A Day Trip to Kilkenny, Ireland

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I came home to Canada last month, but I still have a lot to write about my (almost) two years in Ireland. In this post, I wanted to share a little bit about visiting Kilkenny, Ireland. Kilkenny is a small city about 125 kilometres southwest of Dublin. You could spend a couple of days in Kilkenny, but I decided to visit Kilkenny from Dublin on a day trip. Here is how to spend a day in Kilkenny.

Going To Kilkenny

You can rent a car and drive to Kilkenny, which would give you a bit more freedom on where to go. It would also allow you to see some nearby towns. There are bus services that go to Kilkenny from Dublin and other cities (like Cork and Waterford). I took the train from Dublin’s Heuston Station to Kilkenny. The journey is around 90-minutes one-way. The seats are comfortable, and there is free Wi-Fi (and outlets at specific seats) on board. You can choose a random seat or reserve a seat. Irish Rail does this weird thing where you can reserve the seat under your name or your booking number. I suggest reserving your seat under your booking number. My train ticket to Kilkenny was about €22 return.

River Nore and Hurling

Kilkenny is a pretty small city (population about 26,000) making it a great place to walk around. I started by walking from the train station and going across the River Nore. There’s a walking trail along the river (Canal Walk) that is quite beautiful.

The walk alongside the River Nore (not shown to the left). I forgot how green Ireland is.

At the start of the trail (from Canal Square) is a Hurling statue. Hurling (for the non-Irish) is a field sport (one of the fastest field sports in the world). Gaelic Athletics Associations (GAA) clubs are in cities and towns across Ireland. Most GAA clubs have a hurling team. Kilkenny’s hurling team has won the All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship the most out of every team in Ireland (36 times in total). It seems fitting there’s a statue to commemorate the sport of Hurling in Kilkenny.

Hurling statue in Kilkenny.

Kilkenny Castle

Like many places in Ireland, Kilkenny has a castle (Kilkenny Castle) and it’s one of the main attractions in this city. The grounds of the castle are free to wander around, but if you want to go inside (and do a self-guided tour), it’ll cost €8. The castle was built by the 4th Earl of Pembroke (William Marshal). Building the castle began in 1195 and finished in 1213, but the castle (like many in Ireland) has been added on to and renovated over the years. The tour is self-guided, but you’ll get a pamphlet to read. Give yourself at least an hour to go through Kilkenny Castle. Don’t forget to tour the grounds as well. Ireland knows how to do gardens.

These are grounds outside of Kilkenny Castle. Not too shabby.
A drawing-room in Kilkenny Castle. The wallpaper was such a bright yellow. I’m pretty sure this was one of the “newer” rooms in the castle.
A dining room at Kilkenny Castle.
The Portrait Gallery contains portraits (obviously) of the former residents and owners of Kilkenny Castle.

Smithwick’s Tour

Smithwick’s (pronounced as Smithick’, they don’t pronounce the W in this name when you’re in Ireland) is a beer that originates from Kilkenny. It’s a pretty standard Irish beer (along with Guinness of course) to find outside of Ireland. In Kilkenny, they have the Smithwick’s Experience, which is where Smithwick’s was brewed (until brewing moved to Dublin). The Smithwick’s Experience is at the site of an old Franciscan Monastery. Here in the 13th Century monks first began brewing beer using the local water. John Smithwick and Richard Cole went into business together in 1710 and started Smithwick’s and Sons Brewing Company. The tour is about an hour and costs €15 or €13 if you book online in advance. Online tickets are good for up to 12 months.

Smithwick’s Experience in Kilkenny, Ireland.
Learning about beer at the Smithwick’s Experience. I found out roasted malt is the reason why stouts are darker in colour than lagers and ales. Stouts (as you can see) have 10% roasted malt, so they are the darkest in colour. Ales have 5%, and Lagers have no roasted malt.

Lunch

After my liquid lunch at the Smithwick’s Experience, I decided to go for lunch at a pub called The Playwright. Most pubs in Ireland serve food (at least during the day) and also allow kids (again usually during the day). Pubs are a casual place to have a drink and grab a bite to eat at a pretty affordable price (for sit down casual dining). My lunch came to about €13 and was pretty delicious. I got the lamb shank and a mineral (a.k.a pop/soda).

