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6 Brilliant Free Things To Do in Kilkenny

Kilkenny Design Centre

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.

Black Abbey Stained Glass

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.

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

Located in the heart of Kilkenny city, and established in 1943 by George Pennefather, Butler Gallery is a vibrant contemporary art gallery, in the historic Evans’ Home, and offers one of the finest exhibition spaces in Ireland. Butler Gallery is committed to exhibiting the work of Irish and emerging artists, to bringing the work of major international artists to Kilkenny and consistently seeks to promote high artistic standards and the value of visual art to society.

Butler Gallery’s collection of Irish and international art dates from the 1800’s and our learning and engagement activities provide our visitors with lots of opportunities to engage with our collection through inspirational and educational events and workshops. Book your FREE tickets here.

National Design and Craft Gallery

Just across the street from Kilkenny Castle in the former stable courtyard is the home of Irish craft, National Design and Craft Gallery. This space opened in 2000 and it marked a new era for the Design and Craft 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 church is wheelchair accessible from the beautiful cobbled Abbey St. laneway which borders the city wall and passes through the last remaining gateway.