The Kilkenny Must Do List

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Cobbled streets filled with medieval charm, an abundance of local craft and plenty of craic – it’s easy to see why a visit to county Kilkenny makes for an unforgettable break.

Kilkenny Castle and Gardens
The interior of St Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny
Left: Kilkenny Castle and its gardens | Right: The interior of St Canice's Cathedral

It's been a long time coming, and we have an ideal destination for that trip you've been dreaming about. Whether you want to get lost in history, marvel at architecture or take a moonlit stroll along the river, there’s so much now open for discovery. To get you started, here’s our pick of things to do in the Marble City and beyond.
 

Kilkenny Castle, Park and Gardens

Although you’ll find Kilkenny Castle right in the heart of the city, once you’re inside its walls you’ll feel like you’ve travelled back in time. Originally built by the Normans in 1195, Kilkenny Castle with its magnificent gardens, woodland paths and a man-made lake, all added in the 19th century, is the perfect place to forget about the real world. The castle is open to visitors throughout the year, with a tearoom for refreshments, a playground if you’re bringing kids and the magnificent Long Gallery for art lovers.
 

St. Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower

The round tower of St. Canice’s Cathedral is the oldest standing structure in Kilkenny and, weather permitting, you’re invited to climb to the top of its 30 metres for incredible views of the city and surrounding countryside. The religious roots of the site go back centuries, evident in the ancient tombstones and round-headed stained glass windows. 
 

Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile 

Running through the centre of Kilkenny city, The Medieval Mile is a discovery trail linking St. Canice’s Cathedral and the Anglo-Norman castle and much more in between. The Medieval Mile Pass gives you access to everything on the trail, as well as discounts for various cafes and restaurants, and is the best value way to see the attractions along the route.

Learning how to brew at the Smithwick's Experience, Kilkenny
Jerpoint Abbey, County Kilkenny
Left: Learning how to brew at the Smithwick's Experience, Kilkenny | Right: Exploring at Jerpoint Abbey

The Smithwick’s Experience

Taking in the sights can be thirsty work. Right in the heart of the Medieval Mile, you’ll find The Smithwick’s Experience, the perfect spot to learn about the brewing process behind the famed local ale, while sampling a creamy pint. You can learn about the rich history of Smithwick’s from the moving portraits and monk holograms on the tour.
 

Jerpoint Glass Studio

Take a 20-minute spin out to pretty Thomastown to check out a family-run business where playing with fire is actively encouraged. Here you’ll find Jerpoint Glass Studio which is run by the four siblings whose parents established the internationally-renowned business in 1979. Every piece is made by hand and you’ll get to watch skilled glassblowers manipulate the red-hot molten glass.

 

Jerpoint Abbey & Jerpoint Park

While you’re there, nearby Jerpoint Abbey is wonderfully preserved from its 1158 origins and you can get a fascinating glimpse into the life of the Cistercian monks who once lived there. Afterwards, take a walk, or a drive to Jerpoint Park where you can see the remains of a deserted medieval town. During the summer you can even watch sheepdog demonstrations as man’s best friend rounds up herds of sheep.

Jeweler Rudolf Heltzel at work at the Kilkenny Design Centre
The Kilkenny Design Shop
Left: Jeweler Rudolf Heltzel at work at the Kilkenny Design Centre | Right: The Kilkenny Design Shop

Castlecomer Discovery Park

Put the phones down and let nature take over at Castlecomer Discovery Park where treetop walks, climbing walls, ziplines, canoeing and orienteering are just some of the activities you can enjoy with the family.
 

Kilkenny Design Centre

Back in The Marble City, Kilkenny Design Centre is renowned for showcasing emerging Irish craftspeople and their exceptional work. Come, browse and bring home your choice of Irish-designed jewellery, knitwear, fine china, pottery or glass. Don’t leave without dining in the award-winning Anocht restaurant, with delicious homemade food served daily.
 

Highbank Organic Orchards

The Calder-Potts family produce delicious apple juices, ciders and their cult product, Highbank Organic Orchard Syrup at Highbank Organic Orchards in Cuffesgrange, just ten minutes outside Kilkenny city. Visit the farm, which dates back to the 17th century and pop into the organic farm shop to stock up on their ‘Pip to Sip’ produce.
 
With its fascinating history, cultural experiences, outdoor activities and great food, Kilkenny is just waiting to be experienced. To ensure that your visit goes to plan, 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 mapping out 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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