Things to do around Kilkenny
We were house-sitting in Tipperary and on a beautiful sunny day we decided we were going to start the day by visiting Kilkenny We had heard all about Butter Slip Lane, Kilkenny Smithwicks, the witch of Kilkenny and of course the castles and Abbey so we headed off to check out our list of things to do in Kilkenny.
How to get to Kilkenny from Dublin
If you are planning your visit to Ireland and you are renting a car from the airport you may want to head straight to Kilkenny. If you are planning on spending a day or two in Dublin then I would recommend picking up the car the day you leave. You could also plan a trip around the Southcoast of Ireland that will include Kilkenny, Waterford, Wexford, Hook Head and several other major sites along the way.
When visiting Kilkenny getting there is pretty easy it is around an hour and a half drive from Dublin. You can also catch a train from Heuston Station in Dublin to Kilkenny’s Macdonagh Station at a cost of around €13 euros return for one person. The train journey is also very fast and only takes an hour and a half. Buses also run to Kilkenny and in the summer months, the Xpress service on Bus Eireann takes around 90 minutes for €10 Euros per person.
Where to stay when visiting Kilkenny
The Butler House in Kilkenny comes highly recommended. A 4-star guesthouse with 13 luxury rooms and gorgeous gardens and grounds The Butler House is a great location
The Kilkenny Ormonde Hotel is a 4-star city centre Hotel, located right next to Kilkenny City landmarks such as the Kilkenny Castle, the intriguing Medieval Mile Museum, St. Canice’s Cathedral with its Round Tower offering incredible views of the City.
For the more budget-minded traveller here are two great hostels to stay at from around €17 Euros a night.
MacGabhainns Backpackers Hostel is one of the top 10 hostels in Ireland and number 1 in Kilkenny. Located in the City Centre only minutes from the bus and train stations. They are noted to have the best showers in the city and lots of freebies, such as free breakfast, parking, security lockers, internet access, Wi-Fi and even a free map of the city! Breakfast includes porridge, corn flakes, toast, butter, jam and tea or coffee. You can also have as much free tea and coffee as you want, all day long!
Lanigan’s Bar and Hostel is the best-located hostel in Kilkenny, safe, comfortable and clean for visitors on a budget. It is approved by the Irish Tourist Board and it is in the heart of Kilkenny City. All rooms are ensuite, and they have female-only rooms, there is an award-winning pub & restaurant attached for some great drinks and craic. Rates at Lanigan’s Hostel start from €16.
If you want to visit an authentic Irish family pub then you can’t go wrong with Lenehan’s. This fabulous little pub has been in the Lenehan’s family since 1911 but the building dates back to the 17th Century. Read Geri’s account of visiting the pub on her visit to Kilkenny, An Accidental Visit to the most interesting Kilkenny old pub.
What to do in Kilkenny
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.
Things to do When Visiting Kilkenny
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 faster at tales of witchcraft in Kyteler’s Inn here since 1324.
There are lots of ancient sites well worth visiting in Kilkenny including the Dunmore Caves in Ballyfoyle, the ruins of the monastery in Kells, St. Canice’s Cathedral and Kilkenny Castle.
Getting around Kilkenny
At a cost of €8 Euros for adults, this is a great way to get around Kilkenny if you are mobility challenged. This small road train does tours all around the city starting off at Kilkenny Castle and does a 30-minute tour of the Medieval Kilkenny.
While onboard you will get a full commentary giving a historical and fascinating insight into the history of Kilkenny
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 €8 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.
Kilkenny Design Centre
Kilkenny Design Craft Centre offers an amazing selection of Irish handcrafted gifts. The Centre is Ireland’s most prestigious source of Irish gifts of exceptional quality, all chosen with a discerning eye for quality, uniqueness and style
Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann
Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann is the largest group involved in the preservation and promotion of Irish traditional music. Their Summer Entertainment Show with Ceoltoiri Kilkenny at Kilkenny Castle each Wednesday evening from June – August.
Famine Heritage of MacDonagh Junction
The historic nature of the MacDonagh site is well documented. On the site was the former Union Workhouse built in 1842 to accommodate up to 1,300 local poor. When the potato famine began in 1845 the Poor House quickly became the City Famine Workhouse
History and geology blend at Dunmore Cave to give an interesting and unique insight into this landmark. Consisting of a series of chambers formed over millions of years, it contains some of the finest calcite formations found in any Irish cave.
Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile
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.
Kyteler’s in Kilkenny is one of Ireland’s oldest inns. It has a unique story, great food, artisanal beers, live music and of course a ghost.
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 artefacts from Viking and Celtic times. The cost to enter the museum is €5.50 in the museum you can see exhibits of costumes, and artefacts from around the area.
Genealogy Services Ireland
If you are visiting Kilkenny you may want to look into your Irish family history. With over 200,000 family history parish and civil records, Rothe House is the genealogical research centre in Kilkenny city and county. For those with Kilkenny ancestry, this is the place to start your search, or even add to your existing knowledge
One of the High Streets main attractions is the Smithwick’s Experience a chance to check out one of Ireland’s premier 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 €13.00.
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.
St Canice’s Cathedral is one of the most prominent sights in Kilkenny, and it is believed that construction began in the 1250s and was completed in 1285, but the religious roots of the site extend back to the 6th Century when the Church of St Canice stood here.
We noticed many tourists just rushing through the place but it is well worth at least an hour of your time. From the round-headed stained glass windows to the absolutely fascinating tombs made of black marble, this Cathedral is stunning.
The round tower, thought to have been built in the 9th Century, is the oldest standing structure in Kilkenny City. It is also one of only two round towers in all of Ireland that visitors are allowed to climb, weather permitting. From the top of the 30 metres tower, people can take in wonderful views of Kilkenny and the surrounding countryside. Cost for a ticket to both the Cathedral and the Tower is €7.
Kells Augustinian Priory just outside Kilkenny
Kilkenny’s famous 16th-century tavern. It is housed in the oldest surviving townhouse in Ireland – the 1582 Archer Inner House, 17 High St. Fully restored over the past 10 years, its tavern, snug and Archer room are now open to visitors.
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 (the 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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