Kilkenny County is noted for its good farmland and forest parks, medieval ruins, and prehistoric sites. The county town, Kilkenny, on the banks of the River Nore is the country’s best medieval settlement. The city centre has both a cathedral and a castle and many historic buildings. The medieval street plan can be seen in the narrow alleyways (slips). The historic part is compact and easy to explore on foot. There are guided walks from the tourist office in old alms building on Rose Inn St. Kilkenny Attractions
The religious history of the city began in the 6th century with the founding of a church, but from the 2nd century the town was the Gaelic capital of Ossory and much involved in politics over the ensuing centuries. Several festivals are held in the city, one of which is the Kilkenny Arts festival in August. The tourist centre is located in 17th century almshouses which contain an exhibition and a scale model of the city as it looked in 1640. The 18th century building, the Tholsel, has mayoral regalia on show. A ruined tower and chancel, St Francis Abbey, sits in the grounds of a brewery that offers guided tours.
13th century (restored several times since) Protestant St Canice Cathedral is the second longest of Ireland’s medieval cathedrals. It was built in the Early English style. The interior has outstanding tombs, carvings, stained glass and a library. Climb the 9th century round tower for views of the city.
Set in 15 acres of parkland, Kilkenny castle is a 12th century building remodelled in Victorian times. The south range and one tower are gone as the result of Cromwell attacking them in 1650. The castle served as a home until the mid 1960s. On view in the interior are a library, drawing room, picture gallery, tapestries, and a collection of contemporary art. A rose garden is set in the parkland grounds. In the stables is the Kilkenny Design Centre with craft and design shops.
Rothe House on Parliament St, owned by Kilkenny Archaeological Society, is an example of a Tudor merchant's house with a period costume display, a collection of pictures, and artefacts of Kilkenny’s past. It also houses the library. Black Abbey at west end of Abbey street, also called Holy Trinity church, was founded in the 13th century for the Dominican friars. The nave dates from that time while the transept is 14th century and windows and stained glass are from the 15th century. The abbey was suppressed in 1543 after which it became a courthouse. In the late 1700s it was restored; then in the mid 1800s it became a parish church. Visits are not permitted during mass, times of which are displayed on the notice board outside the church.
The monastic ruins of 14-15th century Kells Priory, eight miles south of Kilkenny, covers five acres. It grew from the first monastery founded here in 1193. Remains include 15th century towers, walls, and tombs. West of Kells is the ancient market town of Callan. St Mary’s church on Main Street dates from 1460. Features are a medieval font, tombstones, and a 13th century west tower. The remains of a 15th century Augustinian priory are in the town.
Near where the N10 and N9 join is the village of Knocktopher. A tower, a 15th century tomb with effigies, a Romanesque doorway, and a window make up the ruined remains of a 15th century church. Also near the village are the ruins of a Carmelite friary.
Continuing south leads to 12th century Jerpoint Abbey, near Thomastown in the Nore valley. The national monument, on the banks of the Little Arrigle river, consists of well preserved Cistercian (formerly Benedictine) ruins, with many of the present buildings dating from the 15th century. The church retains the original transepts with two chapels. Wall paintings, effigies, and an aisled nave are in place. Remains of the east range of monastic buildings, 14th century carved cloisters, and a 15th century tower are in place. A visitor centre gives all the details.
Thomastown is an attractive walled town. Points of interest include a water garden, towers, 13th century church remains with an ancient high cross, and Grennan castle ruins on the outskirts of the town.
Just south of Thomastown is the attractive village of Inistioge on the banks of the Nore river crossed by a 10 arched bridge. Riverside walks can be enjoyed. The village green has a tree lined square with a 1780s pub on the east side and a 14th century castellated house on the west side.
In the village are the ruins of Black castle, an early 16th century tower in St Mary’s church with 17th century tombstones in the churchyard, and the remains of an Augustinian priory of 1210.
Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum on the banks of river Nore are being restored. Flower terraces, a winter garden, walks, rare trees, the ruins of Woodstock house built in 1745, a dovecote, and a grotto are attractions on the grounds.
Travelling north of Thomastown leads to Kilfane Glen and Waterfall, a woodland garden with paths, clifftops, streams, a grotto, and waterfall. The ruin of 13th century Kilfane church has a 14th century effigy. Another nearby garden is Mount Juliet, a walled estate garden with trees, lawns, and a geranium collection.
