6 Brilliant Free Things To Do in Kilkenny

From beautiful parks, gardens and museums to craft shops and cathedrals, there is so much to do in Kilkenny that doesn't involve digging deep into your pockets! Here are some of our top free attractions in the city and county.

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle Park

Situated in the heart of the city is the iconic Kilkenny Castle. The Castle park offers a relaxing setting against the hustle and bustle of the city with over 50 acres of charming grounds to be explored.

The Rose Garden to the front of the castle offers spectacular views over Kilkenny City and it is a firm favourite for both visitors and locals.

If you are travelling with children, there is a stellar playground on the grounds which is suitable for ages 2-14, and of course those who are eternally young at heart!

The castle park begins to close at least 30 minutes in advance of the stated closing time so arrive early and if you're bringing a pooch, remember to keep them on a leash.
Month Opening hours
January & December 9.00am to 4.00pm
February & November 9.00am to 4.30pm
March & October 9.00am to 5.30pm
April & September 8.30am to 7.00pm
May, June, July, August 8.30am to 8.30pm

Parade Tower

Positioned at the base of the Parade Tower of Kilkenny Castle is The Medieval Room.

Some of the features in this room date back to the later medieval period. During the nineteenth century remodelling of the castle, the room was converted to use as a wine cellar. Today, this is where visitors can watch the free audio visual of Kilkenny Castle which gives an in-depth view into the history of the castle and the many important programmes of archaeological excavation, conservation, and restoration which has been carried out over the years.

Butler Gallery

Situated in the castle itself, adjacent to the Kilkenny Castle Tearooms, is The Butler Gallery which exhibits the work of young and emerging artists alongside renowned international artists. The diverse Butler Collection is also exhibited here.

The National Craft Gallery of Ireland

Just across the street from Kilkenny Castle in the former stable courtyard is the home of Irish craft, The National Craft Gallery. This space opened in 2000 and it marked a new era for the Crafts Council of Ireland, providing a permanent exhibition space for craft in Kilkenny.

Over the years, the gallery has evolved and grown to meet the needs of the craft industry and to ensure its continued growth and development. There is a continuous dynamic exhibition programme that is open to the public.

Castlecomer Discovery Park

Castlecomer Discovery Park is situated on grounds that once formed part of the Wandesforde family estate.

Just 20km north of the medieval city of Kilkenny and 24km from Carlow town, the park in Castlecomer is open all year round. It is an ideal location for a family day out or for bus tours and groups offering various attractions, many of which are free to the public.

  • Castlecomer Craft Yard

    The Castlecomer Craft Yard was formally made up of stables and farmyard buildings of the estate, but they are now home to a growing number of craftspeople and artists who sell directly from their workshops. Crafts include pottery, jewellery, textiles, photography, painting and furniture restoration. Opening times can be varied, so if in doubt ring ahead.

  • Timber Tumbles Playground

    Located in Castlecomer Discovery Park, the playground has proven very popular by parents and children alike. The playground is built from Robinia wood, a natural material chosen to reflect the wooded area in which it is located.

    The theme of the design reflects Castlecomer‘s rich coal mining heritage with the equipment resembling a truck, tunnel conveyor belt and mine shaft.

    The surface of the playground is layered bark chip, which is filtered daily to remove unsafe objects or debris, and is an added source of safety and enjoyment for children under 14years.

  • Woodland Wonders

    Visitors can explore 6km of woodland trails in Castlecomer Discovery Park that have been colour coded into three looped walks. These trails extend into a number of interconnecting paths that play host to wooden sculptures which imitate the wild animals who live in the woods.

    These walkways are surrounded by two trout filled lakes with a picnic area, boat house and small animal sanctuary dotted around its edges. The looped walks are wheelchair friendly and suitable for buggies. Dogs are also permitted but must be kept on a leash.

Woodstock Gardens

Woodstock Gardens are located in the south east of Kilkenny just outside the beautiful village of Inistioge overlooking the River Nore Valley.

The gardens are home to a mix of formal and informal gardens with an arboretum, walled garden, terraced garden, yew walk and rose garden providing the main interest.

Also of significance are two stunning avenues, the Monkey Puzzle Avenue and Noble Fir Avenue. Recently added are a rustic summer house, constructed from materials from the gardens and a fountain to replace the original fountain.

The arboretum is home to many fine specimen trees from Asia and South America in particular and are recognised as champion trees due to their size. On site facilities include toilets, children’s playground, limited wheelchair access (mobility buggy available at quieter times) and tea rooms.

