Kilkenny is most famous for its castle in the middle of the city with a long history. We took a day trip there, walked around town, and went for a short hike afterward.
The castle in Kilkenny has a history dating to the 12th century. It was once a four-walled wood defensive structure but is now a three-walled stone structure with a stunning art gallery. The gallery is the last to see on the tour and is the most modern part of the structure established in the 1940s by local volunteers.
Kilkenny Castle Art Gallery
It was interesting to learn about the Butler family, who had connections to British Royalty, and how they had been so loyal to the King at the time that one was awarded a royal title as a reward. A short tidbit from the tour we were on is that you’ll see the family crest has three cups in a quarter of the shield and you’ll see it around the castle. This is because one of the Butlers was given the title Earl and given the duty to sip a cup before the King, which was a great honor, essentially to prove that it was safe for the King to drink next. The three cups are predominately displaced in the Chinese Room of the Castle.
I was very confused to see that Kilkenny had a Chinese Room seeing as though travel isn’t what it is today. However, I also learned on the tour that this was merely a sign for those who visited the house to believe that the family was ‘well-traveled’. The wall painting in the Chinese Room was restored by an artist who kept his modifications in black and white to maintain the original's visual distinction.
The garden that you can see from the house was Versace-inspired. You can walk the garden for free but the view from inside the castle with Kilkenny as a backdrop is amazing. Imagine waking up to this every day:
Garden view from inside the castle
Since there are so many artworks and stories to be told about the history of Kilkenny Castle, simply wandering around and reading the boards won't do it credit. The history of the castle and the Bulter family, including why they only sold it to the state for 5 euros, will be revealed to you.
For those with disabilities and their accompanying carers: Free | Guided Tour: Free
The River Nore flows through Kilkenny's city center, and you can follow the river's Lacken Walk/Nore Valley Walk Trailhead or take a boat tour. This trail loop from town to the bridge is around 4mi (6km). I was a little apprehensive to venture along the path because it was new to me, but I soon discovered that it was a well-liked route for hiking, trail running, and strolling. The route welcomed dogs, and even though I saw a lot of people, it was still tranquil enough for me to appreciate it.
Conclusion - Can you do Kilkenny in a day?
We went to Kilkenny on a Bank Holiday and therefore most non-essential shops were closed. This left us with only the castle tour and hiking, so we took our time and slowly wandered through the town. Given the town's size, a day excursion should be able to take in the key sights.
Kilkenny Hurling Statue
Staying the night is advised, especially if it's hurling season (they even have a statue dedicated to all those who Hurl for Kilkenny seen above). They compete yearly in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, which it has won 36 times (a national record), and it appears to have a fantastic nightlife.