-Sept daily 10:00-18:00. This is a polygonal 12th-century "shell keep" founded by Prince (later King) John in 1185. It replaced a motte-and-bailey and represents an early phase of Norman military architecture. When they replaced the previous timber palisade with masonry, they didn't trust the foundations to support the sort of massive curtain walls that later became the Norman style; so a high but lightweight shell of a wall was built with timber supports within. (England's Windsor Castle is of similar design.) There's also a corner tower and gate tower. In the 18th century a barracks was built within. This was burned down by the IRA in 1922 but rebuilt and acted as a police base until 1987; it now houses an exhibition on the castle history. Outside on the street is a memorial to the many Waterford men killed in the Great War. Free.
- Waterford County Museum, 2 St Augustine Street X35 NW63, ☏ . M-F 10:00-17:00. Housed in the Old Town Hall, this has a permanent display of the county's history plus changing exhibitions. Free.
- St Mary's Church, twice. The C of I (Anglican) church on Convent Row and the RC version 200 m west are both worth a look.
- East river bank with Sexton Street and Walton Park is worth strolling for views across the estuary.
- 2 St Augustine's Church (RC) near the south point of the east bank was built in 1832 and incorporates the tower and nave of the 13th C Augustinian friary which gave its name to Abbeyside. The friary was wrecked by Cromwell but in the 19th C the friars re-established themselves across the river on Dungarvan Main Street.
- Ballinacourty is the headland east across the bay, optimistically marketed as "Gold Coast" - there's a hotel and golf resort (see Sleep) and a stubby lighthouse built in 1858.
- 3 Clonea is a broad sandy beach on the sheltered east side of Ballinacourty headland. There's a camping and caravan site. Clonea Castle (not to be confused with the dilapidated stump north towards Carrick-on-Suir) was an 18th / 19th C structure but washed away in winter storms in 1990. Clonea can be reached from town by the Greenway, see below.
- 4 The Cunnigar (An Coinigear) is a 3 km sand spit protruding from the Ring Peninsula into Dungarvan Bay, trapping the little River Brickey in shoals and salt marshes, good for bird-watching. The grassy path is accessible at all tides.
- 5 Ring (An Rinn, or if you prefer Ringagonagh or Rinn Ó gCuanach) is a small Irish-speaking village on the Helvick Peninsula south of Dungarvan. There's B&B accommodation, and Mooney's Bar for a sing-song. Continue east to the Head, and five rocky islets (looking as if a single island shattered when it was dropped) are bird colonies. West of the peninsula on N25 is a memorial and mass graveyard (nowadays indistinct) for victims of the Great Famine. The nearby pub An Seanachai was built to serve the gravediggers and body-carters.
- 6 Stradbally is a scenic cove 10 km east of Dungarvan that marks the start of the Geopark through Bunmahon. The beach is sandy and the cove is enfolded by wind-sculpted woods. There are few facilities in the village so bring your own sandwiches. The Greenway passes 2 km west, see below.
- 7 Bunmahon is a village on the coast 15 km east of Dungarvan which in the 19th century had copper mines. It's at the centre of the Copper Coast UNESCO Geopark, which extends for 25 km of rich red sandstone from Kilfarrasy in the east to Stradbally in the west. There's surfing at Bunmahon, with a surf shack for equipment and lessons.
- Movies @ Dungarvan is a multiplex cinema next to the shopping centre.
- The Arts Centre in the Old Market House and the adjacent theatre are closed in 2020.
- Go walkies in Colligan Woods 5 km north of town. Follow R672 (signed for Clonmel), which crosses N72 for Lismore at the monument to Master McGrath (1866-1873). "Lead on, bold Britannia, give none of your jaw, stuff that up your nostrils, says Master McGrath" . . . and on and on went the stirring ballad. No, not a child revolutionary martyr: Dicksy (as he was better known) was a champion greyhound, winning the Waterloo Cup three times and a pile of money for his aristocratic owner, and being taken to see Queen Victoria.
- Deise Greenway is a 46 km walking and cycling route along an old railway track. It heads west from Waterford along the south bank of the River Suir, alongside the WSV Railway as far as Kilmeadan. It continues west then south cross-country, with impressive viaducts at Kilmacthomas and Durrow and a tunnel plus viaduct at Ballyvoyle. It reaches the coast at Clonea then turns west for the last 6 km into Dungarvan, so this is a good route from town to beach.
- Gaelic games: the County GAA team's main stadium is Walsh Park in Waterford, but they play some home games at Fraher Field. It has a capacity of 15,000 and is on the riverbank just north of town centre.
