The magical Copper Coast Drive should be high up on your list of things to do on a road trip in Ireland. It is the only official European Geopark in Ireland and is saluted for its diversity of rock formations and beautiful coastline which literally wraps the south coast of Waterford County.
Read this guide to planning Copper Coast Drive from Tramore to Dungarvan in Waterford, highlighting stops in Copper Coast Geopark with Celtic Sea views, geology, scalloped beaches, and craggy coves. Don’t miss the added bonus of visiting Mahon Falls in the Comeragh Mountains.
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FAQs | Copper Coast Drive
Where does the Copper Coast Drive start?
The Copper Coast Drive runs from Tramore to Dungarvan, and visitors can start at either end depending on where they are staying. For the purpose of this blog, we are starting in Tramore.
How long is the Copper Coast?
The stretch of the Copper Coast Geopark in County Waterford is 25km of rugged picturesque coastline.
How long does the Copper Coast drive take?
Without stopping you could do the drive in less than an hour. This is not realistic as there is so much to see along the Copper Coast, and if you wish to include Mahon Falls, it’s best to give yourself the best part of the day.
Why is it called the Copper Coast Ireland?
The Copper Coast coined its name from the industrial mining of copper in the 19th century. This outdoor geology museum has quite rightfully gained UNESCO Global Geopark status.
If you wish to learn more along the way with audio as well as discover trails to explore the heritage, coves and geology, check the Copper Coast website.
Is the Copper Coast of Ireland worth visiting?
Lonely Planet ranked Copper Coast Ireland 8th place in its ‘100 list’ of the world’s best offbeat places to visit. According to the Lonely Planet, the Copper Coast is “sorely overlooked”, and even the Irish draw blank looks from the mention of it.
When you visit take the Copper Coast Drive you will nod your head in agreement about the lesser-visited Irish treasure.
How to reach the Copper Coast, Co Waterford
For UK visitors, taking the ferry is a more sustainable option. Irish Ferries sail to Dublin or Rosslare, and travellers can take a car with unlimited luggage for an unforgettable Ireland road trip. Prices start at £119 each way for a car and driver, with Club Class Lounge access charged an additional fee.
If you sail to Dublin from Holyhead, the drive is 2 hours to Tramore. To go by public transport, there is a direct train from Dublin Heuston, or a direct bus from Dublin City South to Waterford.
If you sail to Rosslare from Pembrokeshire, the drive is approximately 1 hour, and there is a direct bus from Rosslare Harbour to Waterford.
To explore the Copper Coast, visitors will need a car. So for international travellers, or ferry foot passengers, you may wish to consider hiring a vehicle with Discover Cars in Waterford or Dublin.
Copper Coast Drive | Tramore to Dungarvan
Start in Tramore
Tramore (Trá Mór in Irish) is a popular seaside town with an expansive beach, roaring waves for surfers, rollercoasters at Tramore Amusement Park, and a spot of zen at Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens.
We will need to save exploring Tramore for another day to make the most of the Copper Coast Drive.
Newton Cove + Guillamene
Looking out at Newton Cove from the road, you can see Tramore to the left and Metalman to the right. Head down to discover the strangely clear waters and, more often than not, a group of hardy swimmers braving the Atlantic.
Newtown Cove is a sheltered pebbly beach where swimmers can descend into the chilly waters via a ladder or slipway.
The Guillamene swimming area on the left is a secluded beach accessed by a series of steps and has diving platforms. It was traditionally ‘for men only’ until the 1980s when women and children used the right side. The sign has been retained as a reminder of our more modest times.
Drive past Metalman to catch a glimpse from the other side. The infamous Metalman statue is a 14ft cast iron on private land so visitors are no longer able to get a closer look at this intriguing monument.
The tragic shipwrecking of the HMS Sea Horse in 1816 led to the loss of 363 lives, and their insurer, Lloyds of London, was so appalled that they commissioned the Metalman to protect seafarers from dangerous shallow waters around Tramore. This colourful painted figure has been poised with a rigidly pointing arm on the headland since 1824.
Kilfarrasy Strand is a secluded golden beach displaying a long section of cliffs and coves. The rocks are all of the Ordovician age from around 460 million years ago when sediment, mud, and silt were deposited from explosive volcanic eruptions. There is evidence of boulders dumped by glaciers in the Ice Age 12,000 years ago. Spend a little time examining the layers of rock along the beach to see for yourself.
The informative boards by the beach help visitors understand the fascinating geological heritage. One fact that completely blew my mind was that this stretch of coastline started on the ocean floor, close to the South Pole!
Annestown sand and shingle beach are popular with surfers and bathers alike. The layers of rock formations hold the same incredible story of the Ice Age which also carved out Annestown Stream Valley behind the car park, towards Dunhill Castle.
The Anne Valley Walk is a popular 9.5km loop from Annestown beach to Dunhill to stroll amidst the protected forest, marshland, and the beautiful fauna and wildlife that inhabit the area.
