20 reasons why you should be ‘Living History’ in Kilkenny

1. Everything’s just a short walk away

Kilkenny is a vibrant and compact medieval city which can be explored by foot. Explore the narrow slipways and cobbled streets, historic landmarks, award winning restaurants and pubs, bright-coloured shops and festivals. Ireland’s Medieval Mile linking the 13th-century St Canice’s Cathedral and the Anglo-Norman Kilkenny Castle runs through the heart of the city. Walk this stretch with a local tour guide and you’ll hear tales woven with history and gossip through the centuries. Historical secrets whilst staying in shape? It’s a win-win.

2. Walk with shining armour in your mind and a picnic in your backpack

The medieval Kilkenny Castle is set right on the banks of the River Nore. In fact, the county is filled with picturesque rivers with views of ancient landmarks. Rent a boat, take in the panoramic views and have a picnic with your friends in Kilkenny Castle parklands before grabbing a hot chocolate in the Kilkenny Design centre to make the most of a perfect afternoon in a historical setting.

3. Cycle through the city and under the Milky Way

Cycling is fun, but cycling through the city centre at night is like an experience from another dimension. Autumn evenings in Kilkenny can be simply magical as the sun goes down over the medieval city filled with wonderful attractions and hidden gems. Watch the lights of the ancient buildings blend with the stars in the sky. Pro tip: take your favourite person with you – it doesn’t get more romantic than this.

4. To open your heart you need to hear the right key

It’s undeniable that Kilkenny has a strong musical vein. The city follows the beat of its own groove inside the many pubs located throughout the city, where some of the best performers in town (and the world) get together to show you what they’re made of. Fill your ears with music, and enjoy the craic in some of Ireland’s oldest venues.

5. Foodies of the world take note...

If you’re an Afternoon Tea with champagne kind of person, then this is your city. If you’re more of the wood-smoked BBQ with cold beer type, then this is your city too. And if you’re anything in between, this is also your kind of city. Kilkenny’s award-winning food culture will satisfy any palate. Enjoy your favourite brunch, Afternoon Tea, dinner or cocktail with a magnificent view of one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Europe while being kissed by the shining autumn sun. (Or a light smattering of clouds. Let’s face it, this is Ireland!)

6. From fairy-tale manors to medieval castles… sleep like royalty

Scattered throughout Kilkenny are some incredible historical lodgings and estates. Even just a one night stay in any of these lavish venues will make you feel like the royals and barons who once called them home.  Visit the 16th century Butler House, opt for some elegant grandeur at the magnificent Georgian manor house Mount Juliet Estate or experience medieval meets modern in the 17th century Lyrath Estate. If you prefer to base yourself in the City, the Kilkenny River Court will give you views of the stately Kilkenny Castle from your room, or sleep in the shadow of medieval knights along Ireland’s Medieval Mile in the Kilkenny Ormonde or Pembroke Hotel. Whatever you choose you will get to experience some medieval magic that captivates you in Kilkenny.

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7. Explore beyond the city and you may even find a Lost City

Although time has taken its toll on most of the ruins in Ireland, the 12th century Jerpoint Abbey is unique in its level of preservation. This ancient religious site guards ancient stories, legends, treasures and magnificent architectural details that will literally make your trip ‘divine’.

Delve further into the Kilkenny countryside and you will find the medieval remains of the lost town of Newtown Jerpoint at Jerpoint Park.  Local legend has it that Saint Nicholas—a.k.a Father Christmas, the inspiration behind Santa Claus—is buried within a cracked, carved tomb in its grounds. 

8. Check out the fall colours

Autumn in Kilkenny is a time of wonder when the natural world turns a kaleidoscope of colour and landscapes come alive, creating the perfect backdrop to explore the county’s many beautiful parks & gardens. Embark on a woodland adventure through natural corridors of ancient trees at Woodstock Gardens or witness the burst of colour at its best amongst wooded landscapes and meandering rivers with Trail Kilkenny. Leaves crunch underfoot, champion conkers wait to be found and there are signs of wildlife everywhere. So pull on your hiking boots, wrap up and get ready to explore Kilkenny’s countryside and hidden walkways, there’s magic to be found!

9. Discover new worlds in historic places

Imagine a contemporary art gallery in a former Anglican Church? Well Butler Gallery is just that, stepping back in time to see history recreated in a modern setting is one of the many things Kilkenny does best! The Medieval Mile Museum and McDonagh Junction Famine Experience are other fine examples, both of which offer interactive tours on the very best and often tragic moments in Irish history.

10. Go 'off-the-grid' for a trip that is anything but ordinary

Ok, so we are not all about history! Kilkenny is also big on adventure and the adrenaline rushing kind is what we deliver!  Explore the rivers and coastline by kayak, canoe or stand up paddle board with Pure Adventure. Or navigate the rapids and channels of Kilkenny in a guided river journey with Go with the Flow or Paddle your own Canoe!!

