One of the prettiest counties in Ireland, Kilkenny is a richly historic place with a warm welcome and the promise of an unrivalled experience that resonates long after you leave. Kilkenny is a place loved for its urban vibe, where ancient and contemporary mix seamlessly, where you can explore heritage, design and craft while enjoying excellence in hospitality and new experiences.
A hub of creativity grounded by a history of international design since the 60s, Kilkenny is home to craftspeople from potters to goldsmiths to glassblowers, all intrinsic to Kilkenny’s colour. The tapestry has been enriched by the best digital animators in the world, thrice Academy Award nominated Cartoon Saloon. Check out the Kilkenny Design Centre, Castle Yard, Castlecomer Craft yard, Grennan College, and ‘Made in Kilkenny’. Time it right and you’ll catch an exhibition in the Craft Gallery of Ireland and meet the maker. For the discerning shopper the retail experience is fantastic, bustling from bijou boutiques to designer labels from the high street to MacDonagh Junction, which just happens to be the location for the newly launched ‘Famine Experience’. An excavation unearthed a discovery of global significance which led to the creation of this experience – a fitting homage to the residents of Kilkenny’s workhouse residents during the 1840s.
Stop by Kilkenny’s famous Medieval Mile. As Ireland’s best preserved medieval city, the mile captures 800 years of history and hosts renowned and hidden gems, from the magnificent Castle to the enchanting Rothe Gardens to St. Canice’s to the ‘Hole in the Wall’. This is a city shrouded in tales of superstition and subterfuge. For the brave, grab the opportunity to climb St. Canice’s round tower which at 30m is one of only two climbable towers in Ireland.
An absolute must is a visit to the award winning Medieval Mile Museum, formerly the 13th century St Mary’s Church, where history is brought to life through multimedia interactive displays to intrigue all ages. Unearth 800 years of history under one roof and hear the stories of powerful patrons and inspired creators. The museum contains some of Ireland’s finest examples of medieval sculpture and one of the country’s largest collections of Renaissance tombs. Highlights of the visit include the incredibly ornate Rothe Chapel; St Mary’s and its abundance of medieval masterpieces; the High Cross casts – reaching over 4 metres high and originally commissioned by the High Kings of Ossory and the mystery of a 2nd century Roman coin.
The tour ends on a high note in the Kilkenny Room with its unique collection of ancient papers and civic treasures dating back to the 1200s. The internationally significant book ‘Liber Primus Kilkenniensis’ is one of the most important records of medieval town life in Ireland.
Kilkenny is loved for its dining experiences and is designated one of top three food destinations in the country. There are a couple of Michelin stars for the discerning dining bunch as well as a charming array of gastro pubs, tea rooms and quaint cafes dotted along medieval streets and trails – offering interesting locations from which to watch the world go by. Don’t forget the six award winning cookery schools where a little DIY at the chefs table is entertained!
So what are you missing? You will find musicians playing in pubs and music venues across the city and county. Kilkenny hosts many special performances and music festivals throughout the year, including the Kilkenny Roots Festival and TradFest and is home to some of the most magical music venues in the country.
Kilkenny boasts a wealth of diverse and internationally renowned festivals throughout the year that cater for all tastes including Tradfest, Kilkenny Roots, The Cat Laughs Comedy Festival, the Kilkenny Arts Festival, Subtitle, Yulefest, Savour Kilkenny Festival of Food and Kilkenomics. 2018 sees an exciting addition to the calendar in Kilkenny Animated, a brand new festival of visual storytelling, incorporating cartoons, animation and illustration which celebrates the creativity and craft of the visual image.
Tour the city with the highly entertaining Kilkenny Walking Tours or saddle up lycra clad and take a Kilkenny City Bike Tour. Get out and explore the stunning countryside and villages each with a wealth of stories to beguile, offering a brew, a welcome and a story in the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East. Synonymous with Kilkenny is brewing and distilling, after all the first written account of distilling in Ireland comes from Kilkenny in the 14th century with the Red Book of Ossory! If craft beer is your folly try the local ales brewed with pride right here in the city by Costello’s or make your way to join up with the whisky guild for some serious sampling, or taste some heart warming tinctures at Ballykeefe Distillery. No visit is complete without taking a tour at the fantastic award winning Smithwicks Experience. Kilkenny is ensuring its rich brewing heritage lasts another few centuries, you’ll be well preserved!
Still got energy to burn? Take to the Rivers Nore and Barrow for kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding and river walk, or stroll atop the dizzy heights on a tree top adventure walk, or leap on a high octane adventure with the longest zipwire over water in Ireland at Castlecomer Discovery Park. Did we mention the Reptile Village, Watershed, amazing golf courses, Nore Valley Park, City Train tours, Mosses pottery, Woodstock Gardens and craft trails?
So dig deep – if you want to discover more, you’ll just have to return!