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Guide to Kilkenny City
Kilkenny City has an enchanting allure that is difficult to resist. 12th century Kilkenny Castle still watches over a city which has managed to preserve many of its medieval streets, laneways and houses. Locals are understandably proud of their heritage Then there is the modern side of Kilkenny with its top class restaurants, trendy shopping outlets, atmospheric pubs and vibrant nightlife. It all mixes nicely together to create a wonderful destination experience.
Kilkenny claims to be the home of Hurling, a traditional Irish field sport played for over 3,000 years. You can learn the basic skills of how to hurl, take a guided tour of the local hurling stadium, and enjoy a traditional Irish lunch on ‘The Kilkenny Way’. This is a great activity idea to occupy kids and teens for a few hours and all the family can participate. Tours depart daily during the summer season from Lanigan’s Bar on Rose Inn Street.
Due to it’s compact size, it’s possible to spend a very pleasant half-day exploring Kilkenny City’s main visitor attractions on foot. There’s also the option of hopping on board the ‘Kilkenny City Tours’ black and amber road train. Kilkenny Castle still commands a dramatic presence overlooking a once strategic crossing on the River Nore. Guided tours are available of the castle’s lavish interior while visitors are free to stroll at their own leisure through the sweeping parklands.
The top of the round tower at St Canice’s Catherdral gave a great panoramic view of Kilkenny while Rothe House is an amazingly well preserved 16th Century town residence and gardens, open to visitors. St Francis Abbey Brewery is also situated on Parliament Street. The Smithwick’s Brewery Tour is a fully guided walking tour of Ireland’s oldest operating bewery and includes a chance to see the stunning 13th century abbey, located on the site. The Butter Slip alleyway also gives a wonderfully atmospheric sense of Kilkenny’s past, as does the 700 year old Black Abbey with its Gothic architecture, ancient weatherworn, leaning graves and stained glass windows.
Visitors are spoilt for choice with the sheer number of excellent places to eat, including Campagne, La Rivista, Swans, Zuni and Lautrecs to mention but a few. It’s always best to book a few hours in advance if planning a weekend visit.
Kilkenny also boasts a great selection of pubs. The Poc Fada is a popular local haunt, painted in Kilkenny’s county colours of black and amber, while the ‘Left Bank’ is the trendiest new venue in town, with its retro art décor and hip ambience. Kyteler’s Inn is a must visit pub, named after Dame Alice Kyteler, a 14th century inn keeper who was accused of using witchcraft to poison three of her husbands – no time for messy divorces with her! Find a cosy table next to a warm stove and sampled some Kilkenny Ale or a pint of Smithwicks.
There are some great B&B guest homes in Kilkenny City offering authentic hospitality, high standard accommodation and that all important - peaceful night’s sleep. B&B hosts also have a wealth of local knowledge which they are happy to share over a cup of tea and friendly chat.
It’s worth considering planning your visit to coincide with one of Kilkenny’s many festivals as they tend to generate a great buzz about town. These include the Kilkenny Arts Festival, The Cat Laughs Comedy Festival, Kilkenny Celtic Festival, Savour Kilkenny - Festival of Food, and the Kilkenny Horse Racing Festival at Gowran Park. Festivals aside, anytime of year is still a good time to visit Kilkenny.