Kilkenny was the last place I visited in Ireland before I left. I’d spent three months in the country, looking for work (but not finding any) and pretty much seeing every corner of it. I went to Connemara, the Kerry peninsula, Galway, Dublin of course, Cork and Northern Ireland. But my favorite place of them all was Kilkenny, a small medieval town in County Kilkenny.
This little walkable town is several centuries old; there are plenty of religious buildings, ruins, cobblestone streets and historic sights, but also many shops and several pubs – it’s Ireland after all. By the way, Kilkenny – as small as it may be – has two large breweries, which only added to my love for the place. Those breweries, for your information, are Smithwick’s and Kilkenny. I spent three days hanging out and exploring the town and surroundings. Allow me to share some great suggestions and recommendations.
Top 10 Things to Do in Kilkenny Ireland
1. Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny Castle rises high above the River Nore and is Kilkenny’s most visited attraction. It’s actually one of the most visited heritage sites in Ireland. The first fortress on the site was built by Richard de Clare, better known as Strongbow, in 1172. The stone castle was built twenty years later by William Marshal, his son-in-law. The castle is enormous and you can go on a great self-guided tour.
2. Black Abbey
Founded by William Marshal the Younger, son of the William Marshal who built the castle, in 1225, this abbey became the home of the Dominican Order. The brothers were called ‘Black Friars’ after the black cloaks they wore. Entrance is free; it’s a great place to spent some time in; and, if you need to confess your sins after a long night in the pub, there are regular masses.
3. Peace Park Walk
The Peace Park Walk runs along the beautifully peaceful River Nore and is a pleasant way to get some fresh air after visiting a bunch of attractions or spending some time in the pub.
4. St Canice’s Cathedral
This cathedral is dedicated to St Canice, Kilkenny’s patron saint. It is the second-largest medieval cathedral in Ireland. The site is also home to a typical round tower, which was built sometime between 700 and 1000AD on an ancient Christian cemetery. The tower is open to the public and you can climb it for some pretty excellent views of the town.
5. National Craft Gallery
Located in the former castle stables adjacent to Kilkenny Castle, the National Craft Gallery is free to visit. You can see craftsmen and women practicing their respective Irish crafts. Examples are jewellery, weaving and pottery.
6. The Canal Walk
This is another beautiful walk along the River Nore. It runs in the opposite direction of the Peace Park Walk and passes underneath Kilkenny Castle. The suggested time to go for a stroll there is either in the early morning or around sunset.
7. Have a Pint or Two in a Pub
The presence of two major breweries has done no harm to pubs of Kilkenny. There is a plethora of pubs and bars to found around town. Smithwick’s happens to be my favorite Irish beer, so I happily had a few!
8. St Mary’s Church and Graveyard
This old church is located in the heart of the town. Built in the late 12th century, it has been a place worship and center of townlife for more than 800 years. The graveyard that surrounds the church can be visited and used to be the preferred last resting place among the wealthy.
9. Explore the Medieval Lanes
As a medieval town, Kilkenny also has its share of narrow, cobblestoned and sometimes even covered lanes and alleyways. The town’s main street, High Street, and pedestrian St Kieran’s Street are connected by many lanes. It’s great fun to explore these remnants of the past and to imagine what life must have been like in Kilkenny a thousand years ago.
10. Rent a Car
After you’ve seen and done it all, it’s time to rent a car in Ireland, and go explore the area for no countryside is quite like the Irish. Highlights a short drive away include Jerpoint Abbey, Athassel Priory and the spectacular St Patrick’s Rock of Cashel, as well as the Ring of Kerry.
When you’re visiting Ireland, I strongly recommend not limiting your time to Dublin, but also explore other parts of the country. It’s gorgeous. Kilkenny has a couple of hostels and several hotels and inns.