Last Updated: 29th July, 2018
Ireland’s ancient southeast is awash with medieval towns, Viking tales and monastic settlements, world-class horse racing and golfing venues, as well as some of the country’s top festivals; vibrant, friendly and surrounded by gorgeous countryside, Kilkenny offers plenty to entertain and stir the imagination.
This countywide initiative highlights the various artisan foods available, from chocolate and cheese to caviar, as well as the farms, restaurants, cafes and workshops you can visit to sample the very best produce Kilkenny has to offer.
The perfect mix of old and new, you’ll find beautifully restored buildings, narrow laneways, crafts and boutique shops and restaurants, and a thriving arts scene in this colourful city. Home to Ireland’s Medieval Mile, there’s plenty of history and heritage to explore. Here are some of our favourite spots…
At the heart of the city, this spectacular castle is a must-see for any visitor, young or old. With a magnificent Long Gallery, and contemporary Butler Art Gallery in the River Wing, there are also extensive parklands – including an orienteering course – to explore, with both castle and gardens open all year round. Tours of the castle can be arranged at any time of year, and in the summer months you can wander the wings without a guide. In addition, events run throughout the year including fun runs and garden talks. The tearooms are also worth a visit, situated in the Castle's Victorian Kitchen with original cooking range, plates and copper pots on view.
This 6th century site – named after the monk which also gave the city its name) is a perfect example of early gothic architecture, stained glass and ancient monuments. Climb the round tower (there are only two round towers that can be climbed in the whole of Ireland) when the weather allows for excellent views over the city. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a concert!
Listed as one of the top 26 ‘hot new attractions in the world’ by Lonely Planet (2016), learn about this 300-year-old beer through an interactive experience with a complimentary pint included in the tour! If you’re with young ones, don’t worry; children are welcome and they’ll get a soft drink instead.
A museum in a restored 17th century merchant’s house, as well as a garden, gift shop and family history centre, this is the perfect spot for a half-day visit whatever the weather. Noted as the genealogical research centre for the whole county, with over 200,000 records, this is the place to start your family ancestry research.
For outdoor lovers, this 23 acre game and bird sanctuary just 2km north of the city allows you to get up close to a variety of species via a number of footpath networks (wheelchair accessible). A diverse habitat with open water, there’s a rich diversity of bird, plant, mammal and insect life to discover.
Kilkenny Festivals and Theatre: Both the Set Theatre and Cleres Bar and Theatre offer a varied programme of events year round, including screenings, gigs and trad sessions. A host of festivals are also popular in the city, with Kilkenny Arts, Cat Laughs Comedy and Kilkenny Roots festivals to name but a few, attracting large numbers each year with world-class performances.
Just 9km outside of Kilkenny City, this is one of the oldest crossing of the River Nore and known for its Nicholas Mosse pottery; you can visit the factory to learn about how its made, and for refreshments. Flame candle makers are also here, so its worth a trip for both scenery and authentic craft souvenirs.
Founded in the 13th century, many interesting ruins remain in the local area despite the sacking by Thomas Cromwell in 1650. Jerpoint Abbey is a stunning 12th century Cistercian abbey with unique carvings and an interesting exhibition in the visitor’s centre. Explore alone or on a guided tour (wheelchair accessible). Kilfane Church may be in ruins, but it’s still worth exploring; there are lots of preserved relics to discover, including the two-metre tall Cantwell Fada (long man) at the north wall – an effigy of a Norman knight carved from a single slab of limestone.
For a peaceful woodland/Victorian garden stroll, visit Woodstock garden and Arboretum; as well as the well-marked paths, there’s a children’s play area, restored conservatory and vegetable plots, as well as picnic area and toilets; the perfect stop for garden enthusiasts or to let the young ones blow off some steam!
A lovely riverside town with a warm welcome and stunning riverside walks, this is a prime area for boating, river cruises, cycling and fishing as well as its pubs and traditional shop fronts. Walkers should head towards the lower Tinnahinch loch for gorgeous scenery, or for another long stretch, head up to Brandon Hill. The Cushendale Woollen Mills welcomes visitors to view its colourful textiles in natural fibres and Duiske Abbey (1204) is open daily, showing a good example of architecture as well as a Christian art exhibition and ancient carved crosses in the graveyard. Every August, Graiguenamanagh becomes a town of books with an excellent book festival.
An easy grade walk alongside the River Barrow, 70km in total length but split up into a number of sections to make it as easy or difficult as you like, this trail is perfect for outdoors fans. The Kilkenny stretch includes Bagenalstown to Graiguenamanagh (16 miles/26km), Graiguenamanagh to St. Mullins (4 miles/6km)
A busy and fun town, there are plenty of lakes and walkways to discover as well as excellent accommodation and eateries to suit all budgets, making it a favourite with families. Castlecomer Discovery Park is a big hit, with 80 acres of woodland to explore and lots of outdoors activities including zip lines, a treetop walk, elf and fairy village, and boating. There’s also a coal-mining exhibition and a reasonable café for refreshments – the perfect day out for young adventurers. If you’re seeking traditional and authentic crafts, check out the Castlecomer Estate Craft Yard for traditional workshops and yoga, as well as a great little cafe. Dunmore Cave boasts an impressive display of chambers formed over millions of years, with finds proving Viking activity. Check out the displays and exhibitions in the visitor centre for an insight into the cave’s past.
Is an Irish Theatre company situated in the Medieval City of Kilkenny. The company was founded in 1991 with the aim of exploring theatre practice and presentation for new/'non-traditional' audiences in the region.
For the past 25 years, Kilkenny has come alive each August, and has been the centre for all that is best in the major art forms. This spectacular medieval city will be the host again in 1999 for an even bigger and better arts festival, and will celebrate all the riches of visual arts, music, film, theatre and literature.
Is unique, both in ambiance and style. Here under one roof, you will find the very best of Irish Design and Workmanship, carefully chosen from over 200 studios and workshops around the country. Everything has been selected with genuine craftsmanship and value in mind.
County Kilkenny offers an abundance of fascinating festivals, historic sites, abbeys, forest parks, natural wonders and scenic locations. Kilkenny City which was once, Irelands Capital must be the finest Mediaeval city in Ireland. The cities origins date back more than 1,500 years. Located in Rose Inn Street the tourist office occupies a 16th Century Alms House. Some of the finest Tudor buildings in Ireland are in Kilkenny City. Walking Tours depart from outside the tourist office at regular intervals during the Summer months.
In Kilkenny's bustling towns, picturesque villages and peaceful open countryside, you can be as near to every thing or as far away from it all as you like. Kilkenny Castle in the heart of Kilkenny town stands tall and proud, this 13th century Anglo-Norman castle is spectacular and set on beautiful gardens and parkland. Barrow Valley is where you can take the Barrow Way in County Kilkenny, and also in the area are holiday barges for rent. Graiguenamanagh town, with its 13th century Cistercian monastery Duiske Abbey or Graiguenamanagh Abbey has much to delight the traveller, located beside the River Barrow there are lots of water activities to experience.