Welcome to County Kilkenny, a medieval city in the heart of Ireland. Stroll through the winding streets and you’ll find yourself surrounded by centuries-old history.
Take a trip to the iconic Kilkenny Castle, or explore the city walls that run along the River Nore. Discover ancient buildings like St. Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower, Black Abbey, and St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Kilkenny has something for everyone, so why not take a chance and explore the storied streets of this medieval marvel?
Top Things to Do in Kilkenny
- Kilkenny Castle: Start your visit by exploring this 12th-century castle with guided tours available to provide insight into its history.
- Kilkenny Castle Park: Wander through the castle’s extensive grounds, featuring a rose garden, duck pond, and plenty of open space.
- The Butler Gallery: Located in the Castle, it showcases contemporary art and often hosts exhibitions from international and Irish artists.
- Design Centre: Shop for traditional and modern Irish craft and design.
- Medieval Mile Museum: Located in a 13th-century church, this museum tells the story of Kilkenny’s medieval history.
- St. Mary’s Cathedral: Visit this impressive 19th-century cathedral.
- Rothe House & Garden: A unique Irish merchant’s townhouse built between 1594 and 1610.
- Smithwick’s Experience: Learn about Ireland’s oldest beer in this interactive, sensory tour.
- St. Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower: Climb the ancient round tower for stunning views of the city.
- Black Abbey: Visit this 13th-century Dominican Abbey.
- Tholsel (Town Hall): Admire the architecture of the city’s town hall.
- The Hole in The Wall: Visit the smallest bar in Ireland and catch an intimate gig.
- Nore Valley River Walk: Take a walk along the Nore Valley for some peace and tranquility.
- Jerpoint Abbey: A short drive from the city, explore the well-preserved ruins of this 12th-century abbey.
- Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum: Enjoy the beautiful, restored Victorian Gardens.
You won’t want to miss a visit to Kilkenny Castle – for example, the iconic tower is a true marvel of medieval architecture and iconic in Irish history.
Kilkenny Castle was built in 1195 by Richard de Clare, also known as Strongbow, and its design was completed by the 13th century. It has undergone extensive renovations over the centuries, but its original medieval structure and design remain intact.
The castle is composed of four towers connected by a curtain wall, and its interior is decorated with elaborate stone carvings, including several gargoyles. The architecture of Kilkenny Castle is a testament to the craftsmanship of the medieval builders.
Its towers, walls, and windows are made of limestone and sandstone, while its interior features intricate wooden carvings. The castle is a fine example of medieval military architecture, with its towers built to provide protection from attack. Its windows are designed to provide a clear view of the surrounding countryside and are often used as lookout points.
Kilkenny City Walls
Kilkenny City Walls, known as the “Medieval Mile,” provide a fascinating glimpse into the city’s historic past. Constructed during the Middle Ages, the walls were designed to protect the city and its residents from invasions and raids. While much of the original fortification has been lost to time, significant portions still remain and serve as a reminder of Kilkenny’s strategic importance in medieval Ireland.
One of the most prominent sections of the remaining city walls is Talbot’s Tower, located on the southeastern corner of the old city. This well-preserved section offers an intriguing perspective on medieval defensive architecture. Today, a specially designed garden exists around the tower, serving as a tranquil haven within the city.
Walking along the city walls also offers an excellent opportunity to explore Kilkenny’s rich cultural heritage. The walls intersect with other historic landmarks such as Kilkenny Castle, St. Canice’s Cathedral, and the Black Abbey, (on Abbey Street) making them an integral part of any tour of the city.
St. Canice’s Cathedral & Round Tower
Perched atop a hill, St. Canice’s Cathedral & Round Tower stands as a symbol of faith and history in Kilkenny. Built in the 13th century, the iconic complex is an iconic part of Kilkenny’s cultural heritage and has been a major religious center for centuries.
This impressive site is a must-see for anyone visiting the city, as it holds deep religious significance and is a testament to Kilkenny’s medieval past. The Cathedral itself is a striking example of 13th century architecture. The beautiful spire of the church towers over the city and can be seen from miles away. Inside, the grand interior is filled with stunning stained glass and impressive stone carvings.
