Kilkenny blew me away. Before my visit to there, I hadn’t heard much about the place. I knew it was there, but I didn’t know anything about it. I am always asking for recommendations of where to go in Ireland and no one has ever said Kilkenny. After spending the weekend there, I don’t understand why it isn’t talked about more. We were flat out for the weekend, seeing all it had to offer. Here is all you need to see on your visit to Kilkenny:
1. Kilkenny Castle
When I mentioned to people I was going, this is the one things that was brought up. The Castle. The medieval foundations date back to the 13th century. It has been restored and added to over the years but 3 towers from the original stone castle remain. It’s not only the castle I found impressive, but the grounds around. At one side you have a beautiful walled garden and fountain and the other side, you have a vast green lawns spreading across a park with plenty of tree cover.
Picture taken from Eoghan Bell
After walking around the city for hours, it was the perfect place to slump down on the grass and enjoy the surroundings, and the weather if you’re lucky! Everyone else had the same idea too. Over the summer, events are held here. One evening there was a brass band playing on the lawns. If you’re going to visit Kilklenny, there is a board outside the castle with the events on, or you can check the website here.
On a side note, one thing I thought was great is there are public toilets just outside the castle. I hate when you are walking around a city and every time you need to go to the toilet you have to go on a hunt for a shopping centre or sneak into a pub. It was great that there were facilities right there in the middle of the city.
2. St Canice’s Cathedral
For those who love buildings and architecture, St Canice’s church and round tower is one to visit. It dates back to the 6th century. The cathedral itself has beautiful stained glass windows and marble floors.The round tower just outside is the oldest standing structure in Kilkenny.
Although I don’t have a religious bone in my body, I like to see cathedrals and churches – I find them quite interesting. You can actually climb to the top of the old watch tower which stands at 30 m for four euro which is so cool. We went back to do it on Sunday but it wasn’t open yet. I was so disappointed. I thought it would be so cool to climb such an old building. When you visit Kilkenny, give it a climb and let me know what it’s like. Important to note, you also have to pay to look inside the church which I found a bit funny.
3. Smithwicks brewery experience
Like beer? Then you’re gona wana visit Kilkenny. It’s home to Smithwick’s – one of Ireland’s most popular ales. It has been made in Kilkenny since the 1700s.
Take a walk through the digital presentation with your knowledgeable guide and learn all about the history of Smithwick’s. Enjoy a nice old pint at the end in the pub on premises.
You can visit between March – October 7 days a week between 10 – 6 pm. To check the winter schedule or for more information, go to the site.
4. The streets of Kilkenny
I think the streets of Kilkenny are worth a visit for themselves. The city is the perfect mix of old and new. There are hints of it’s medieval past around every turn and remnants of the old city walls. There are numerous sites around the city where you can see evidence of it’s medieval past. This is combined perfectly with the more modern big open pedestrian spaces like the Parade and Canal Square. There are some great local gift shops and local businesses too. My favourite shop was “The Gift Horse“. I wanted everything! It was lovely to wander through the stone lane ways – and there were beautiful flowers everywhereeeee.
One such lane way is the Butterslip – a medieval lane. It’s named so as women used to come in from the outer farms to sell butter there – I blended into an American tour group to learn more about it!
Borrowed this image from Eoghan Bell.
It just has really colourful inviting cobbled streets.
5. The Kilkenny Design Centre
Also built in the original castle grounds, is the Kilkenny Design Centre. It is now home to young international designers and crafts people. I am a sucker for places like these. I am 100% Irish but I looove going in and out of the touristy shops looking at all the Irish souvenirs. This was like that, but on a whoooole other level! Beautiful Irish-made jewelry and paintings. I really enjoyed having a look around. The grounds also contains the National Design and Crafts Gallery. It is the only dedicated design and crafts gallery in the country.
6. Butlers House and Gardens
Right next door to the design centre is Butlers House and Gardens. Once the Butler’s Dowager House, it is now a beautiful guesthouse. Enjoy food outside and wander in the gardens. It’s worth the visit just for a look.
If you like to take a break from the busy city streets on your trip to Kilkenny, there are plenty of walks you can go on to bring yourself back to nature. There is a lovely walk along the river which is lined with flowers and buzzing with bees. It passes by the world war 1 memorial at peace park and there does be boats zooming up and down in the river along side. It’s not long but it can be nice to get away from the city for a while.
We stumbled on a walk which also goes along the River Noire further up. It starts near Johns bridge on rose in street at the pavilion and heading west. The path goes along side underneath the castle and you have the river, and a canal on your left. It was so quiet we completely forgot we were in such a busy town. The trees drape across the path and there was lots of birds and wildlife. If you have enough, you can cut through gateways into the castle gardens during it’s opening hours. You can actually continue on walking for miles into the country side to Inistige.
8. Hidden Gem – Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre
We came across this hidden gem. It is Ballykeeffe amphitheater – an open air theatre hidden in an old limestone quarry. We found out about it as Eoghan’s friend was supporting villagers the weekend we were staying. And I’m so glad because we wouldn’t have had a clue it was there otherwise.
We walked in and it was like being in the VIP area of electric picnic, a little area with picnic benches, craft beer trucks, food stalls, even a merch stand! I had thee best hot dog I’ve ever tasted!!!
You go over a little hill and enter the theatre. As you enter there is a basket of cushions and mats to sit on which is so thoughtful. It is so impressive. When it gets dark and the lights emanate from the stage lighting up the rock face behind, it is just really special.
It’s located 15 – 20 minutes outside the city, near Ballykeeffe distillery – another place you can visit!. I got talking to a local there who told me a bit about it. It’s been there for years and began as just a grass hill and a stage. Any money that is made, goes back into improving it and many improvements have been made over the years – limestone benches were added, steps, the bar venue and toilets. The stewards are all local volunteers and they were so friendly. As we were leaving they were all thanking people from coming. The theatre can accommodate up to 400 people and as I said to Eoghan, looking up at the cliff edge behind the stage, you’d almost be expecting rabbits and foxes to be sitting watching the she show going on below.
It is a really cool experience and there are lots of events on there over the summer. If you are going to visit Kilkenny I encourage you to check out the website to see what’s on. site here.
So there you have it. If you ever thought to visit Kilkenny, or maybe like me you haven’t heard much about it, I hope you’re inspired to go now. I’d put it right up there as one of my favourite cities in Ireland now.
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