Kilkenny: Home of Irish Craft and Design


Kilkenny has become quite the mecca for artists and craftspeople. Buoyed by beautiful spaces and supportive initiatives like the Made in Kilkenny collective, artists flock to the area to place themselves at the epicentre of Irish design. 

A couple visiting Kilkenny Design Centre
Glassmaking in action
Left: Enjoying Kilkenny Design Centre | Right: Glassmaking in action

If you're hungry for inspiration after staring at the same four walls for months, after a soul soothing art tour of Kilkenny you’re sure to come away energised; and with some beautiful gifts and new additions for your own home to boot. If you're getting ready to visit the Marble City, these eight places are a must for design and craft lovers.

Kilkenny Design Centre

The first place to visit on your design and craft tour in Kilkenny is one of Ireland’s most exciting art spaces, Kilkenny Design Centre, in the old stables of historic Kilkenny Castle. The Design Centre has impressive collections of jewellery, knitwear, gifts and glassware from some of the best craftspeople and designers in Ireland. When you visit make sure to  leave time for lunch, as Kilkenny Design Centre is home to the award-winning Anocht restaurant. 

Castle Arch Pottery

After your visit to the Design Centre, pop into Castle Arch Pottery in the Castle Yard where Ray Power set up his own pottery business in 1993. With designs inspired by Ireland’s rich tradition of storytelling, you’ll be able to watch the beautiful pieces being made and glazed during your visit. 

The National Design and Craft Gallery

Also located at Castle Yard, the National Design and Craft Gallery is a pivotal spot for artists looking to expand their repertoire, and for visitors to a number of critically acclaimed exhibitions programmes. Marvel at the ceramics, glass, textiles, jewellery and exceptional furniture on view – you’re sure to come away inspired.

Butler Gallery

Across the road in Kilkenny Castle, The Butler Gallery is a contemporary gallery space housed in the old castle kitchens where domestic and international talent is showcased, including an impressive collection of 20th century art. Entry is free and The Butler Gallery opens every day.

Kilkenny Castle's Butler Gallery
 Nicholas Mosse Pottery
Left: Kilkenny Castle's Butler Gallery | Right: Nicholas Mosse Pottery

Kilkenny Crystal

The world renowned Kilkenny Crystal produces only a limited number of pieces each year. The workshop, which specialises in bowls, vases, stemware and chandeliers, was founded in 1969 by Patrick Clancy, the first Irish-born crystal designer and a true master of his craft. Each piece is cut by hand and polished with care to produce a fine finish. Look out for Kilkenny Crystal as you explore the city.

Jerpoint Glass

A short 20-minute spin from the city will bring you to charming Thomastown, the home of family-owned Jerpoint Glass Studio. Watching the skilled glassblowers manipulate red-hot molten glass into stunning pieces of design is a mesmerising experience.

Nicholas Mosse Pottery

Set in a former flour mill in the picturesque village of Bennettsbridge, just 8km from Kilkenny city, craft enthusiasts will recognise Nicholas Mosse’s distinctive designs from 50 paces. At the impressive three-floor studio and shop, you’ll learn all about out how Nicholas started life as a potter in earnest at the age of seven, and went on to create pottery, linen and glass that’s sought after all around the world. Relax upstairs in the Mill Café afterwards, enjoying pretty views of the River Nore. 

Pottery produced in Kilkenny
Kilkenny Craft Centre
Left: Pottery produced in Kilkenny | Right: A couple enjoying Kilkenny Craft Centre

Moth to a Flame

While you’re in Bennettsbridge, pop into neighbouring Moth to a Flame to see distinctive, handmade candles including silkmoth scented, glow-globe and rock candles in production. Owner Larry is a founding member of the Made in Kilkenny group of craftspeople, who aim to foster excellence in crafts in the county. 

As you're crafting your break and designing an itinerary, be sure to contact individual attractions and businesses in advance to confirm they're ready to welcome visitors again. Because our changed world means a new focus on public protection, social distancing and safe travel measures will be essential everywhere — as explained in the new nationwide COVID-19 Safety Charter.

While you're creating your next adventure, there are many more ways to find something for everyone in Ireland's Ancient East. Ready to go further afield? Find out more about how to Make a Break for It in other regions of our amazing island...

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