The medieval town of Kilkenny, Ireland is picturesque and pregnant with personality. I may be a little biased as I can trace my paternal ancestors back to this region, and this hamlet has been on my list of places to visit for years. Biased or not, it definitely lived up to the anticipation. Below are some things that I believe are vital to do and see when you visit Kilkenny.
The picturesque Kilkenny Castle was built in 1195 and is situated along the River Nore. Daily guided tours are available, or you can branch out on your own. The castle was the official seat of the Butler family and has been refurbished to its Victorian era grandeur. I recommend taking in the view to the NW from the upper bedroom. It’s fantastic. Also, if you have children, there is a nice playground on the castle grounds just NE of the castle. My daughter thought it was amazing. It’s a great place for a picnic.
Smithwick’s Brewery Tour
Located along the Medieval Mile in Kilkenny, the Smithwick’s Experience (pronounced “Smittick’s” by locals) is a must. The tour takes place in the old brewery and is guided by a local “Cat” (someone from Kilkenny.) The information on the brewing process was thorough and clearly presented. The historical information started with the Franciscan monks, who were the original brewers in Kilkenny, and highlighted the major events of the brewery of John Smithwick and his family. The tour featured the history of the various struggles in running the brewery to include John Smithwick being Catholic during the Reformation and not being able to technically own his brewery and how the brewery survived and even thrived during WWII – called “The Emergency” in Ireland at the time. The price is 15,00 euro per adult and includes an ale in the tasting pub at the conclusion of the tour.
Churches and Cathedrals
If you enjoy touring churches and cathedrals, then you’ll love Kilkenny. There are so many to choose from and all within walking distance. There’s St. Canice’s Cathedral, which was built in the 13th century. Next to the cathedral is one of the two remaining medieval round towers from the 9th century in Ireland that can be climbed. I recommend climbing the tower for a great view of the city. There’s also the Black Abbey, which was founded in the 13th century. The Medieval Mile Museum is located in a former church. Also, you can see the ruins of St. Francis Abbey, home to the original Franciscan monks, who started brewing in Kilkenny. When my family and I were visiting, they we doing construction of some sort on the Abbey so I’m not sure what the future plans are for the site.
Kilkenny is an extremely strollable city. So, slow down and take a stroll among the Cats of Kilkenny through the alleyways and along the streets. Visit the quant shops enticing your wants of arts, crafts, clothing, décor and more. Observe children in their plaids walking home from school and posturing for hierarchy within their social tribe. Treat your taste buds to a gelato or ale. Enjoy the architecture. Let the church bells remind you of the passing of time on the hour.
Medieval Mile Museum
The Medieval Mile Museum was interesting and showcased the struggles of life in Kilkenny during medieval times. Guided tours or available, but we opted for the headset, which my daughter thought was great because she could tour at her own pace. Don’t skip the graveyard section. It was a bit eerie, but also a time trip. A great activity for kids is the Lego figurine scavenger throughout the museum. If your child finds all of them, he or she will get a small prize. It kept my daughter entertained. The figures are well-hidden.
My family and I were able to fit these Kilkenny experiences into a one-day trip. Just get there early and enjoy.
If you enjoyed this blog, checkout some of my other experiences in Ireland.