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Waterford Treasures: Exploring The Viking Triangle

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We went on a post-New Year trip to Waterford to keep off those January Blues that folks keep writing about (I’m not sure what a January Blue looks like but I’m keeping a sharp look out anyway). But to return to Waterford and its attractions. I want particularly to highlight the Waterford Museum of Treasures, which we visited over a couple of days. The museum actually comprises three different venues, situated nearby each other (being virtually next-door neighbours) in the district known as the Viking Triangle.

Our first port of call was to the OPW’s Reginald’s Tower (situated at the apex of the triangle) late on the afternoon of a lovely sunny Saturday. The building houses artefacts illustrating the tower’s history and the Vikings who founded the vibrant city of Waterford (Vedrarfjordr) in 914. These Vikings were tough customers (and that was just the women). I copied down a quotation from a ninth century Norwegian mother who apparently told her son to ‘Get thee to a ship and go on the sea and kill men’. I assume that after the killing part, she would have also wanted him to bring back some rich pickings from overseas.

There is a video presentation on the history of the tower on the top floor and I think it would probably make sense to go straight up and watch this first as it gives a good overview of the tower’s role in Waterford’s history. Apart from defensive purposes, successive rulers have used the tower as a mint, a prison and a military store. After the film, you could then work your way back down the spiral staircase (high heels not advised) and look at the exhibition of Viking discoveries. The exhibition includes a model reconstruction of Viking Waterford so you can a good idea of the early layout of the area. It’s also worth mentioning that the very basic toilet facilities that the inhabitants enjoyed in Reginald’s Tower had a yuck factor that will certainly appeal to any kids.

The other two parts of the Museum of Treasures are the Bishop’s Palace and the Medieval Museum and you can buy a combined admission ticket for these attractions. I assume that the reason you cannot buy one to include Reginald’s Tower is the different ownership/management but it would certainly be a good idea for the Waterford Museums to consider arranging. An excellent policy already in place is that entry to the former two venues is free for accompanied children under fourteen. The museums also host family friendly tours given by costumed actor guides that I would like to try another time.

As we were short of time on Sunday morning due to needing to catch a train, our visit to the Bishop’s Palace and the Medieval Palace was much shorter than I would have liked. A return visit in the spring would be nice. We entered the eighteenth century palace (built 1743) after wrestling with a very stiff door handle that surely needs urgent attention. The lower part of the building is presented as a period home and the top floor houses exhibitions that bring you into the twentieth century. Since we were on a time limit, we spent our time wandering though the elegantly appointed rooms examining the furnishings and glassware. We were fascinated by the range of cutlery that was required for stylish living; including a spoon for every conceivable purpose. Imagine the amount of time that the servants would have spent cleaning.

By the time that we moved over to the Medieval Museum, the heavens had well and truly opened and we had a swift dash round the corner. This new museum, opened in 2012 has been built over a thirteenth Chorister’s Hall and a fifteenth century wine vault, which are both national monuments. Sadly, the wine vault was closed due to some work being carried out on the floor but the restored Chorister’s Hall proved well worth seeing. On the upper floors of the exhibition galleries, you can follow Waterford’s often-tumultuous history chronologically. The most spectacular exhibits are the glittering pre-Reformation Waterford vestments, exquisitely worked and incredibly well-preserved.

There’s plenty more to see in the Museum of Treasures so I will be sure to return. I would also like to see the surviving city walls and defensive towers so I think that another weekend break is in order this year. I’ll try to avoid a wet weekend though.   

Image courtesy of www.waterfordtreasures.com  

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