The Round Tower is Kilkenny’s oldest standing structure, with its ornate exterior and panoramic views of Kilkenny. Visitors to St. Canice’s Cathedral & Round Tower can enjoy exploring the grand and ornate architecture of the complex, admiring the beautiful stained glass and stone carvings, taking in the breathtaking views from the Round Tower, and experiencing its deep religious significance and cultural heritage.
Experience the historical legacy of the Black Abbey, a 14th-century Dominican friary, as you explore its remarkable architecture and spiritual significance. Located in the heart of Kilkenny, Ireland, the Black Abbey is one of the oldest and most revered religious sites in the city.
The Black Abbey was founded in 1225 by William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, and has since been an integral part of the city’s culture and history. While its original construction was destroyed in the 16th century, the Black Abbey still stands today, a testament to the resilience of Kilkenny’s culture.
The Black Abbey is a remarkable example of Gothic architecture, with its towering spires and intricate stone carvings. Inside, visitors can find centuries-old paintings and sculptures, as well as a chapel and crypt. The abbey is also home to a number of important artifacts, including a statue of St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican order.
Kilkenny Design Centre
Nestled in the heart of Kilkenny, the Kilkenny Design Centre is a hub of creativity and innovation, showcasing the very best of Irish craftsmanship and design. The Design Centre is a hub of activity, featuring craft and design exhibitions, shop space, workshops, and educational events.
It’s a place for people to explore and discover the unique cultural significance of Kilkenny’s urban planning and craftsmanship. Visitors can explore the wide variety of craft and design pieces on display and learn more about the rich history and culture of the area.
The Design Centre is a vibrant space, filled with workshops and educational events to help bring out the creativity of the public. From fashion and jewelry to painting and sculpture, the Design Centre offers an opportunity for people to explore and create.
Take a tour of Smithwick’s Brewery, the centuries-old St. Francis Abbey brewery established in 1710, and get a firsthand glimpse into the brewing process that has delighted beer aficionados for centuries.
Here, you’ll learn how the process of creating a Smithwick’s beer starts with the selection of the finest malts, hops, and yeast to create the perfect blend. Then, the mixture is transferred to the mash tun where it’s heated and mixed with hot water for an hour.
After this, the wort is filtered and then boiled with hops for an hour. Finally, the wort is cooled and transferred to the fermenting tanks where the yeast is added and the beer is left to ferment for up to two weeks.
Located just off the Kilkenny Riverwalk, the Shee Almshouse is a historic building that was constructed in the late 17th century and is a unique example of a charitable institution from medieval times.
It is a legacy of St. Mary’s Church, built in 1698, and is a testament to the dedication of the citizens of Kilkenny to provide care for the poor and needy. The building has undergone extensive restoration efforts over the years and is now a well-preserved example of a medieval almshouse.
Visitors to the Shee Almshouse are treated to an insight into the lives of those who lived in it. Inside, visitors can explore the kitchen, dining room, and chapel. The chapel has a beautiful stained-glass window with a depiction of the Virgin Mary. There are also several artifacts from the medieval times on display, including a collection of coins and pottery.
Rothe House & Garden
Nestled in the heart of Kilkenny’s city centre, Rothe House & Garden is a charming venue steeped in history and rich with culture. Built in the 16th century, this historic home was the residence of the Rothe family, one of the most prominent families in Kilkenny during the medieval period.
Nowadays, Rothe House is a popular tourist attraction where visitors can explore the house and its beautiful garden. Visitors to Rothe House can explore its history and uncover its secrets. The house contains a variety of artifacts that provide insight into the Rothe family and the medieval period in Kilkenny. There is also a genealogical centre on the grounds, which details the history of the Rothe family. The house is also the headquarters of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society.
The garden surrounding the house is also a highlight, featuring a variety of plants and flowers, as well as sculptures and other artwork. At Rothe House & Garden, visitors can experience a unique piece of Kilkenny’s history. Exploring the house and its grounds offers insight into the Rothe family and the medieval period, while the garden provides a tranquil setting for a relaxing afternoon.
The Parade Tower
Discover the Parade Tower, a majestic 16th-century tower that offers a unique insight into Kilkenny’s past.
