Northern Ireland Travel: Marching on Waterford; ZOE WATSON FOLLOWS THE HISTORY TRAIL TO FAITHLEGG

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CROMWELL said he would take Waterford "by hook or by crook" during his contentious campaign to gain control of Ireland - but the city proved to be a thorn in the side of the great dictator.

It is the place where the four South Eastern counties converge and offers the modern-day visitor a wide range of attractions.

Leaving Belfast behind, my family and I headed off to sample the delights of the area. Six hours and a sausage supper later we arrived in Waterford city.

Just six miles out of town is the luxurious Faithlegg Estate - boasting one of Ireland's top golf courses - which was to be my home for one week.

Faithlegg offers both hotel accommodation and a number of self-catering cottages which are ideal for any family with a toddler determined to stick to no timetable but his own.

For a small fee self-catering guests can use all the hotel facilities, which include a swimming pool, superb leisure, health and beauty amenities, and, of course, the championship parkland golf course. Nearby is Jack Meade's Pub, dubbed Ireland's only flyover pub due to the railway bridge over the main bar.

Jack Meade's, complete with adventure playground, donkeys, goats and ponies, is an excellent place for children to play while their parents enjoy a few drinks in the large beer garden.

But if that's not your cup of tea you can relax in the bar in Faithlegg Hotel or even have a tipple in golf clubhouse after sampling the cuisine in the hotel restaurant.

Our base proved an ideal spot for easy access to Co Wexford and the Hook Peninsula.

Just 10 minutes drive away is Passage East, a small port with a car ferry transporting you into the neighbouring county close to Hook Head, where Europe's oldest working lighthouse stands.

Visitors are invited to tour the building, taking in all the magic and mystery surrounding the great light.

Even my two-year-old son enjoyed climbing the steps to the top of the tower and exploring the stone rooms inside before stepping outside and admiring the magnificent view from the top.

One building easily seen from Hook Lighthouse is Loftus Hall, said to be the most haunted house in Ireland.

Although tours of the house are not permitted because it is privately owned, the facilities at Hook Lighthouse include a film telling the history and chilling goings on at Loftus Hall.

Another must in Co Wexford is the Dunbrody Heritage Ship, a life-size replica of the famine ship which transported JFK's ancestors to America.

On arrival in New Ross the magnificence historic vessel is the first thing you see.

Visitors are drawn below deck where the sights, smells and sounds of what it would have been like for the poor of Wexford to travel across the Atlantic Ocean in the 19th century are chillingly recreated.

Characters from the time tell their story of how people starved, lived in cramped conditions and even died on board the Dunbrody. …