I did not originally plan to stop in Kilkenny during our road trip around Ireland. However, Andy read about its medieval flare, which sparked both of our interests. After visiting the Cliffs of Moher, we started our drive east. We finally were able to drive on one of the major motorways in Ireland, which was a real treat but was short lived.

It was a lot of driving for one day as we passed green rolling hills covered in sheep. However, we finally found a blue sky in Ireland and weren’t going to let it go to waste.

Since I did not research the town much, we decided to park the rental and head towards the Kilkenny Castle. The road leading the the castle was covered with white tents in what appeared to be a farmers market, which was closing down for the day. After walking along the road to get to the castle, I snapped some pictures of the front as locals and tourists relaxed on the benches on the grounds listening to low conversations and water cycling through a fountain.

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

After enjoying the front of the castle, it was time to see if we could have a look around. As we waited in line to buy tickets for a self guided walk through most of the rooms, I overheard someone ask if admission was free. The reply was music to my ears. For an hour, tourists would have free admission as part of the Gathering 2013. Score; we just saved €6 per person (or €24)! As we waited for the free admission to start, we walked the grounds and even saw some locals playing Gaelic games.

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle Panorama

Similar to the Glenveagh Castle, no photography is permitted when walking through the castle. One wing of the Kilkenny Castle was closed for remodeling while one wing hosts receptions and weddings. We even saw a wedding party pose on the front stairway of the castle as we first arrived.

Since it is a self-guided walking tour, little information is provided on the history. The rooms all are decorated from the past with an interesting toilet on display. The windows of the second floor have great views of the grounds. The Picture Gallery Wing was my favorite room with artwork decorating the walls and great detail on the structural beams.

Before exiting the castle, head to the modern art gallery with rotational pieces on display. Then walk through the kitchen, where food is still served, before heading back to the grounds outside. Take a stroll along Canal Walk overlooking the River Nore.

Kilkenny

River Nore

St. Canice’s Cathedral is not too far away from Kilkenny Castle, but was not open when we were there. The cathedral is massive with some great architecture. Across the street from Kilkenny Castle is the Kilkenny Design Center with unique cultural displays through the times of dresses and modern artwork being sold. It has a different architectural design as a half moon shape with gardens to walk around with a view of the Butler House covered in green vines. We retraced our steps to view the castle towers above the Design Center, which made for a great picture. I also enjoyed the clock on the brick building with a mint green dome.

Kilkenny Design Centre

The Castle Yard

Next, it was off to have a pint outside on a pedestrian street. We watched locals and tourists stroll along the cobblestone street. Now I really felt like I was in Europe! After drinking our pints, we headed to St. Mary’s Cathedral to buy some time before dinner. We took a quick peak inside the beautiful church. Since we were the only ones in there and did not know if we were allowed to enter, we did a quick scan of the interior before walking around the outside. We found a nice statue and benches to sit on before heading back into the city center for dinner.

St. Mary's Cathedral

St. Mary’s Cathedral

After the cathedral, we walked around to find the Kilkenny Slips or Butter Slip, which consists of the medieval streets. I would say it is not really a tourist attraction since it is just streets and small shops. We also passed by the Tholsel, which is Kilkenny’s town hall with high arched columns. Walking around this part of Kilkenny was memorable with the old infrastructure still in place. It was finally time to find dinner. After searching for The Hole in The Wall to find out it was not open, we headed to Kyteler’s Inn. Kyteler’s Inn dates back to 1263 but has a modern, Irish flare. The inn is one of the oldest inns in Ireland and has a unique history. Alice de Kyteler was married four times and continued to inherit a fortune at the passing of each of her husbands. The locals became suspicious of her wealth and accused her of being a witch. Eventually, she was burned for the accusations. The inn went through many other owners and was refurbished in the 1960s to keep the history of the inn alive and within Kilkenny. The current owner, Nicky Flynn, stripped away plaster to bring back the inn’s Medieval stone walls. The food was delicious. I ordered bangers and mash since I hadn’t had any yet, along with an Irish coffee. We were entertained by an Irish band playing instruments, along with Irish dancers who would take the stage every few songs. Kyteler’s Inn is a great place to experience traditional music and dancing while enjoying a meal, which is a must while visiting Ireland.

bangers and mash

Kyteler’s Inn – Bangers and Mash

What a busy day we had exploring Kilkenny. The above sights and activities definitely made the extra driving worth it. If you are ever looking for a day trip outside of Dublin, Kilkenny is a must. Below, I have provided a list of what we were able to see in several hours on foot.

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle from River Nore

Summary of our Kilkenny visit:

  • Klikenny Castle and Grounds
  • St. Canice’s Cathedral
  • Kilkenny Design Centre
  • Butler House
  • St. Mary’s Cathedral
  • Kilkenny ‘Slips’
  • Tholsel, High Street
  • Kyteler’s Inn

Have you ever visited a medieval town or city?

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