Located in the heart of the city, the Parade Tower stands as a monument to the city’s historical significance. It was built in 1582 by William Rothe, a wealthy merchant, and is an example of the city’s rich architectural design.
The tower is made up of three distinct storeys, each containing its own unique features. The first storey features a parapet with a series of ornate stone carvings, while the second storey is home to a large stone fireplace. The third storey is the most impressive, boasting a series of stained glass windows, which offer a stunning view of Kilkenny’s cityscape.
St. Mary’s Cathedral
Step into St. Mary’s Cathedral and be amazed by its stunning architecture and beautiful stained glass windows. The Cathedral, built in the late 13th century, is the oldest building in Kilkenny and is considered to be the finest example of Early English Gothic architecture in Ireland.
Its walls are decorated with intricate carvings and its interior is adorned with richly colored tapestries and paintings. The Cathedral is also home to some of the oldest and most valuable works of art in the city, including a 15th-century Triangular Flag of St. Patrick and a 17th-century Flemish tapestry.
The Cathedral also features a number of interesting architectural features, such as a nave that is split into two aisles, an elaborate bell tower, and a crypt that is said to be the resting place of the city’s patron saint. Visitors can also explore the Cathedral’s history, which dates back to the 12th century when it was first established by the Bishop of Ossory, and its connection to the O’Brennan family who were the patrons of the Cathedral for centuries.
The art and artifacts of St. Mary’s Cathedral provide a glimpse into the city’s past. The Cathedral’s art collection includes a number of important works, such as the 15th-century triptych depicting the Crucifixion, and a 16th-century altarpiece featuring the Madonna and Child. Visitors can also admire the Cathedral’s stained glass windows, which were crafted in the 15th and 16th centuries and feature a number of religious scenes.
Kilkenny Arts Festival
The vibrant Kilkenny Arts Festival is a showcase of creativity, offering visitors a chance to experience art, music, theatre, and more. It is an annual event held in Kilkenny, Ireland, that celebrates the best of local, national, and international talent.
Festival programming includes visual art exhibitions, live music performances, workshops, and street theatre. There is something for everyone to enjoy, from family-friendly events to late-night music and dance parties.
The Kilkenny Arts Festival has had a significant cultural impact on the city of Kilkenny. It has drawn visitors from around the world and has helped to shape the city’s identity. The festival has become a symbol of Kilkenny’s creativity and passion for the arts. It has helped to create a sense of community and pride among locals and visitors alike.
Kilkenny Craft Trail
Discover the hidden gems of Kilkenny on the Craft Trail, where you can explore a unique collection of craftspeople, artisan shops, and workshops. With the Craft Trail, you can experience the culture of Kilkenny in a way unlike ever before. From local crafts to artisan markets, you can explore the range of traditional and modern crafts that are produced around the city. |
You can learn about the history of Kilkenny through the craftsmanship of the locals, passed down from generation to generation. From hand-made pottery to jewelry, you can find an incredible selection of goods at the many artisan markets. You can also find creative and unique artworks from local artists, which you can take home as a reminder of your trip. |
Medieval Mile Museum
Walk through the cobbled streets of Kilkenny and marvel at the Medieval Mile Museum, where you can explore the city’s storied past.
This interactive museum features displays and tours that bring to life the medieval architecture of the city. Through the museum’s interactive exhibits and tours, you can learn about the history of Kilkenny and the spectacular sights the city has to offer.
From the St. Mary’s Cathedral to the Black Abbey, you will discover the hidden gems of the city, and the stories behind them.
The Medieval Mile Museum offers a number of different tours to help visitors gain a better understanding of the city’s past. Guided tours of the museum, for example, provide visitors with a comprehensive overview of the city’s rich history. Visitors can also take part in the interactive tours, which will take them through the city’s cobbled streets to discover its hidden gems and the stories behind them.
The Medieval Mile Museum is a great way to explore the city’s past and learn more about its storied streets. Its interactive exhibits and tours provide visitors with a unique insight into the history of Kilkenny and the spectacular sights the city has to offer.
