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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?