Happy July, everyone! Can you believe how warm it is? Here in Ireland, it has reached 31 or 32 degrees Celsius and it has been nothing short of lovely, catching some rays and being outside a lot. I hope you’re all getting a chance to enjoy the summer, with things reopening and travel slowly resuming!
In the meantime, I’m still managing to squeeze in some Irish views and landmarks and falling even more in love with this country. As I said in my Tips for Staycations, its perfect timing to discover your places! Last weekend was a chance for me and my family to travel down to County Kilkenny in Ireland’s South West. Kilkenny is a special place for my family as it’s where my grandmother hails from and we still have strong ties to the area.
I fell in love with Kilkenny when I went there a few years ago, and here are some of the reasons and a recommendation on things to do and see in The Marble County
5. Natural Areas
No matter which part of Kilkenny you arrive from, whether it’s coming from Dublin, Tipperary or Laois, the county boasts some stellar natural views and areas to discover. On my second-last visit to the county, we visited a beautiful waterfall in Kilfane Glen, just outside Thomastown. This area is a beautiful walkway into the woods which leads to this great flowing waterfall. This is just one of the natural beauties you can find in the county. There are plenty of walking and hiking trails to be found in Kilkenny. Some of the most prominent mountainous areas include Coppanagh and Brandon Hill, which, on clear days, make for perfect places to get good views of the county. TrailKilkenny.ie is a great way to find out what places to hike and visit.
As well as waterfalls and mountains, County Kilkenny lays on the River Nore, the river that flows through Kilkenny City. This river flows down through the County and helps create some quaint riverside towns and villages like Bennetsbridge and Inistoige. The River Nore and its adjoining towns are beautiful to explore and, if its warm, take a dip!
4. Medieval and Religious History
Once you enter Kilkenny City, you can definitely tell that it is a place of historical significance and the weight of Kilkenny’s history is uber present in the city. One of the most prominent landmarks in the city is Kilkenny Castle. I’ve been fortunate enough to enter and take a tour around this magnificent place and get to see the history of the lords and ladies who inhabited the Castle. Kilkenny Castle is a focal feature of the city, showing how immediate and important the nobility deemed themselves in these times. It’s fascinating to take a walk through the manicured gardens or to peer out the windows from inside the Castle and feel the presence of Ireland’s Medieval History.
As well as Kilkenny Castle, there is the famed Medieval Mile, which is a tourism product which shows the various monuments, landmarks and stories that make Kilkenny the Medieval riverside city with so much charm. Also prominent in the city is the varied Religious Landmarks and places of worship dotted around the place. From the Dominican Black Abbey to Saint Canice’s Cathedral, religion, which plays a part in Irish history, is present within the city limits.
3. Food and Drink
Usually when I visit Kilkenny, my aunt is generally who keeps us fed (She makes THE best Rhubarb Tart). But thankfully, on this latest trip, I managed to sample some of the eateries and see some of the finest dining places in the various towns I visited. In the city itself, every corner has a great outdoor eating space, which, in the sunshine, looked absolutely amazing. Some places in the Left Bank area like Louie’s, the Hibernian, Kafe Katz and The Ormonde all looked to have delicious dinner and lunch options. On our evening dinner, we sampled the fine cuisine of Butcher. We sat out in an cobbled alley with the sun beaming down. Their burgers are incredible. Their half chicken main is phenomenal and the drinks they serve are strong and delicious. Down the street from there is a beautiful bar called “Paris Texas” with another nice outdoor area on a cobbled alley. Kilkenny City definitely is a bustling spot. Muse Cafe, Kytelers Inn and Petronella are solid places to check out also.
There is a great food scene in Kilkenny. Down the road in Thomastown is a delicious bar/eatery called “Toast” which have a beautiful, compact menu of food. We had the pleasure of stopping for breakfast and got to try their breakfast burritos and sandwiches which were so fresh and their coffee offering is tasty also. One thing I wish to try when I return is the local craft beers of Kilkenny, most notably, Costelloes pale ale which I saw tapped in Toast. A little further south in the little village of Inistoige, Woodstock Bar in the centre of the square is a great place to get a filling lunch. On the sunday we visited, the outdoor area was bustling and the food looked delicious. Similarly in Inistoige, a new coffee cart called Gourmet House had a great coffee, sandwich and cold drink offering!
Kilkenny is definitely a food place to keep an eye on!
2. Great Travel Base
With it being close proximity to other counties like Carlow, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford, Kilkenny is great place to use as a base to explore the South East of Ireland. Connected with decent roadways and also a rail line, choosing The Marble County would be a smart choice. Not only is it well connected, but Kilkenny has a great selection of accommodation for a variety of travelers. In the most recent stay, we rented an Airbnb in the beautiful Wallslough Village. A thatched cottage with room for five or six people. Once you enter the city limits, you’ll see various hotels signposted, like the Kilkenny Ormonde, Kilford Arms and Kilkenny River Court. There is a great selection of places for families, couples, solo travellers etc.
Mixing in the previous points, and considering the connectivity and accommodation offering, for Irish tourists, Kilkenny is the ideal place for a staycation and for international visitors, Kilkenny is a must-stop place for you when you’re exploring, as you’re not too far from other locations or the coast.
1. Art, Culture and Sport
One of the most impressive things about Kilkenny is the very impressive display of Culture. Driving in past Kilkenny Castle, you’re met with stalls and craft stands with different kind of art and handcrafted ornaments. Lately, I’ve been appreciating art and culture a lot more when I travel, so I like to explore and take in the local art scene wherever I visit. In Kilkenny, a recent place I had discovered online and wanted to check out was Butler Art Gallery. On our first full day in Kilkenny, we decided to take a visit. It was very impressive, inside a brand new, renovated building. Butler Art Gallery plays host to some famous artists like Thomas and Jane O’Malley, Aideen Barry, Hughie O’Donohue and a moving video installation by Richard Mosse. Definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in Kilkenny.
I’m also a creature who loves Art festivals. A frequent attendee of the Galway International Arts Festival and the Sligo Live Festival, I enjoy seeing the art and culture literally on display at these festivals and Kilkenny is no different. The home of the Kilkenny Arts Festival which showcases some amazing Irish content, art and theatre (in usual times) and is definitely a festival you should check out!
Sport is another HUGE part of Kilkenny culture. Kilkenny people are strong and passionate supporters of the Irish sport of Hurling. You’ll have a hard time trying to find a resident of the county who doesn’t support the Kilkenny Hurling Team. My grandmother hasn’t lived in Kilkenny in over 40 years and she still shouts just as loud for her team as the people of Kilkenny themselves. The black and amber colours of the team can be seen all over the city and throughout places in the county. If you’re exploring Ireland, do check out our national GAA Sports, they’re certainly something to experience!
Kilkenny has a special place in my heart. As someone who enjoys finding their family roots and enjoying family history, it’s a strong reason why I love the county but the whole place is just breathtaking with its views, food, culture and natural beauty! I’d very much recommend checking out this stunning county!
Be sure to check out @TravelwDavid on instagram and @TourismDavid on Twitter for more pictures and stories on my travels!