Great to be back with you all as we continue our journeys around Ireland. This week it’s the turn of county Kilkenny in the southeast of the country. This gorgeous county boasts a wealth of heritage sites. The countryside is rolling and idyllic while Kilkenny city itself buzzes with life against a stunning medieval backdrop. So let’s start with it’s most visited attraction right in the center of the city.
Lulus Top Places to Visit in county Kilkenny
1. Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny Castle is one of Ireland’s most recognizable castles and dominates the city skyline. Strongbow built the first castle on this site in the 12th century which would have most likely been a wooden building. William the Earl Marshall completed the first stone castle in 1213. The original structure was square with four towers at each corner and three of these towers survive to this day. James Butler, the 3rd Earl of Ormonde bought the castle in 1391.
The powerful Butler dynasty resided at the castle for over 500 years. In 1967, Arthur Butler, the 6th Marquess of Ormonde sold it to the people of Kilkenny for the nominal fee of £50. The state took control of the castle in 1969. Since then it has been beautifully restored with an impressive art gallery and beautiful parklands. Interesting fact; the highest Irish recorded air temperature of 33.3 degrees Celsius was taken at Kilkenny castle in June 1887!
2. St. Canice’s Cathedral
St. Canice or Cainnech in Irish, was a medieval abbot and missionary who was born in 515 AD. The name Kilkenny is actually the anglicized version of Cill Chainnigh, meaning “Church of Cainneach”. The present Gothic building dates back to the 13th century although the site has been a place of Christian worship since the 6th century. A 100 foot round tower dating back to the 9th century stands beside the cathedral. It is one of only 3 round towers in Ireland which can still be accessed to the top commanding stunning views of the surrounding area. The cathedral is also the second longest in Ireland after St.Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.
3. Dunmore Cave
Time to get out of the city now and travel to Ballyfoyle and the site of county Kilkenny’s impressive Dunmore Cave. This is a place of legend and myth with a dark history. Before the 18th century no one dared to explore Ireland’s many caves as they were considered to conceal dark and foreboding underworlds but today people love to explore it’s 300 feet of passages and caverns.
The Annals of The Four Masters state that Dunmore Cave was the site of a massacre by the Vikings of Dublin in 923 AD. While on their way to Waterford, the Vikings came across the cave where they discovered women and children hiding there. They lit fires to drive them out but it is stated that 1000 people died from the suffocating smoke. The discovery of the bones of some 44 people in 1973 provides some evidence of this gruesome event. A horde of silver and bronze artifacts were also discovered in 1999 so giving us more proof of the presence of the Vikings.
4. Kytelers Inn
We’re heading back into the city now to Kyteler’s Inn in the heart of medieval Kilkenny. This place has an intriguing connection to our last location! Kytelers Inn is the oldest in Kilkenny, dating back to the 12th century. Dame Alice Kyteler established the inn which was an extension of her lavish home that she shared with her first husband, William Outlawe. When William mysteriously died 3 years later, tongues started to wag. Her next marriage to Adam le Blund also ended with his untimely death as did her third marriage to Richard de Valle. All three husbands had left everything in their wills to Alice making her one of the wealthiest people in Kilkenny.
When her fourth husband, the wealthy Sir John le Poer fell ill, his children grew suspicious, especially as he was thinking of leaving his fortune to Alice. They convinced their father that Alice was trying to kill him. The story goes that upon searching Alice’s room, her husband found poisons and potions. He reported this to the Bishop Of Ossory who then had Alice charged with heresy and witchcraft. When Alice’s close friend Petronella was whipped into confessing to witchcraft and heresies performed by her mistress, Alice’s fate was sealed. However, she managed to escape from the dungeons of Kilkenny Castle and fled to England. On the way, it is said she sought refuge in the aforementioned Dunmore Cave.
Today, Kytelers Inn is the perfect place for great Guinness, great food and some toe-tapping traditional Irish music.
5. Newtown Jerpoint
No visit to county Kilkenny would be complete without trip to the lost medieval town of Newtown Jerpoint. Step back in time all the way to the 12th century. Discover the deserted remains of a vibrant town that was made up of 27 dwelling houses, a courthouse, a brewery, a tannery, a mill and 14 taverns! The ruins of St.Nicholas’ church can also be found here and legend has that saint who inspired the myth of Santa Claus is buried here!
So there’s my greatest hits from the very fine county Kilkenny. Before I go, it’s worth noting that county Kilkenny is the home of some of Ireland’s finest Celtic Jewelry makers. Some of my favorite pieces from The Irish Store are crafted here, including this stunning brooch.
In the meantime shop the best of Irish below and save up to 75% on our Black Friday deal as well as free shipping!
Take care and thanks for dropping by,
Slán go fóill!