Kilkenny, Ireland

Kilkenny is a delightful and very walkable medieval town located along the River Nore. It offers visitors a round tower from the 6th century, a stunning castle and partial city walls from the Norman occupation plus other wonderful architecture reflecting its history through the 19th century. Come visit The Marble City.

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1 History of Kilkenny Castle in Kilkenny, Ireland

The first tower built along the bluff overlooking the River Nore was a motte and bailey design constructed towards the end of the 12th century by Richard de Clare. Also known as Strongbow, he was a Norman lord and the 2nd Earl of Pembroke. His son-in-law and very successful knight, William Marshall, is credited with building this marvelous castle. It was finished in 1219, six years before he died as the British Isles’ second richest man. After a period of ownership by Gilbert De Bohun, the elaborate citadel transferred to James Butler in 1391. The Butler family maintained ownership until Arthur Butler sold it to the city in 1967. The rose garden in the foreground is part of the 49 acre estate.

The Parade, Collegepark, Kilkenny, Ireland

2 Kilkenny Castle Entrance in Kilkenny, Ireland

This is the southeast round tower, one of three still standing at Kilkenny Castle. There used to be a fourth one, but it and the eastern rampart were destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s army in 1650. Prior to that bombardment, the towers, adjoining curtain walls plus the city walls where the cornerstones for Hightown’s defense for over 400 years. The castle was sieged a second time in 1922 during the Irish Civil War. Today, this is the ornate entrance of the Anglo-Norman castle.

The Parade, Collegepark, Kilkenny, Ireland

3 Canal Walk on River Nore in Kilkenny, Ireland

If a scenic stroll sounds like the perfect respite from a busy day of sightseeing, then you will enjoy The Canal Walk. The promenade begins at Canal Square near John’s Bridge and initially runs along a wall below Kilkenny Castle. It follows the River Nore for miles into the countryside. But a great route is to take the trail until reaching a pedestrian bridge and then cross over to return on the Lacken Walk on the opposite shoreline.

3 Canal Square, Collegepark, Kilkenny, Ireland

4 Tribute to Hurling Statue in Kilkenny, Ireland

This tribute to hurling, Ireland’s most popular sport, was erected at Canal Square in May, 2016, two weeks before this picture was taken. The player reaching towards the sliotar proudly wears the stripped, black and amber jersey of the Kilkenny team. The Cats have won the All-Ireland Senior Championship 36 times through 2015. The 14 foot, limestone statue was sculpted by Barry Wrafter.

3 Canal Square, Collegepark, Kilkenny, R95 Y52N, Ireland

5 Paddling on the River Nore in Kilkenny, Ireland

These tourists are paddling along the calm waters of the River Nore. On the left is John’s Quay and ahead is John’s Bridge. Both are named after Saint John the Evangelist. This single-arch, concrete span designed by L. G. Mouchel was constructed in 1910. It is the fourth bridge in this position since the early 13th century. The previous ones were destroyed by floods in 1487, 1584 and 1763. In the background is the Kilkenny Castle.

6 John's Bridge, Kilkenny, Ireland

6 Kilkenny River Court Hotel in Kilkenny, Ireland

I normally do not recommend accommodations. The Kilkenny River Court Hotel is a lovely exception. Located along the north bank of the Rover Nore near city center, this terrace has a commanding view of Kilkenny Castle. It is charming spot for dinner or a cocktail after a long day of touring. Inside the recently refurbished facility are 90, well-appointed rooms. The hotel is rated 4 stars.

The Bridge, John Street, Collegepark, Kilkenny City, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland

7 Irish Wake Up Call in Kilkenny, Ireland

During our first morning in Kilkenny, we were awoken by loud and successive clanging. My wife asked with irritation, “What is that rude noise?” My answer was, “That is an Irish wake up call.” This time-honored tradition happens when barkeeps roll out empty beer kegs so they can be replaced by a delivery truck. You would think based on how the Irish love their pints, they would adopt the U.S. standard of 15.5 gallons verses their 13.2 gallon size.

6 John Street Lower, Collegepark, Kilkenny, R95 Y728, Ireland

8 Kilkenny County Council Headquarters in Kilkenny, Ireland

County Kilkenny in the South-East Region has a population of about 100,000. Its geography roughly follows the boarders of Ossory, an Irish kingdom that existed for almost 1,400 years from 150 AD until 1541. Today the area is governed by 24 members of the Kilkenny County Council. This is the headquarters for Comhairle Chontae Chill Chainnigh.

