A Directory of Kilkenny’s Attractions

It is hard to imagine Kilkenny is a city. However city it is. The big town could credit its history to thinking bigger than it actually is. Kilkenny served as a seat of political power throughout the Middle Ages in Ireland. Throughout cobblestone pedestrian passageways, Kilkenny proves size doesn’t always matter. If you contain enough attractions to fill a city, your title is well deserved.  Kilkenny’s attractions range from brewery tours to death defying climbs at churches. Despite its size, you can question where to begin in Kilkenny. Begin with this directory of some of Kilkenny’s best things to see, do and drink.

Drink The Local Brew

William Marshall founded the St. Francis Abbey in 1232. Little did he know that some five hundred years later, the site would start turning out beer. The Smithwick’s Brewery recently celebrated 300 years of brewing, beginning in 1710. You can take a tour of the brewing process to see how the famous brew came to be. While tour times can be somewhat sporadic, Kilkenny is littered with pubs to just get down to business. The small city holds around 60 pubs and bars.

Tour Kilkenny Castle

If you don’t tour Kilkenny Castle while in Kilkenny, you might not have missed much, but it is the focal point of the city. On the tour you learn a bit more about this fortress that really started to take shape when the Butler family bought it in 1391. Situated along the River Nore, Kilkenny Castle takes on a dark gray color, credited to Kilkenny marble. The tour guide will be quick to tell you are a fool. That is no marble at all. It is really just limestone in disguise. The foundations of the castle reach back to the 1100s. With hard financial times falling on the Butler family, the castle was sold in 1967 to the city for the hefty price tag of £50. You pay €6 euros mostly to see the first toilet in Kilkenny and the Long Room, apparently the second longest room in Ireland.

Get Crafty

Kilkenny is quickly become a center of the arts and the crafts. Notable artists can be found in and around the city. At the National Craft Gallery and the Kilkenny Design Center you can see work in action, free of charge. Both host unique ceramics, jewelry and woolens. If you have a car, you can follow the county’s craft trail to towns like Thomastown and Graiguenamanagh, known for certain craft shops. Most hotels and restaurants in Kilkenny will have a flyer with craft events going on in the area during your visit.

Don’t Look Down at the Round Tower

St. Canice’s Cathedral is surprisingly thrilling for its Round Tower, attached to the medieval cathedral. Dating back to 849, the Round Tower invites those with a lot of balance and will-power to climb its wooden planks straight upward, all with the help of just a one sided railing. Once you reach the top, it all seems worth it as you are on top of Kilkenny. That feeling quickly subsides when you have to head back down the way you came.

Hang out in the Butler House Gardens

The home of John Butler’s mother in 1794 is now a hotel, owned by the Kilkenny Civic Trust. What should be admired for its architecture and history, especially since it was a soup kitchen during the cholera epidemic of 1832, the gardens of the Butler House are easily the highlight. Spend some time lingering in these gardens. You might feel like you don’t belong, but they are in fact open to the public.

Written by: Suzy Guese

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