Our next stop off once we reached Waterford city was Reginald’s Tower. An early fort on this site formed the apex of the triangular Viking settlement at Waterford. It was strategically located on the high ground between a branch of St. John’s River in the south-east (since drained and now known as the Mall) and the River Suir to the north. The City of Waterford consists of various cultural quarters, the oldest of which is known as ‘the Viking Triangle’. This is the part of the city surrounded by the original 10th century fortifications, which is triangular in shape with its apex at Reginald’s Tower. Though this was once the site of a thriving Viking city, the city centre has shifted to the west over the years, and it is now a quiet and tranquil area, dominated by narrow streets, medieval architecture, and civic spaces.
Over the past decade, a number of restaurants have opened in High Street and Henrietta Street, taking advantage of the charming character of the area. Much of Waterford’s impressive architecture is to be found in ‘the Viking Triangle’. Reginald’s Tower, the oldest urban civic building in the country, is situated on the Quays/The Mall, in Waterford. It has performed numerous functions over the years and today is a civic museum. King John visited the tower in 1210 and ordered new coins to be struck here. Richard II visited the tower in 1394 and again in 1399. On 27 July 1399, Richard left Reginald’s Tower as King of England and Wales; on his arrival in England he was captured by the future Henry VI and forced to abdicate.
In 1463, the Irish Parliament established a mint in the tower. In 1495, cannon in Reginald’s Tower successfully turned away the forces of Perkin Warbeck, the pretender to the throne of Henry VII. This act of loyalty earned the city its motto “Urbs Intacta Manet” – “Waterford remains the unconquered city”. In 1690, following his defeat at the Battle of the Boyne, King James II of England is alleged to have climbed to the top of the tower to take a last look at his lost kingdom before embarking for exile in France.
During the medieval period, the tower continued to be surrounded by water both to the north and the south east. When the Anglo-Normans attacked Waterford in 1170, the tower was of strategic importance and its capture heralded the fall of the city. The Hiberno-Norse (Irish-Viking) ruler of the city, Ragnall MacGillemaire, was held prisoner by the Anglo-Normans in the tower and it is from him that the tower receives its name. It was in this tower that Strongbow, the leader of the Anglo-Norman invasion force, met Aoife, the daughter of Dermot McMurrough, King of Leinster. Their marriage was to change the course of Irish history forever.
In later centuries, the tower took on the functions of a royal castle. In the early 19th century, it functioned as a prison. In the late 19th and first half of the twentieth century it became the residence of the Chief Constable of Waterford. The tower was opened to the public for the first time in the 1950s and tours are run daily. It is presently managed in conjunction with the Office of Public Works. Admission to the tower costs €3 for an adult and €1 for kids, which is fine given that the tower is 1,200 years old and has been rebuilt and extended over the years.
There are 3 floors of amazing artifacts and a superb video presentation on the top floor. Oh did I mention the lack of lift? Yes as you can imagine there is a narrow winding staircase with only a rope for a banisters, which will keep anyone with claustrophobia fully entertained for the day probably more than a lift would! Now that’s fine for a seasoned ruin explorer like myself but when you add the wife & mother-in-law with five kids all under six into the equation it turns into a bit of a head ache. But despite that Reginald’s tower is well worth the visit and don’t forget to check out the informative video presentation on the top floor, it covers the entire history of Waterford from its earliest settlement right through to modern day.