Ireland's Medieval Capital
Kilkenny has a wealth of historical attractions for you to explore from the majestic Kilkenny Castle to Cathedrals, Churches, Merchants Houses, Medieval Monuments, Ruins, and Round Towers. There’s a lot of history to be explored in a city that was founded in the 6th Century!
Founded in 1172 and remodelled in Victorian times this majestic stone castle stands beside the river and within a 50 acre park. Two wings of the Castle have been restored to their 19th century splendour and include a library, drawing room and magnificent Long Gallery. The river wing also houses the Butler Gallery of contemporary art. The park is a lovely spot for picnics on a summers day and there’s a really great playground for kids.
Built between 1202 and 1285 this graceful Cathedral has been preserved in its original style and form. Inside the massive walls is an exuberant Gothic interior, given a sombre grandeur by the extensive use of the locally quarried black marble. Worship has taken place here for 800 years. See the wonderful stained glass and the large collection of ancient monuments. Look out for concerts and hushed performances in this beautiful venue during Kilkenny Arts Festival.
In the grounds of St Canice’s Cathedral this 102 foot high round tower was built in 847 by the King of Ossory and is all that remains of the monastic development reputedly begun in the 6th century. Climb the 167 steps for panoramic views over the city’s rooftops.
One of Ireland’s oldest and most beloved churches the 13th century Dominican Black Abbey has a gorgeous stained glass and carved stone interior. The correct title of the church is the Abbey of the Most Holy Trinity but as the Dominicans were known as Black Friars from the black cloak worn over the white habit, the popular name Black Abbey came into use. At the entrance are 10 stone coffins from the 13th and 14th century that were found during excavations.
Built by John Rothe between 1594 and 1610 Rothe House is one of the finest examples in Ireland of a Tudor era merchant’s house. Now owned by Kilkenny Archaeological Society it houses a collection of Bronze Age artifacts, ogham stones and period costumes. The Garden is a recreation of a historic garden from the 17th century and is the only urban garden of this period which is open to the public. The lower garden contains vegetables and herbs that would have been grown in the 17th century and the upper garden or orchard contains a large range of fruit trees.
Housed in the oldest surviving townhouse in Ireland – the 1582 Archer Inner House just off the High street, the Hole in the Wall is a renowned 18th century tavern. Fully restored over the past 10 years the Elizabethan building with its tavern, snug and Archer room are now open to visitors for the first time in hundreds of years. Tours currently take place on the weekends and describe the story of the house against the backdrop of the complex history of political and religious change in Kilkenny over the past 400 years. It is also a lovely venue for lectures, music, poetry and theatre and has an eclectic and interesting programme of events. Or just pop in for a glass of wine in the evening and a chat to the affable host.
In the gorgeous surrounds of Thomastown County Kilkenny, Jerpoint Abbey is a Cisterian Abbey founded in 1158. In Medieval times there was a town of Jerpoint but this had fallen into ruin by the seventeenth century. Jerpoint Abbey is regarded as one of the most interesting Cistercian ruins in Ireland and features unique stone carvings on the pillars of the cloister.
Kells was the medieval capital of Ireland and its Augustinian Priory was founded in 1193. One of the most striking features of the Priory is its collection of medieval tower houses spaced at intervals along and within walls which enclose a site of just over 3 acres. These give the priory the appearance more of a fortress than of a place of worship and from them comes its local name of ‘Seven Castles’. The existing extensive ruin mostly dates from the 14th and 15th centuries and consists of a church, a chapel, prior’s residence or sacristy and a number of domestic buildings. In a lovely spot along the Kings river and just ten mins drive from Kilkenny city Kells is well worth a visit.
Dunmore Cave is an underground limestone cave situated in the north of Kilkenny formed by limestone laid over 300 million years ago. It is one of the most famous caves in Ireland, and although it is small, it is steeped in history and was once thought to be one of the darkest places in Ireland. The inside of the cave is murky and wet, with shimmering stalactites and stalagmites protruding from the floor and ceiling, contains almost a quarter of a mile of passages and at its deepest point is 150 foot below the surface.