Surrounded by Wexford, Waterford, Carlow, Laois and Tipperary, Kilkenny is a landlocked county in the heart of Leinster. Attractions within the county include the city of Kilkenny itself, Kilkenny Castle, Rothe House and St Canice’s Cathedral, nearby Dunmore Caves, Jerpoint Abbey near Thomastown, and a range of attractive towns and villages along the Nore and Barrow river valleys.
The Marble City
Known as the Marble City, Kilkenny is Ireland’s smallest city, and one of its most charming urban centres. In addition to being a popular tourist destination in its own right, the charming city provides a great base from which to explore the surrounding countryside, villages and towns. Kilkenny gained city status in 1609, and its long history is evident throughout the city. Historic buildings include Kilkenny Castle, which forms the heart of the city, Rothe House, Black Abbey, St Canice’s Cathedral and round tower, St Mary’s Cathedral, St Francis Abbey, Kilkenny Town Hall, Grace’s Castle, St Francis Abbey and St John’s Priory.
Kilkenny Castle and gardens is one of Ireland’s post popular tourist attractions. The former seat of the Butler and FitzWalter families is now state owned and open to the public throughout the year. The castle houses part of the National Art Gallery, and a number of other exhibitions are displayed here. Weekly ParkRun 5 kilometre runs are held in the grounds, and there is also a permanent orienteering course.
In medieval times, Kilkenny was surrounded by defensive walls and towers. Remnants of the Kilkenny Walls, including two defensive towers remain. Black Freren Gate, on Abbey Street, is the only surviving gate.
St Canice’s Cathedral, also known as Kilkenny Cathedral is, at 75 yards, the second longest cathedral in Ireland. The present building dates from the 13th century. It was built in the English Gothic style and is constructed of limestone. A well-preserved early Christian Round Tower stands next to the cathedral. The cathedral is believed to be build on the hill that formed the centre of the first settlement in Kilkenny.
There are numerous design and craft workshops across the city. Annual events include the Cat Laughs comedy festival, Kilkenny Art Festival, the Rhythm and Roots festival and the source concert. The Watergate Theatre shows a range of productions.
The city was voted Failte Ireland’s Top Tourism Town in 2013. Other honours included Cleanest Town in Ireland (2013), Ireland’s Tidiest Town (2014), and the Friendliest city in Europe.
The city also has a number of beautiful walking trails and tours. Spa treatments, golf, horse-riding and go-karting are among the other activities available within easy reach of the city.
Stalactites and Stalagmites
Dunmore Cave is a show cave and archaeological site in Ballyfoyle, just 10 kilometres north of Kilkenny City. The cave includes a variety of stalactites, stalagmites and other calcite formations, including an impressive and distinctly cross-shaped column known as the Market Cross. The site is also an important historical site and a Viking massacre is reported to have occurred at the cave in 928 A.D. There is also a Visitor Centre at the site.
Castlecomer Discovery Park
Something for all the family
Castlecomer Discovery Park, set in 80 acres of natural woodland, contains a range of educational recreational activities for all the family. It comprises lakes for fishing and boating, walking trails, a high-rope adventure park, orienteering trails, design craft workshops, a multi-media coal mining museum, and an award winning café.
The Park is a Social Community Enterprise and operates on a not-for-profit basis.
South Kilkenny Towns and Villages
Thomastown, Inistioge and Graiguenamanagh
Inistioge is a beautiful village on the banks of the River Nore, which which was the backdrop for a number of major feature-length films. Just above the village is the exquisite grounds of Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum, an ideal setting for a picnic. Visit Tunde Toth Papermaker, by appointment, to learn about the art of papermaking.
Further north along the Nore Valley is Thomastown, an intimate town with a number of tourist attractions. Shop for gifts at Karen Morgan's pottery shop and Jerpoint Glass. Visit the Kilkenny School of Food training garden. Goatsbridge Trout Farm, Jerpoint Abbey, and Jerpoint Park and Mount Juliet Estate are among the attractions within a short drive of Thomastown.
The large Cistercian Duiske Abbey is the main attraction of the village of Graiguenamanagh which sits on the banks of the River Barrow on the Kilkenny/Carlow border. Duiske Glass Kilkenny and Cushendale Wollen Mills are among the craft shops in the area.