A street in Kilkenny. I mean when you picture a town in Ireland this is what you are imagining, right?

Churches, Cathedral, and Round Towers

Ireland might have a lot of castles, but they also have lots of churches and cathedrals. I always find churches in Europe are full of a lot of history, impressive architecture and art. In Kilkenny, there is St. Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower. You can pay €4.5 to go inside the church and €4 if you want to walk up to the top of the Round Tower for a view of Kilkenny. Unfortunately by the time I got over to St. Canice’s Cathedral they were closing up for the day.

St. Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower. This church dates back to the end of the 13th century. It’s crazy how old stuff is in Europe.

While I wasn’t able to go inside St. Canice’s Cathedral I was able to head into The Black Abbey of Kilkenny. It was founded in 1225 by William Marshal the 1st Earl of Pembroke. It’s free to go inside (though donations are accepted). The stained glass windows were quite beautiful.

Inside the Black Abbey of Kilkenny. It’s a bit dark inside, but that makes the stained glass windows look more brilliant.

About Visiting Kilkenny On A Sunday

One thing I should point out is that my day trip to Kilkenny was on a Sunday when public transportation in Ireland starts a bit later. It also runs a little less frequently than other days. I didn’t get into Kilkenny until about 11 am. On Sundays, a lot of attractions (museums, castles, churches, etc.) have limited hours as well. Most attractions close by about 5 pm, if not earlier.

If I had more time in Kilkenny I would have done a couple of the attractions on the Medieval Mile. Kilkenny was actually the capital of Ireland for a time during Medieval times. Museums like The Medieval Mile Museum and Rothe House show this history. If I’m ever back in Kilkenny I’d want to check them out.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed my time in Kilkenny. It’s close enough to Dublin for a day trip, but I definitely think it would be worth spending more than a day here. While I came from Dublin you could easily visit Kilkenny from pretty much anywhere in Ireland. There is a train station and several bus services that go to Kilkenny. You can go to Rome2Rio.com and look up train, bus or driving directions to Kilkenny.

The city is small and easily walkable, but there’s a lot to see and do here. If you’re in Ireland Kilkenny is definitely worth checking out.

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Things To Know
This post is not sponsored or endorsed by any particular organization or brand. All views and opinions in this post are my own. While I only spent a day in Kilkenny if you wanted to spend more time in this region you can book a hotel here.

Have you been to Kilkenny? What city or town in Ireland would you love to visit? 

6 thoughts on “A Day Trip to Kilkenny, Ireland”

  1. I love that castle Alouise. How stately. You cannot go wrong with any castle visit. Learning the history of these places feels as fun as touring the castle itself. So many interesting stories covering the lives of fascinating people. Excellent post.

    Ryan

  2. I haven’t been to Ireland yet! I might able to go there next summer if I save up enough money for backpacking throughout Europe. Kilkenny seems like a really lovely and quiet city, perfect from chaotic places. As a budget traveler, would you say I could save more money if I just use buses and/or trains instead of renting a car? Would you say that renting a car & gas are expensive in Ireland? I know you’re a Canadian, but I live in Los Angeles and the gas is ridiculously expensive – especially cars that are not eco or hybrid.

  3. Kilkenny looks really charming. I love such lesser-known towns of which have such an old world charm. The pathway along the river looks really beautiful and so tranquil. I loved the look of the castle, seems straight out of a fairytale. The interiors of the castle are so exquisite looking.

  4. So much to see and do in Kilkenny. Love that church and you’re right about the window. It’s a crackup that the monks distilled the beer before it moved on. The street scenes are indeed right out of my imagination. Looks like a perfect Irish experience and I’d try to go any day other than Sunday to make the most of my time.

  5. Historic sites, natural scenery, lots of green, an exotic Irish town with a castle (just like any other), beer, a cathedral and great food. I am on board and thanks a lot for your sharing! I will put Kilkenny on the list when I am visiting Ireland! @ knycx.journeying

  6. I so love Ireland. So many great small towns and villages to explore. I’d totally love doing the beer tour (thanks for the tip on the “w” I had no idea) and visit Kilkenny Castle. Sounds like a great day trip from Dublin and the public transportation in Ireland so good that for me it’d be a no-brainer to use that to get there.

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