Kilkenny city and county has an abundance of historical sites with its fine castles, cathedrals and abbeys. The most famous being Jerpoint Abbey in Thomastown, Duiske Abbey in Graignamanagh within an easy drive not to mention St. Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower in Kilkenny city. Clara Castle a well preserved 15th century castle with some original features is worth a visit along with The Lory Meagher Homestead and GAA museum in Tullaroan.
Please see below just a sample of some of the wonderful attractions to visit. Other wonderful attractions to visit in the city include St.Canices Cathedral and Black Abbey and other great day trips to consider are a visit to Woodstock Gardens in Inistioge and Castlecomer Discovery Park.
For a full list of FREE attractions in Kilkenny City and County please visit www.visitkilkenny.ie
Kilkenny's Medieval Mile
The city’s origins predate existing medieval landmarks. Saint Canice (who gives Kilkenny its name) founded a monastic settlement here in the 6th century. The 9th century round tower beside the wonderful stone cathedral of St Canice’s, is a remaining monastic landmark. Built in the 13th century and a showcase to ornate stonemasonry skills, St Canice’s is the second longest Cathedral in Ireland.
One of the best and unique features of Kilkenny is its compactness allowing you explore everything it has to offer on foot, just be sure to allow yourself enough time to experience it all. Enjoy our city!
Medieval Mile Museum
Situated only 2 minutes walk from the Kilkenny Hibernian Hotel & located on the 13th century site of St Mary’s cruciform church and graveyard (considered to be the finest example of a medieval church in Ireland), The Medieval Mile Museum represents an immense treasure trove of artefacts encompassing the work and lives of Ireland and its people across more than 800 years of history. Visitors to the museum will marvel not only at some of Ireland’s finest examples of medieval sculpture, but also the country’s largest collection of Renaissance tombs.
Following a five-year excavation and renovation, highlights of the visit include the incredibly ornate Rothe Chapel with exposed tombs belonging to the medieval merchant Rothe family; St Marys external graveyard (where only the wealthiest could be buried) and its abundance of medieval masterpieces; the stories of the multiple pauper graves discovered outside the church walls and the High Cross casts- reaching over 4 metres high that were originally commissioned by the High Kings of Ossory.
Rising above the Nore, Kilkenny Castle is one of Ireland’s most visited heritage sites. The first structure on this strategic site was a wooden tower built in 1172 by Richard de Clare, the Anglo-Norman conqueror of Ireland better known as ‘Strongbow’. In 1192, Strongbow’s son-in-law, William Marshall, erected a stone castle with four towers, three of which survive.
The castle was bought by the powerful Butler family in 1391, and their descendants continued to live there until 1935. Maintaining such a structure became a big financial strain and most of the furnishings were sold at auction. The castle was handed over to the city in 1967 for the princely sum of £50. Kilkenny Castle today offers a range of cultural facilities and public amenities and is set 50 acres of extensive gardens and parkland.
The Smithwicks Experience @ St. Francis Abbey Brewery
Over 300 years ago in 1710, John Smithwick began brewing his first Ales, although the Smithwick’s story started long before then. Back in the 13th century the Franciscans established an Abbey, with its own well, on the banks of the River Nore in Kilkenny. The strong brewing tradition that exists in Kilkenny started with these monks who would have brewed their own light ale for their visitors, using water from St.Francis’s well.
In July 2014, the much-anticipated Smithwick’s Experience Kilkenny opened. The multi-sensory and interactive experience immerses visitors in the history of Smithwick’s, Ireland’s oldest beer brand, the amazing heritage of the Smithwick’s family and its place in Kilkenny, a city steeped in history and brewing tradition.
During the multi-lingual tour, the Smithwick’s brewing process is brought to life, with visitors having the opportunity to experience the smells, tastes and textures of the raw materials involved in creating the perfect pint of ale. Living portraits of key Smithwick’s family members talk amongst each other and tell the truly amazing story of how Smithwick’s went from being a small local brewery to a brew that is famous the world over.
Rothe House & Gardens
Rothe House & Garden, a historic house in Kilkenny is the only example of an early 17th century merchant’s townhouse in Ireland. Rothe House is the centre for Irish genealogy in Kilkenny city and county and you can research your Kilkenny family history with us. Built between 1594 and 1610, Rothe House is steeped in rich local and national history and a visit is high on the list of things to do in Kilkenny.
The House and Garden are owned by the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, and managed by Rothe House Trust. The House is open to the public as a m, displaying some of the 2,500 historic artefacts collected by the Society since its founding in 1947. These artefacts all relate to Kilkenny heritage throughout the ages and some date from pre-historic times. The Garden, open since 2008, is a reconstruction of an early 17th century urban garden, and has become a very popular garden to visit in Ireland.
St Canice’s Cathedral
St Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower are an essential part of the structural heritage in the vibrant medieval city of Kilkenny. This ecclesiastical site was founded in the 6th century and named after St Canice. Cill Channigh is the Gaelic for the Church of Canice, the church that originally stood on the site in the 6th century.
Worship has taken place at this site for over 800 years. The Cathedral has wonderful stained glass that includes two windows from the Harry Clarke Studio, Dublin. Local stone masters The O’Tooneys carved some of the tombstones many of which are unique to the Cathedral and Kilkenny. The See Chair of the Bishop of Ossory dating back to 1120 can be seen inside the Cathedral.
The Round Tower is the oldest standing structure in Kilkenny City. Tourists can enjoy climbing the Round Tower capturing great views of the city (weather permitting). St Canice’s Round Tower is one of only two Round Towers that people can climb in Ireland.
The Long Gallery is located in the East Wing of Kilkenny Castle, was built primarily to house the Butler Family’s fine collection of paintings. The Long Gallery room maybe one of the longest rooms in Ireland!
The Butler Gallery (situated within Kilkenny Castle) features many exhibitions throughout the year. In recent years it has amassed an impressive, representative collection of nineteenth and twentieth century Irish art.
The National Craft Gallery (situated across from the Castle) also features many exhibitions throughout the year. is Ireland’s leading centre for contemporary craft and design. They inspire appreciation, creativity and innovation through their exhibition, event and education programmes, and play a critical role in building understanding of craft and material culture in Ireland.
The Blackbird Gallery (situated across from the Castle) is one of Ireland’s most prestigious commercial galleries showcasing the very best of Irish and International contemporary art.
Nicholas Mosse Pottery
Nicholas Mosse has been a potter since he was seven and a visit to his riverside shop in Bennettsbridge, Co. Kilkenny is a must. His earthenware is made from Irish clay, fired with home grown Irish waterpower and decorated with traditional motifs inspired by old Irish spongeware. It’s universal charm and appeal have made it loved and sought after throughout the world. Visitors can browse among a huge selection of Nicholas Mosse pottery, linen and glass, over 3 floors of the store. There is also room for all budding young artists to decorate the pottery in their own, unique way in the decorating and spongeware studio.