Jerpoint Glass is just a short distance away from Woodstock Gardens if you fancy watching some master glass blowers in action.

MADE in Kilkenny Craft Trail

Kilkenny has long had the reputation for being a hub of creativity and has earned the name ‘The Creative Heart of Ireland.

MADE in Kilkenny was formed to foster this excellence in crafts, to encourage the growth of the professional craft industry and to promote the county as a shopping destination for authentic and handmade craft in Ireland.

It also aims to encourage a pleasant day out visiting the various craft shops amongst Kilkenny’s scenic countryside and historical city. A brochure has been specifically designed with this purpose in mind, it highlights various designer-makers, and a map to help you find them. Entry to meet the craftspeople and watch them at work along the MADE in Kilkenny route is totally free.

The Black Abbey

One of the oldest churches in Kilkenny is the Black Abbey, which has served the city for the last 760 years.

Formally known as the ‘Abbey of The Most Holy Trinity’, its name alteration can be attributed to the Dominicans, who also became known as Black Friars, from the black cloak worn over the white habit, thus lending their name to the church.

The church is wheelchair accessible from the beautiful cobbled Abbey St. laneway which borders the city wall and passes through the last remaining gateway.
Explore

In this article

Made in Kilkenny

Kilkenny Castle

Castlecomer Discovery Park

Butler Gallery

Design & Craft Council of Ireland

Woodstock Gardens

Recommended Experiences

Dig a Little Deeper and look beyond to discover hidden gems

Five great things to do in Kilkenny this Autumn

Holiday Gift Guide

Kilkenny Craft Delights

The hero county of Ireland’s Ancient East

Adventures in ‘Kid-kenny’

Beautiful film village of Inistioge

Made in Kilkenny

‘MADE in Kilkenny’, established in 2009, consists of 27 craft members who have combined their drive and passion for their craft to initiate professional makers coming together to directly promote their business, increase public awareness of their craft and of Kilkenny as a tourist destination. MADE in Kilkenny consists of some of Ireland’s finest craftmakers. Many of the craftmakers have won major national and international accolades including, Mark Campen of the ‘Bridge Pottery’ who was three times winner at the Royal Dublin Show 2011 for Ceramics, the Crafts Council of Ireland Purchase Award and the RDS Award of Excellence! Jane Huston was also a winner in the Precious metal category for her beautiful Sterling silver gilt beakers depicting the “Elements”.

Kilkenny Castle

The Parade, Kilkenny

056 7704100

[email protected]

kilkennycastle.ie

Go back in time to a 12th Century castle, remodelled and restored and set in 1830's splendour and extensive parklands: includes art gallery and playground. Publications are also on sale. Access for visitors with disabilities to ground floor and the gardens only.

Castlecomer Discovery Park

The Estate Yard, Castlecomer, Kilkenny

056 4440707

[email protected]

discoverypark.ie/

Castlecomer Discovery Park offers an exciting range of activities around the estate including tree top walks, climbing walls, boating, adventure playgrounds, orienteering and most recently Ireland’s longest zip wire and high ropes challenge. At the hub of the site, there is the Irish Mining Museum, a purpose-built cafe, craft village, and spaces for educational activities. Castlecomer Discovery Park comprises 80 acres of natural woodland and lakes. It opened to the public in 2007 to commemorate the coal-mining heritage following the closure of the local mines in 1969. It aims to develop rural tourism, generate local employment and regenerate the town.

Design & Craft Council of Ireland

Castle Yard, Kilkenny

056 7761804

[email protected]

dccoi.ie

The Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCoI) is the national agency for the commercial development of Irish designers and makers, stimulating innovation, championing design thinking and informing Government policy. DCCoI's activities are funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation via Enterprise Ireland.

Woodstock Gardens

Woodstock Estate, Inistioge, Co. Kilkenny

056 7794373

[email protected]

woodstock.ie/

The beautiful Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum are located overlooking the River Nore Valley and the picturesque village of Inistioge. The gardens date to the 1740's with the main development taking place in the 1800's. A period of disrepair followed during the 1900's following the burning of Woodstock House, however in 1999, Kilkenny County Council undertook an ambitious programme of garden restoration which is now well advanced. Features include a walled garden, rose garden, rockery garden, a recreated Turner Conservatory, a collection of rare and exotic trees in the arboretum and much more including many tranquil woodland walks.