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11. Tiny towns that are big on beauty

For those in search of the true Irish way of life, look no further than the many picturesque villages dotted across the county. Alive with culture, character and quirky features, every town has a story waiting to be discovered. Nostalgia runs deep through two of Kilkenny’s most idyllic towns and villages – Inistioge and Graiguenamanagh. From origins as viking settlements, to filming locations for old Hollywood classics, these little villages have seen a lot! Take time out to walk by the rivers, admire the buildings, many of which have remained untouched for generations, and stop off for a coffee at one of the cafes where a warm welcome is part of the experience.

12. Free your adventurous spirit

Climb amongst the trees like a pro, shimmy across the rope bridges, or rappel with elegance to the ground in Castlecomer Discovery Park. If dizzying heights are what you’re looking for, it’s also home to Ireland’s longest zip line. Conquer the forest with your abilities and return home totally empowered by your Tarzan-like prowess. 

13. Discover new heights with the ancient sport of falconry

Make this autumn the time when you discover an activity fit for kings! The ancient art of falconry is a unique experience and a great chance to get up close and personal with these magnificent birds of prey. Whether loved, feared, worshipped as a god, valued as a hunting partner or used as a corporate or heraldic symbol, falcons have fascinated humans for millennia. Now, you have a chance to see exactly why that is, with your very own private Falconry Experience at either Lyrath Estate, or Hawkeye Falconry. You’ll be sure to get some amazing photo opportunities as you fly the hawk from tree-to-fist.

14. From the roots of a medieval city rose the Kilkenny Cats

As one of the oldest field games in the world, hurling has been a distinct Irish pastime for at least 3000 years!  Kilkenny is renowned as the home to some of the country’s best hurlers and visitors can have the chance to learn the skill of this ancient sport at Fred Malzards traditional Irish Pub. The venue mixes traditional music with a relaxed and fun lesson in Ireland’s Gaelic game of hurling. For another unique activity you can join The Kilkenny Way Hurling Experience for a cultural sporting tour and let them show you the fun, passion, skill and pride of hurling. Fun, fast and intense!

15. Food that feeds the soul

Kilkenny artisan food producers have a long tradition for outstanding quality, it’s no wonder many of them have awards and accolades for their products. Dating back generations in families, Goatsbridge Trout Farm produces fish that is served in some of Ireland’s finest restaurants, while apple ciders and syrups are some of the many delights that Highbank Orchard produces. What is it about Irish people and bread? Well, find out when you visit ‘Arán(Irish for bread), an artisan bakery and bistro in the heart of Kilkenny City serving delicious brunches from seasonal local produce and stone baked breads with natural Irish ingredients.

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16. Animal encounters of the ancient kind

You want old? How about 300 million years? With origins that pre-date most living things, you can see some of the world’s oldest and rarest animals at Ireland’s only reptile zoo (these ones aren’t that old, but their ancestors are!). If cute and cuddly is more your bag, try Nore Valley Park, an award-winning campsite and pet farm where visitors can bottle feed lambs and cuddle baby rabbits. So depending on your passion, Kilkenny offers nature at its very best and for the most adventurous!

17. Uncover ancient history at Kells Priory

Imagine a collection of medieval tower houses within enclosed walls… no, you haven’t been transported to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, but the magnificent Augustine Kells Priory. The Priory consists of a church, a chapel, prior’s residence or sacristy and a number of domestic buildings all just waiting for visitors to explore.

18. Tasting tours with a medieval twist

This autumn treat your taste buds to a food experience like no other and explore the very best of produce that Kilkenny has to offer with a medieval ‘tasting tour’. Working over 30 years in the Kilkenny food sector, Anne Neary and her team at Kilkenny Tasting Tours offer guided tours that take you back in time through Kilkenny’s medieval heritage, tasting along the way to meet the makers, movers and shakers on the Kilkenny food scene.

19. Learning about one of the darkest times in our past

To avoid repeating the worst episodes of human history, it’s our duty to remember them. The most traumatic event of modern Irish history is undoubtedly the Great Famine of the mid-nineteenth century, more than one million people died. The Kilkenny Famine Experience is a self-guided audio visual tour that takes you back in time to the 1840s to hear the heartbreaking and poignant human stories from the perspective of those who lived it. Reconnect to them as individuals; realising that each had names, complex feelings, relationships, hopes and fears facing Ireland’s darkest period in history. It’s an opportunity to revisit an important time in Ireland’s history and understand true perseverance.

20. Kilkenny’s B-side is just as good as its A-side

Once you finish exploring the main streets and impressive landmarks, there’s still a whole other side of the county waiting for you! Visitors to Kilkenny’s medieval city will be captivated by its majestic castle, fairytale turrets and medieval archways as well as the unique character of its cobbled streets and winding pathways. But dig a little deeper to discover mystical stories hidden amongst its city walls and a region brimming with historical twists and turns. If you liked the sound of reasons 1-19, just wait until you uncover Kilkenny’s Hidden Gems and delve into a whole new side of the city you never knew!