Touring Kilkenny a Tale of Witches, Beer & the Medieval Mile
We were housesitting in Tipperary and on a beautiful sunny day we decided we were off to visit and start touring further than Kilkenny. We had already visited the Rock of Cashel, Cahir Castle and many other sites in Tip so we wanted to visit somewhere with a true medieval history that wasn’t a ruin. We had heard all about Butter Lane, Kilkenny Smithwicks, the witch of Kilkenny and of course the castles and Abbey so we headed off to check out Kilkenny’s medieval mile.
Kilkenny was the capital of Ireland for 9 years until Cromwell began his conquest in 1649. It is located in the southeast of Ireland in the province of Leinster. The county of Kilkenny has three major rivers running through it, known as the Three Sisters: the Nore, the Suir and the Barrow.
The City is known for its Medieval Mile and also as the Marble City because of its distinctive black marble. When walking the Mile you will see medieval slipways or alleys, a Tudor Inn, a Dominican Abbey and a fine example of a 17th century merchant’s house and the only example of its kind in Ireland.
You can visit a recreated medieval garden, climb St. Canice’s Round Tower (the oldest standing structure on the city), and take a glimpse inside the lives of the Butler family and their servants at Kilkenny Castle. Or feel the hairs rise and your heart beat at tales of witchcraft in Kyteler’s Inn here since 1324.
There are lots of ancient sites well worth visiting including: the Dunmore Caves in Ballyfoyle, the ruins of the monastery in Kells, St. Canice’s Cathedral and Kilkenny Castle.
Kilkenny Castle stands dramatically on a strategic height that commands the crossing on the River Nore and dominates the ‘High Town’ of Kilkenny City. Kilkenny Castle is a complex structure that has evolved over 8 centuries and contains many architectural styles. The cost to enter the castle is €7 and you can join a free guided tour and these are conducted in a wide variety of languages.
The original Anglo-Norman stone castle was built for William Marshal, 4th Earl of Pembroke in the first 10 years of the thirteenth century. Kilkenny Castle later became the principal Irish residence of the powerful Butler family for almost 600 years. Their ownership began when James the 3rd Earl of Ormond, purchased the castle around 1390, and lasted until 1967 when Arthur, 6th Marquess of Ormonde presented it to the people of Kilkenny in return for a token payment of £50.
During a prolonged visit to Ireland in 1394-1395, King Richard II of England spent the month of April 1395 in the Earl of Ormond’s great castle at Kilkenny. The reconstruction drawing attempts to show what the castle might have looked like during his visit.
Walking the medieval mile you will come across a variety of small boutiques and some interesting sites. City Hall, better known as The Tholsel is the place where Dame Alice Kyteler’s maid was burned at the stake in 1324 for witchcraft. Dame Alice was accused of witchcraft by her husband’s children who believed she had poisoned him to get to his money. This was the first known Witchcraft Trials in Europe, through torture the church obtained confessions and Dame Alice was sentenced to be burnt at the stake, but the night before her burning in 1325 Dame Alice escaped. It is believed that Dame Alice went to London but nothing more was heard of her after her escape.
Butter Slip Alley is a tiny dark walkway that connects the High Street to the Low Street, now known as St Kieran’s Street. The narrow medieval cobblestone alley was built in 1616 and was home to butter vendors.
On St. Kieran’s street you will see the Tudor Rothe House. It is said to be one of Ireland’s best surviving examples of a 16th Century merchant’s house. Today it is maintained as a museum with artifacts from Viking and Celtic times. The cost to enter the museum is €5.50 in the museum you can see exhibits of costumes, and artifacts from around the area.
One of the High Streets main attractions is the Smithwick’s Experience a chance to check out one of Ireland’s premiere brewers of ale. Learn the tale of 300 years of brewing tradition that has led to this rich deep ruby red coloured ale. If you book your tickets online before you go you will save at least 10% and the cost is around €11.50.
From the Mile you can stroll down to Black Abbey, named for the Monk’s black garments and the famous St. Canice’s Cathedral which is the second largest in Ireland. The first monastery was built here around the 6th Century by St Canice, Kilkenny’s patron Saint. St Canice’s Cathedral is now home to the burial site of President Obama’s 6th generation grand Uncle and Bishop of Ossory.
On the road from Kilkenny right off the highway you will see the ruins of an ancient church across the fields from the Church is the beautiful Clomantagh Castle which can actually be rented on Air BnB.
“Clomantagh Castle is part of a unique settlement of tower house, farmhouse and bawn. The tower (1430s) and the farmhouse (1800s) are linked by doors allowing guests to wander freely between two periods of history. A mixture of simplicity and rustic charm, Clomantagh also features a Sheela-na-gig – a symbolic pagan nude carved on one of the stones.
Of outstanding importance because of the collection of buildings spanning the period from the 12th – 19th Century, the complex at Clomantagh includes a 12th Century parish church, an early 15th Century tower house, an almost intact boundary or bawn wall with a medieval dovecote, and a 19th Century farmhouse.”
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