The castellated structure at the end of the car park is the remains of a lime kiln built with local stone. It was used to burn limestone to reduce it into lime for building mortar or agriculture to reduce soil acidity.
Once you drive past Benvoy Cove, you will arrive at Boatstrand Harbour. The pier was built in the mid-19th century with protective walls to shelter from the storms, and a road sweeping down from the cliffs above. On the clifftop, there are remains of a 19th-century lime kiln and an exploratory mine looking for copper.
Boatstrand was thought to have been first used for smuggling tobacco and for small fishing vessels in the latter years. Today it is still used by fishermen and is the focal point for photographers looking to capture the magic along the Copper Coast Drive.
Copper Coast Viewpoint
This Copper Coast Viewpoint will actually take your breath away looking at the green rocky outcrop with cows grazing on the emerald green grass. The dramatic curves of the landscape are scarred by the historic glacial erosion and continual battering of the treacherous Celtic Sea.
Tankardstown Engine House
Continuing west, as you approach Bunmahon, is the ruin of the Cornish engine house at Tankardstown which served the mines to a depth of 400m.
Copper was extensively mined in the area between 1824 and 1877 when the mine closed. Tankardstown Engine House became an abandoned reminder of the mining heyday in the early 1840s when more than 1,000 people laboured underground. Now the tall chimney is a prominent landmark along the Copper Coast of Ireland.
Copper Coast Visitor Centre | Bunmahon
The Copper Coast Global Geopark Visitor Centre is located in a restored 19th-century church, and features exhibitions about the copper mining history around Bunmahon, and the geological and environmental heritage.
If you fancy a pitstop on your Copper Coast Drive, there is a little café that serves a simple selection of homemade soups, tasty sandwiches, and sweet cakes.
Ballyvooney Beach set in the spectacular headland is a popular spot for kayakers, swimmers, and bird-watchers. In 1926, the Spanish cargo ship, SS Cirolo Morus, was wrecked in Ballyvooney Cove, and the remains can still be seen at low tide.
Gull Island off the coast of Ballyvooney is a low-rise craggy stack with grassy slopes, perfect nesting grounds for Herring Gulls, Greater Black-backed Gulls, and Cormorants.
Stradbally is a pretty village that originated as a 13th-century Anglo-Norman colony, set up by Thomas Fitz Anthony. The mature trees planted by the Fitzgerald family in the 18th century, are a beautiful backdrop to the period dwellings which include the picture-postcard Thatched Cove Cottage, it truly feels like you are stepping back in time.
There is a high garden wall at the end of the terrace of houses by the square which is all that remains from the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks that were burned down in the War of Independence (1919-21).
Stradbally Village has deservedly won many awards in the National Tidy Towns Competition and was the recipient of a Heritage Award in the prestigious international Entente Florale in 2002.
Pop into the traditional pub in the village to stop off for a pint of the black stuff.
Explore the largest ruined medieval in Waterford County contains a fortified presbytery, which is believed to have been constructed in the 1200s to protect the monks from local disputes.
A short walk from the village is the stunning and geologically fascinating Stradbally Cove, the cycle route takes in the beach views, woodlands, and River Tay and touches on Dungarvan Valley.
Dungarvan brings the tour of the Copper Coast to the end. Dungarvan is a bustling market town with a few nice places for shopping, and dining. Try the Shamrock for casual home cooking, or the Tannery Restaurant for something with a bit more style. If craft ales are your jam, then why not take a tour of Dungarvan Brewing Company?
Discover the history of the area by visiting Waterford Country Museum, 12th century Dungarvan Castle (AKA St. John’s Castle), and St. Mary’s Church. For the creatives out there, check out the Old Market House Arts Centre, it is one of Dungarvan’s oldest buildings and hosts exhibitions by local, national and international artists.
This harbour town would be a great place to pitch up for the night and have an extra day exploring the surrounding area by visiting Lismore Castle, cycling the Waterford Greenway, or hiking the Ardmore Cliff Walk.
Drive to Mahon Falls
Head back to Tramore from Dungarvan, take the main N25, and then veer left towards Lemybrien and along the Comeragh Drive. Follow the signs for Mahon Falls, bringing you to the car park ready to stride out.
Mahon Falls is a beautiful, 80-metre waterfall that can be found within the incredible Comeragh Mountains. The 4km loop is a moderate walk rewarded with cascades of the 80m waterfalls from the Comeragh Plateau, with sheep for the company as they nibble on the emerald hillsides. Even from the car park, the staggering views toward the sea and the town of Dungarvan are nothing short of an awe-inspiring landscape.
Drive to Tramore
After Mahon Falls, continue eastwards towards Waterford City along the Comeragh Drive back to Tramore.
Mount Congreve Gardens is another beautiful stop along the way if you have the time. The gardens were lovingly created by the Lord of Waterford and his predecessors with one of the best collections of azaleas and magnolias anywhere in the world.
With the promise of a wonderful sunset, take the R677 to Bunmahon to gaze out to the Atlantic Ocean and watch the curtains come down on a wonderful day exploring the Copper Coast of Ireland.