One of Ireland’s most delightful towns, Kilkenny stands on a bend in the River Nore. It is packed with history (in summer, with tourist traffic too), and aspects of its medieval history are particularly well preserved. Discerning visitors are duly catered for with high-quality craft studios and good restaurants.
The most striking building is the castle, a stronghold of the prominent Butler family until the 20th century.
Originally a Norman fortress, it gradually became more domesticated through the centuries. It saw conflict again, however, when anti-Treatyites occupied it briefly during the Civil War in 1922. After a massive restoration programme, the castle is once again on show. The well-proportioned 18th-century buildings opposite the castle have now been converted into an imaginative enterprise called the Kilkenny Design Centre, where local artists produce high-quality crafts. A large retail outlet fronting the street supplies some of the best goods on sale in Ireland.
Kilkenny’s historical importance formerly rivalled Dublin’s, and several significant political events took place here. Interesting buildings are scattered through the old town, including St Canice’s Cathedral, one of the finest 13th-century buildings in Ireland (although Oliver Cromwell used it to stable his horses in 1650).
The monuments of the black limestone known as Kilkenny marble are particularly impressive – one female statue wears a traditional Irish cloak. Next to the cathedral are a round rower, which can be climbed for splendid town views, and St Cancie’s Library, containing a valuable collection of rare early volumes. Other medieval churches include the Black Abbey. The Tholsel (town hall) and the court-house date from the 18th century.
On tours of Ireland try and have a wee look at Kilkenny….you wont be disappointed……