Kick off your tour of this intriguing medieval city at
Built in the 12th century and bought by the Butler family in 1391, during the Irish Civil War this huge Norman pile was besieged by the Free State forces while the Butlers barricaded themselves into a bedroom – along with their Pekingese dogs. More tales await along the city's Medieval Mile. You’ll pass the Shee Alms House, built in 1582 to “accommodate 12 poor persons”; Kyteler’s Inn, owned by Alice Kyteler – the first person in Ireland to be accused of witchcraft; and St Canice’s Cathedral, one of only two round towers in the county that you can climb. Leaving Kilkenny, the scenery softens into a deep green towards Bennettsbridge, where you’ll find the pottery wares of Nicholas Mosse, housed in a beautiful old mill. Stop off at Thomastown, founded in the 13th century by an Anglo-Norman mercenary, Thomas Fitz Anthony, before taking a slight detour (it’s worth it) to Mount Juliet. Named after a 16-year-old bride back in the 1750s, the hotel estate is the perfect place to relax with something to eat in The Manor House. Back on the road, pass through Thomastown once more before heading south to the quiet village of Inistioge on the River Nore, and on to pretty Graiguenamanagh.
If you have more time:
Walk, canoe or cycle from Graiguenamanagh to the ecclesiastical village of St Mullins along the River Barrow. It's an easy trail of about 7km past weirs and loughs with wonderful views.