Just north of Kilfane is the 9th century 100 foot high Tullaherin Round Tower with a ruined 11th century church next to it. Nearby is a rural folk museum and Parochial House.
Bennettsbridge is an attractive village overlooking the river Nore. The village’s Nore View Folk Museum has collections of historic interest and old time rooms; more than 10,000 items in all are on display.
West of Thomastown is the popular boating center of Graiguenamanagh (Graig-na-manna). Pleasure barges cruise on the river Barrow which is spanned by an 18th century arched bridge.
13th century Duiske abbey (now a Catholic parish church) is the largest Irish Cistercian monastery with its long nave. Look up to see the wood roof constructed with wooden pegs. Go down the steps from the south transept to the original floor level to see the ancient decorated doorway off the south transept, a larger than life size knight. The Duiske Abbey Visitor Centre has an art exhibition and shop. There are historic crosses in the churchyard. A regatta is held on August bank holiday. The Cushendale woollen mills produce home textiles and accessories. The South Leinster way, a signposted walk, leads to Brandon hill above the town.
At Castlecomer, north of Kilkenny, is the Immaculate Conception church with its painted ceiling.
Between Kilkenny and Castlecomer is Dunmore Cave, a large cave formed in limestone. The caves are open to the public and have about a quarter mile of passageways. There are guided tours, a visitor centre and a museum. Discovery Park is also near Castlecomer. There are woodland trails and a multi-media experience about the area’s coalmining heritage. Fishing lakes and a craft centre complete the experience.
This is an area with many prehistoric ring forts. South-west of Castlecomer near Freshford, Kilcooly Abbey, built in 1182 and later reconstructed sits at the beginning of the Slieve Ardagh hills. In the partly rebuilt remains are a screen, east window, sculptures, tombs, memorial slabs, and carvings of interest. A dovecote sits in the grounds.
For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.
Tel. 0 56 21279
Kilkenny Castle grounds, Kilkenny
Tel. 0 56 61106
Castlecomer Discovery Park
Estate Park, Castlecomer
Tel. 0 56 444 0707
Web: Discovery Park
Cushendale Woollen Mills
Tel. 0 59 972 4118
Duiske Abbey Visitor Centre
Duiske Abbey, Graiguenamanagh
Tel. 059 972 4238
Tel. 0 56 67726
Thomastown, one mile to south-west
Tel. 056 772 4623
Tel. 056 772 8255 or 056 772 1450
Tel. 056 772 4482 or 056 772 4240
Kilfane Glen and Waterfall
Thomastown; north of Thomastown opposite Long Man Pub
Tel. 0 56 772 4558
Tel. 056 21450
Mount Juliet Gardens
Thomastown, signed from N9
Tel. 056 777 3000
Nore View Folk Museum
Tel. 056 772 7749
Parliament St, Kilkenny
Tel. 056 772 2893
Web: Kilkenny Archaeological Society
St Canice Cathedral and Library
Saint Mary’s Church
Tel. 353 1 647 2453
Tullaherin Round Tower
Tel. 056 772 4482 or 056 772 4240
Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum
Tel. 056 775 2699
County Kilkenny Tourist Information Centre
Kilkenny Tourist Information Centre
Shee Alms House
Rose Inn, St/Mary's Lane
Tel. 056 77 51500
Open year round
Photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
River Nore near Thomastown, Bennettsbridge houses by Kevin Higgins; Kilkenny New Buildings Lane near Rothe, St Canice Cathedral, Jerpoint abbey cloister arches, Woodstock garden yews, Woodstock Monkey Puzzle Drive, Tullaherin round tower by Humphrey Bolton; Kilkenny town leading from Parliament St to Black Abbey, Kilkenny Rothe House, Black Abbey, Inistioge village square, the Thosel, St Canice Cathedral round tower, Jerpoint abbey by Eirian Evans; Kilkenny Castle and gardens, Kilkenny Castle stables by Philip Halling; Kells priory by Dave Henderson; Knocktopher church ruins by Liam Murphy; Grennan castle and River Nore at Thomastown by Sarah777; Inistioge bridge by Paul O’Farrell; Inistioge St Mary church, Kilfane church ruins, Castlecomer Church of the Immaculate Conception by Liam Murphy; Graiguenamanagh main street, Graiguenamanagh upper Tinnahinch lock by Albert Bridge; Duiske abbey high cross, Freshford church doorway by dougf; Dunmore Cave entrance by Crispin Purdye
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