Walks in Kilkenny City
- Kilkenny City Medieval Mile Walk: This is the most iconic walk in Kilkenny City and a must for any first-time visitor. The Medieval Mile is a unique discovery trail linking the city’s main attractions from Kilkenny Castle to St. Canice’s Cathedral. As you walk, you’ll encounter beautifully preserved medieval architecture, including Rothe House, The Tholsel, and Black Abbey.
- Kilkenny Castle Park: This large and scenic park is perfect for a leisurely stroll. It boasts extensive grounds, including a beautifully maintained rose garden, and offers splendid views of Kilkenny Castle. There’s a lovely river walk alongside the Nore where you might spot some local wildlife.
- Canal Walk: This is a peaceful and serene route that takes you along the old canal, starting in Rose Inn Street. It’s a great place to escape from the city without actually leaving it. You can start from Canal Square and follow the trail out into the beautiful Kilkenny countryside.
- Lacken Walk: This is a beautiful woodland walk that begins in the city and continues along the banks of the River Nore. There are a number of paths and trails to follow, and the entire route is teeming with wildlife. It’s a great choice for nature lovers.
- The Nore Valley Walk: While not entirely within Kilkenny City, this trail starts in Kilkenny and stretches out through the beautiful Nore Valley. The full trail is 11km one way, but there are shorter sections for those looking for a less demanding walk.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ireland Kilkenny
What about hurling?
Kilkenny hurling went through a legendary period in Irish GAA history, winning multiple titles and cementing their status as one of the greatest teams in the sport. With their unparalleled skill, determination, and passion for the game, Kilkenny’s hurlers created a legacy that continues to inspire and captivate fans across the nation.
Their triumphs and unforgettable performances have left an indelible mark on the rich tapestry of Irish hurling, earning them a place of honor in the annals of GAA history. However, as a Limerick lady, I just have to say, Luimneach Abú!
What Else Is there to Do in the South East?
The South East of Ireland, encompassing counties Waterford, Wexford, Kilkenny, and Carlow, is teeming with historical sites, stunning natural beauty, and cultural gems. Here are a few additional things to do:
- Dunmore Cave: Located in County Kilkenny, this ancient cave is steeped in history and folklore. Formed over millions of years, its stunning stalagmites and stalactites are certain to impress. It also has historical significance, with Viking artifacts discovered here.
- The Waterford Greenway: This 46km off-road cycling and walking trail gives you a chance to soak in the stunning scenery, from the Comeragh mountains to the Atlantic coast.
- The Rock of Cashel: In County Tipperary, this historic site features a well-preserved Romanesque chapel, a round tower, and a Gothic cathedral.
- The Irish National Heritage Park: Located in County Wexford, this open-air museum recreates key stages in Ireland’s cultural evolution.
- House of Waterford Crystal: Witness master craftsmen shape molten crystal into elegant forms in the city renowned for its crystal.
- Hook Lighthouse: The oldest operational lighthouse in the world, offering breathtaking views from the balcony.
- Mount Leinster: Perfect for hiking and home to the highest point of the Blackstairs Mountains.
Is it worth visiting Kilkenny?
Absolutely. Kilkenny is a vibrant city steeped in history and culture. It offers a unique blend of fascinating historical sites like the Kilkenny Castle, St. Canice’s Cathedral, and the medieval mile. The city is also known for its lively arts scene, charming streets, fantastic dining, and friendly locals.
How many days do I need in Kilkenny?
While you can see the main sights in one full day, ideally you should spend two to three days in Kilkenny. This gives you enough time to fully explore the city, visit key attractions, enjoy the arts and food scene, and maybe even venture to nearby sites like the Dunmore Cave or Jerpoint Abbey.
What is Kilkenny best known for?
Kilkenny is best known for its rich medieval history. The city is home to the well-preserved Kilkenny Castle, the stunning St. Canice’s Cathedral, and the historic Rothe House. It’s also renowned for the Kilkenny Arts Festival, one of Ireland’s leading arts festivals, and the Smithwick’s Experience, a popular brewery tour.
Can you do Kilkenny as a day trip from Dublin?
Yes, Kilkenny is a popular day trip from Dublin. The journey is approximately 90 minutes by train or two hours by car, making it quite accessible. You can spend the day exploring the medieval city and return to Dublin in the evening. However, staying overnight will allow you to experience more of what Kilkenny has to offer.