Welcome to the enchanting city of Kilkenny, nestled in the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East. Steeped in history and rich in culture, Kilkenny is a vibrant destination that offers a perfect blend of heritage, festivals, outdoor activities, warm Irish hospitality and more. The city and surrounding county truly comes alive during the summer, inviting visitors from around the world to immerse themselves in its unique charm. To show you why Kilkenny should be at the top of your must-visit list this summer, here are 10 reasons!
1. Ireland's Medieval Mile
Kilkenny is one of Ireland’s easiest cities to navigate on foot, so take advantage of this by exploring Ireland’s Medieval Mile. This trail links many of the city’s key points of interest that are bursting at the seams with history and tales of medieval days which give Kilkenny its character. Take in St. Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower, Rothe House & Garden, the Tholsel and more along the way to Kilkenny Castle. The midpoint of this journey is the Medieval Mile Museum, tucked in the middle of fascinating cobblestone alleys. Take a tour or ramble through the museum at your own pace to fully absorb the extensive history of Kilkenny.
2. Fantastic food & drink
Kilkenny has all the ingredients of a vibrant, top-class food scene, so it’s little wonder that it was named Ireland’s Foodie Destination in 2018. From the city centre to the towns and villages, you are never far from incredible eateries or award-winning producers. It doesn’t matter whether you opt for casual dining at a gastropub or treat yourself to fine dining at a Michelin starred restaurant, you are bound to have a memorable meal during your time in Kilkenny. If anything, you’ll want to stay longer to visit all of the bakeries, cafés and restaurants!
As well as an unrivalled food offering, Kilkenny is also a key destination for drinks producers. The Smithwick’s Experience has been a top visitor attraction in the city and in recent years, interest in whiskey distilling has grown which you can learn more about at The Dylan Whisky Bar. Those who prefer gin can take a tour behind the scenes at Ballykeefe Distillery and Highbank Orchards boast a range of beverages from wine to vodka distilled on site created with the apples from their orchard. Fans of craft beer must stop by Sullivan’s Taproom with a variety of brews on tap which you can enjoy in the sun at their beer garden.
The Barrel Yard at the Smithwick’s Experience
3. The Great Outdoors
One thing that is guaranteed during your trip to Kilkenny is that you will never be stuck for things to do. Breathe in the fresh air and soak up the sun while taking part in a wide variety of exciting outdoor activities. Escape the city and explore the stunning Kilkenny countryside with enchanting gardens and glens like Woodstock Gardens & Arboretum and Kilfane Glen & Waterfall. From scenic walks and cycling trails to fishing, horse riding and water activities along both the River Nore and the River Barrow, there’s an adventure waiting for everyone.
Click the links below for more information on outdoor activities in Kilkenny:
4. Gigs Galore!
When it comes to festivals and events, Kilkenny is one of the top destinations in Ireland for unique, world-class events. From the Kilkenny Cats Laughs Festival, the Kilkenny Arts Festival and the Alternative Kilkenny Arts Festival in the city to festivals in surrounding towns such as Town of Books in Graiguenamanagh, Keep Her Lit in Inistioge, the Iverk Show in Piltown and Kilkenny Country Music Festival in Gowran, there really is something for everyone!
You’ll also find live music most nights in pubs and bars across the county as well as popular national and international music acts and plays at venues like Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre, Barnstorm Theatre, The Set Theatre and Watergate Theatre.
Kilkenny Arts Festival
5. Creative Crafts
Did you know that Kilkenny is one of just 4 designated World Craft Council Craft City and Regions in Europe? It is an accolade that highlights the quality of the varied local crafts scene. It makes for unique giftware options which is an excellent way to bring a piece of Kilkenny home with you. Jerpoint Glass, Duiske Glass and Kilkenny Crystal all have gorgeous glassware and Nicholas Mosse Pottery has a range of handmade pottery that completes any dressed table. For a special piece of jewellery, local jewellers like Rudolf Heltzel, Eimear Vize Jewellery, Murphy Jewellers, Nolan Jewellers and GL Ryan Jewellers boast a treasure trove of trinkets with a sparkle that will catch your eye. It’s never too early to prepare the woollies for autumn and winter – especially when the blankets, scarves and other textiles from Cushendale Woollen Mills are so beautiful!
6. Shop ‘til you drop!
Kilkenny city is a shopper’s delight as you can browse high street stores and independent boutiques within a short walking distance. Discover popular brands at MacDonagh Junction Shopping Centre and Market Cross Shopping Centre which are home to a combined 60+ shops. Elsewhere, bookworms will love perusing The Book & Coffee Shop, giftware gems a-plenty at Butterslip, find your signature scent at Valley of Roses, pick a spiffing suit at Frank Wall Mans Shop or a glamorous gúna at Goods of Kilkenny and get clothing for all the family (including the dog!) at Connolly’s Red Mills.
7. Castlecomer Discovery Park
In the lush 80-acre forest in the town of Castlecomer, you’ll find one of Kilkenny’s most unique attractions. Castlecomer Discovery Park is home to a range of things to see and do including a craft yard for local artists, the coal mining museum, high ropes course, axe throwing, archery, kayaking on the lake and the longest zipline over water in Ireland! Even if you prefer a slower adventure, a stroll along the walking trail through the woods followed by some food at the Canopy Café is ideal for a relaxing day in nature. You can spend a whole day having fun in the sun at this fantastic park.
8. Butler Gallery
On the banks of the River Nore in Kilkenny city sits Butler Gallery – one of Ireland’s leading contemporary art galleries which offers a unique blend of art and history that will inspire you. Explore their significant collection of 20th century Irish art, discover contemporary work by living artists, take part in family-friendly art activities and find out about a heritage spanning 800 years in their historic building and walled gardens. Entry is free, so be sure to stop by and discover the exhibitions on display.
9. Amazing accommodation
Kilkenny is known for its warm welcome and top-class hospitality, so it is no surprise that there is a wealth of accommodation options for visitors that wish to extend their trip to the Marble County. Camping under the stars or luxury glamping pods are hard to beat when the sun is shining while Bed & Breakfasts and guesthouses offer a ‘home away from home’ feel. If you prefer a space of your own or are travelling with a group, self-catering stays are a good choice. Hotels in Kilkenny are among the best in Ireland with everything from 3-star city centre hotels in the heart of it all to 5-star countryside estates. Whether you’re travelling solo on a budget or on a road trip with little adventurers, Kilkenny’s variety of accommodation options will have something to suit all holidays.
10. Kilkenny Castle
Last but not least, it simply isn’t a trip to Kilkenny without visiting one of the most recognisable landmarks in Ireland. Kilkenny Castle is an imposing 13th-century structure that can be seen from much of the city, and its garden and parkland are equally impressive. It was originally built in the 1200s by William Marshall to become a Norman stronghold and the Butlers of Ormonde called this place home for over 600 years. With so much history within its walls, it is a must-visit for anyone who comes to Kilkenny to get a sense of the true character of the county’s extensive and fascinating history.