Local Stories: The Master Glass Blower

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In keeping with Kilkenny’s strong artistic tradition, the time-honoured technique of glass blowing at Jerpoint Glass is an impressive sight for visitors to behold. The hand-shaping method ensures that each piece is lovingly made – and truly one of a kind.
Jerpoint Abbey view

Watch Rory’s Story

Watch Rory’s Story
Rory Leadbetter has been making magic with glass since he was a teenager. His father Keith originally learned the craft of glass blowing in Sweden, before moving to Ireland in the late 1970s and meeting Rory’s mother, Kathleen. The couple settled in Kilkenny, and Jerpoint Glass was born – 40 years later, the business is still very much a family affair (where almost everyone involved is a relation, including all Rory’s siblings).

Visitors watch as red-hot molten glass is gathered from the furnace, heated and cooled strategically to skilfully alter its shape – and gain an appreciation for the intricacies involved, and the individual beauty of each piece. Rory proudly upholds this tradition: “We make glass the way it’s been made for hundreds of years – completely hand-finished. Every piece is a snowflake; you’ll never find two glasses that are exactly the same.”
Rory Leadbetter of Jerpoint Glass
Jerpoint Glass being made
Rory at work in the studio
Left: Rory Leadbetter of Jerpoint Glass | Middle: Jerpoint Glass being made | Right: Rory at work in the studio
Although Rory has travelled the world, there’s no place he would rather live than his beloved home county. Many visitors to the studio ask for his advice when it comes to local sights, and he always mentions Brandon Hill – the tallest mountain in Kilkenny, it’s a beautiful area for walking or hiking.

Just down the road from the studio, his favourite spot is Jerpoint Abbey, the ruins of a 12th century Cistercian monastery. “The abbey is thousands of years old, and one of the few places where you can go in and have a look around. There are lots of little hidden carvings in and around it; it’s one of Ireland’s Ancient East’s hidden gems.”
The looped walk on Brandon Hill
The ruins at Jerpoint Abbey
Woman making pottery at Castlecomer Craft Yard
Left: Brandon Hill looped walk | Middle: The hidden gem, Jerpoint Abbey | Right: Pottery making at Castlecomer Craft Yard
For outdoorsy types, he suggests Castlecomer Discovery Park. With over 80 acres of woodland and lakeside to explore, it’s the ideal location to bask in nature. There’s also ziplining for the fearless, tree-top walks, and the Castlecomer Craft Yard – home to some of Ireland’s most innovative artists.

Rory also recommends Malzards/O'Grady pub in Stoneyford, renowned for rolling out the red carpet – whether it’s providing live music for visitors, teaching them how to pull a pint, or giving them a taste of traditional Irish sport with a hurling lesson!
Kilkenny Castle and garden
Smoked salmon
Kilkenny Design Centre
Left: Kilkenny Castle | Middle: Delicious Kilkenny food | Right: Handcrafted jewellery at Kilkenny Design Centre
Meanwhile, in medieval Kilkenny City those seeking the handmade, unusual and unique are spoilt for choice – the Design Centre (across from Kilkenny Castle) being only one example of the many delights on offer.

As Rory elaborates: “When visitors come to Kilkenny, I think they’re always impressed by the sheer density of creative people…a lot have flocked here – we’re now synonymous with craft foods and beers, and craft makers like ourselves. I think when people come to Ireland’s Ancient East, that’s what they’re looking for.”

MORE STORIES...AND KILKENNY EXPERIENCES


There’s so much to do in Kilkenny – with many more stories just waiting to be discovered.
Enjoy your escape in Ireland's Ancient East!

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check out the See & Do section