County Kilkenny

Angling at Inistioge at the River Nore
Angling at Inistioge at the River Nore

At once medieval and modern, Kilkenny is the full package with its artisan craft scene and intriguing architecture

Energy, buzz… Call it what you like, Kilkenny has it in spades. At the heart of it all, of course, is Kilkenny city, a place that fuses medieval history with cosmopolitan modern city life.

One minute, you’re tucking into cutting-edge Irish cooking, watching a spanking hurling game at Nowlan Park, or getting into the swing of things at a traditional pub. The next, you’re being wowed by stained glass windows at St Canice’s Cathedral, and travelling in time at Rothe House, a restored 17th-century merchant’s dwelling. There's a lot to see and do.

As if to emphasise the point, Kilkenny’s Norman castle is right in the thick of the action. But really, medieval Kilkenny is as much about its tight-knit laneways as its big set pieces. Wandering down one... who knows what century you’ll end up in?

On the trail of everything

The gentle necklace of towns and villages threaded along the River Nore is the perfect complement to Kilkenny city’s urban spark. Follow the river through Bennettsbridge, Thomastown and Inistioge, where Woodstock Gardens is home to the longest monkey-puzzle avenue in Europe.

Perhaps that 10-arched bridge in Inistioge looks familiar? It was one of the backdrops in the movie of the late Maeve Binchy’s Circle of Friends, starring Chris O’Donnell and Minnie Driver.

Kilkenny’s countryside is naturally suited to driving, cycling or walking trails, and you can make things up as you go along, or follow some of the routes compiled by Trail Kilkenny.

Why not eat your way around a dedicated Blasta food trail? Or follow the Made in Kilkenny Craft Trail, hopping from pottery-shopping in an old mill in Bennettsbridge to ceramics and gold at a courtyard at Castlecomer?

You’ll find gifts galore. And, of course, a little something for yourself.

Just one more thing

There’s always a bright new café or gallery to stumble upon in the city, or places such as Dunmore Cave, where you can learn about the discovery of Viking treasure. Or you can visit Jerpoint Park, where an inconspicuous set of ruins reveals a lost town and the grave of St Nicholas of Myra.

In short, don’t just plan this visit to Kilkenny – plan the next one, too.