To put it bluntly, I really liked Kilkenny!

It may be the smallest city in Ireland, but for a time during the 17th century Kilkenny was unofficially the capital of Ireland.  Within its walls (or what is still standing of said walls), you’ll find an incredible blend of colour, food, sport and history … especially history!

Now I’m no history buff, but even I was mighty impressed with Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile.  I’m pretty sure I walked much more than a mile in exploring it (map here), but I was more than happy to get my legs pumping and spend my time in Kilkenny unlocking the past.

A mere 2 hours from Dublin by train or car, Kilkenny is a city you simply must visit, and here’s 45 reasons taken from it’s medieval mile as to why.

Kilkenny Castle

Towering over Kilkeny is it’s not so inconspicuous castle, the perfect place to start your medieval mile exploration.

Built in 1195 by William Marshal (the 4th Earl of Pembroke), beside the River Nore, the castle was seen as the cities prime line of defence against invasion.

Now owned by the people of Kilkenny after the previous owner sold up for a mere £50 in 1967, you can explore the outside of the castle and gardens for free, or for a small fee you can take a tour of the inside rooms.  A tour lasts around 45 minutes.

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The Castle Yard + National Craft Gallery

Over the road from Kilkenny Castle you’ll find the castle yard. Built in 1790 as a stable house, today the yard serves a very different purpose and is  home to the National Craft Gallery and Kilkenny Design Craft Centre.  Go check out one or two of the exhibits, some are free!

Kilkenny Castle Yard

National Craft Gallery Kilkenny

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Butler House and Gardens

Ah Butler’s House, a little oasis within Kilkenny … not that Kilkenny is overly crazy though.

The Butler House was once a dower house to Kilkenny Castle, but today it operates as a hotel which you obviously need to pay for if you wish to stay the night, but to wander the beautiful gardens is free of charge.

Butler House and Gardens Kilkenny

Butler House and Gardens Kilkenny

Butler House and Gardens Kilkenny

Butler House and Gardens Kilkenny

Butler House and Gardens Kilkenny

St Canice Cathedral and Tower

This might have been my favourite sight along the Medieval Mile.  The church was stunning, and the views from the top of the tower were very much worth the climb.

The Round Tower is the oldest standing structure in Kilkenny, and 1 of only 2 such towers in Ireland which you can climb.

Inside the church keep an eye out for the Great East Window, which shows a number of scenes from the life of Christ. So well thought of was the window upon its original creation that a Roman Cardinal once tried to buy the window so that he could have it shipped back to Rome.  The offer of purchase was turned down and the window remained in Kilkenny until Cromwell and his army showed up and destroyed it.  Lucky for us today, the window designs were not lost and a version 2 was created using those same original designs.  Phew!

Unlike some of the previous Mile attractions, to enter St Canice Church and climb the Round Tower will cost you.  But it’s not overly expensive (there is a discounted combo ticket offer) and is well worth paying out for.

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Talbert Tower

Careful, or you might miss this one!

Once upon a time (1300), Kilkenny had a great stone wall encircling and protecting it.  It was in fact the largest walled town in Ireland. The wall, which stood at 8m tall and 2m thick protected the people and market places of the Kilkenny from outside invasion and allowed the town to flourish.

Sadly the wall has since come down, or at least most of it has.  Of the parts that still stand, Talbert Tower is one of the most significant, and for that we have the Kilkenny Borough Council’s City Walls steering committee to thank.

It is possible to visit the tower and learn more about Kilkenny’s history.

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St. Mary’s Cathedral

St Mary’s Cathedral a towering Roman Catholic structure.

Work began on the Church in April 1843 and finished in 1857 at a cost of nearly £25,000. The design was based upon the design of Gloucester Cathedral.

It’s another of the Medieval Mile’s ‘hard to miss’ attractions.  Standing some 180ft tall, the Cathedral is also located at one of the highest points in the city.

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The Hole In The Wall

Thirsty work is exploring the mile, so why not take a break and stop in a Kilkenny’s oldest

The Hole In The Wall is a 16th Century tavern in Ireland’s oldest surviving townhouse.  It’s a bit of a hidden gem in that the entrance is tucked away down a back alley.

It isn’t literally a hole in the wall though, the bar is rather nice, snug maybe but very nice.   The name comes from a hole being punched in a wall in order for access to be gained to the bar.

Great for a cheeky pint, and if you’re lucky maybe a few stories from the bar staff too.

the hole in the wall pub, kilkenny

The Black Abbey

The Black Abbey was founded in 1225 by Sir William Marshall (Earl of Pembroke) for the Dominican Friars.

Like St Canice Chuch above, the Abbey was another site along the mile which the abbey is another site along the Medieval Mile which fell to Cromwell’s army (1650), but which was also rebuilt (1864).

The origin of the name ‘The Black Abbey’ is still up for debate, with 2 main theories favoured.  The first claims that the name is derived from the black capes worn by the Dominicans.  The second theory claims that the Abbey is named after the black plague that claimed the lives of 8 priests in 1348.

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the black abbey kilkenny

the black abbey kilkenny

the black abbey kilkenny

St John’s Priory

Admittedly I never entered St John’s Parish while in Kilkenny, but I was particularly taken with original parish ruin archway at the rear of the parish.

The parish was built in the 13th Century by the Augustinians.  Today, with the original parish in ruin,   the Lady’s Chapel which underwent renovations in the 1800s, is used for worship.

This is yet another site along the Medieval Mile which features spectacular windows and stained glass works.

St John's Priory Kilkenny

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St John's Priory Kilkenny

Staying in Kilkenny

So there you go, that’s 45 reasons to visit Kilkenny.

Getting to Kilkenny is really quite easy.  The train takes 2 hours from Dublin and drops you off just minutes away from the city centre.

In there city there are an abundance of nice bars, restaurants and coffee shops.  There are also a lot of independent shops, and it shouldn’t take you too long pick up on the trend of black and amber.  These two colours represent the Kilkenny Cats, the city’s famed Hurling team.  If you are a sports fanatic, be sure to check out the Kilkenny way ultimate hurling experience.  I sure did and had a great time learning how to connect hurly with sliotar.

Driving to Kilkenny is another option, although parking is not always easy, so I would recommend staying at a hotel which has its own car park.  So if you’re planning on visiting Kilkenny and are in need of a few hotel recommendations, let the guys at Expedia lend you a hand.

Where is Kilkenny?

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