- Tell lies all you want at The Answering Stone or Cloch Labhrais in a back lane 500 m north of Durrow viaduct. It's a vast boulder, 20 m across and 4 m tall, with a wide cleft down the middle. It's a glacial deposit and presumably split through ice action within it. In legend this stone would listen to statements then declare whether they were true or false. No fudging or "it depends how you define X", it was a strictly Boolean Boulder, and it shattered when tricked into verifying a claim that was patently false. It's been mute ever since so now you can fib away at the stone without being contradicted, and it's pointless to ask it about the veracity of the legend.
- Golf: local courses are Dungarvan northeast, junction of N25 and N72, Gold Coast east across the bay (see hotel details), and West Waterford west in Coolcormuck Valley.
- Dungarvan Boat Charters run trips April-Oct for sea-angling or sight-seeing.
- Dungarvan Shopping Centre is in town centre.
- There's a retail park on the main road north of town centre. Lidl supermarket is open M-Sa 08:00-22:00, Su 09:00-21:00.
- Tannery, 10 Quay St (opposite castle), ☏ . W Th Sa 17:30-21:00, F 12:30-14:30, 17:30-21:00, Su 12:30-15:30. Highly rated modern Irish cuisine. They also run the chic Townhouse B&B round the corner.
- Crew's Restaurant, 27 Church St X35 HW13 (opposite castle), ☏ . W-Sa 12:00-15:00, 17:00-21:00, Su 12:30-21:00. Popular steak and seafood place, with veggie and GF options. They also have accommodation.
- Interlude, Davitts Quay, ☏ . Tu-Sa 09:30-21:00, Su 09:30-17:30. Friendly informal cafe / restaurant on the quay.
- Indian Ocean, Davitts Quay (by the castle), ☏ . M-Sa 17:00-23:00, Su 13:00-23:00. Reliable Indian place with all the standard dishes plus a few European options. If it's sunny you can dine outside on the quay.
- Ormond's Cafe, 5 Grattan Square, ☏ . M-Sa 08:00-17:00. Service sometimes erratic but good food especially for breakfast. They also have three self-accommodation suites.
- Shamrock at 4 O'Connell St just off Grattan Square serves trad fare M-Sa 08:00-20:00, Su 09:00-17:00.
- Merrys Bar, Lower Main Street (by the castle), ☏ . Daily 12:30-21:30. Gastro pub with traditional selection (including Irish tapas), gets good reviews.
- The Moorings, Davitts Quay, ☏ . M-Th 12:00-15:00, 17:00-23:00, F Sa 12:00-21:00, Su 12:00-20:00. Straightforward bar food but it earns consistently good reviews. They also have B&B and self-catering accommodation. B&B double €90.
- Ming's Court on Davitts Quay is open M, W-F 16:00-22:30, Sa 13:00-23:00, Su 10:00-23:00.
- Pubs around Grattan Square and Davitts Quay include Merrys and Moorings (both described above), Lady Belle and The Anchor.
- Dungarvan Brewing Company produce Black Rock Stout and a dozen other ales. Tours are available in summer: they're on Westgate Business Park behind the fire station.
- Park Hotel, Dungarvan X35 CC97, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Well-run mid-range place just west of the river bridge. B&B double €100.
- Lawlor's Hotel, Bridge St, ☏ . Simple modern hotel, friendly service but some rooms are drab. With restaurant and bar. B&B double €110.
- 1 Barnawee Bridge B&B, Gold Coast Road X35 VO58 (2 km east of town), ☏ . Smart friendly B&B. B&B double €80.
- 2 Gold Coast Hotel, Gold Coast Rd, Ballinacourty X35 EA40 (east side of bay), ☏ . Clean efficient family-friendly hotel and golf resort. They also have self-catering lodges. B&B double €180.
- Casey's Caravan & Camping Park is by Clonea Beach, +353 58 41919. It's about €30 per pitch but with no booking and no card payment. They didn't open in 2020.
Internet cafes are becoming rare, but Sip-n-Surf on Davitts Quay by the main bus stop remains open M-F 08:30-19:00, Sa 10:30-17:00, as of Oct 2020. The library further south along the quay has internet access for registered users.
As of Oct 2020, Three has the best signal and has 5G. Eir has a good mobile and 4G signal; Vodafone is okay in town but has lots of dead spots in the countryside around.
- Waterford has a rich Viking, medieval and Georgian heritage, and the best choice of visitor amenities.
- Tramore and Dunmore East are pleasant coast resorts south of Waterford.
- Lismore has a castle with gardens, and several other mansions and gardens (some distinctly eccentric) in the countryside around.
- Knockmealdown Mountains start north of Lismore: cross through the Vee Gap to Cahir in County Tipperary, with its island castle and playful Swiss Cottage.
- Youghal in County Cork is a historic harbour with links to Sir Walter Raleigh, who was a major landowner in this region.