John Street Lower, Collegepark, Kilkenny, R95 PC91, Ireland

9 St John’s Priory in Kilkenny, Ireland

The Order of Saint Augustine was formerly established in Italy in 1244. Soon friars fanned out to other geographical areas to pursue their missionary work. St John’s Priory in Kilkenny was formed during this timeframe. Their 13th century church was nicknamed, “The Lantern of Ireland” for its elaborate windows. After being seized by Henry VII in 1540, the monastery slipped into disrepair and then was mostly destroyed in the late 18th century. The exception is the Lady’s Chapel built in 1290. It serves the Church of Ireland.

1 Michael St, Gardens, Kilkenny, Ireland

10 St. Canice’s Parish Church in Kilkenny, Ireland

St. Canice’s Parish Church and nearby St Canice’s Cathedral are both dedicated to the city’s namesake and patron saint. This Roman Catholic parish, however, is considerably younger than its famous neighbor. The first two chapels were built during the 18th century. They were replaced during the 1830’s by this structure based on the design of William Robertson. The attractive façade with twin spires was constructed with stone from the local Holdensrath Quarry.

Dublin Rd & Castlecomer New Rd, Highhays, Kilkenny, Ireland

11 St Mary’s Church and Graveyard in Kilkenny, Ireland

St Mary’s Church and Graveyard, not to be confused with the cathedral of the same name, has been in the center of this medieval town since about 1205. The ecclesiastical church was dedicated to the Holy Trinity. It was largely rebuilt in 1739 and then closed in 1957. During the early 1960s, it reopened as a parish hall. Surrounding the landmark are the graves of centuries of Kilkenny families.

1 St Mary's Ln, Collegepark, Kilkenny, Ireland

12 Stylized Duck Mural by Dan Leo in Kilkenny, Ireland

As a fan of gorgeous street art, this stylized duck mural on St Mary’s Lane immediately caught my eye. Born in London, artist Dan Leo specializes in painting Irish wildlife with a cartoonish flair. His work on canvas is frequently exhibited in solo exhibitions in Kilkenny.

1 St Mary's Ln, Collegepark, Kilkenny, Ireland

13 Stores on High Street in Kilkenny, Ireland

These two retailers – one established in 1910 and the other in 1853 – are typical of the stores located along High Street, originally called Earl’s Villa. Another popular shopping area is Kieran Street. Together they comprise the majority of the Medieval Mile. This city is not a mecca for shopaholics. Instead of branded luxury stores you will find family-run boutiques. If you need a fix, the Market Cross Shopping Centre offers 40 stores.

23 High St, Gardens, Kilkenny, Ireland

14 The Tholsel Clock Tower in Kilkenny, Ireland

In Ireland, a tólsail is the combination of two words meaning the “hall of taxes.” In addition to serving that function, this city hall has been a customs house and court. It now offices the Borough Council and the mayor. The original structure was built in the center of High Street at the turn of the 15th century. It was replaced in 1578 and again by the current building in 1761. There is an observation deck within its copper, octagon-shaped clock tower.

82 High St, Gardens, Kilkenny, Ireland

15 St Mary’s Cathedral in Kilkenny, Ireland

St Mary’s Cathedral was constructed with limestone in the mid-19th century using a cruciform design and an English Gothic style drawn by William Deane Butler. He was a founding member of the Royal Institute of Architect in Ireland. The church’s formal name is The Cathedral of the Assumption and Church of Saint Kieran. Ciarán of Saigir was a 6th century hermit who became a Bishop of Ossory and Ireland’s first native-born saint. This cathedral is the mother church for the Diocese of Ossory.

James's St & Black Mill St, Gardens, Kilkenny, Ireland

16 Founding of the Black Abbey in Kilkenny, Ireland

The Dominican Order is named after its founder, Saint Dominic. The priest began the Order of the Preachers in 1215 at Toulouse, France. Ten years later, William Marshal established this priory in Kilkenny. The Catholic monastery is called the Black Abbey and is dedicated to the Holy and Undivided Trinity.

Abbey Sq, Abbey Street, Gardens, Kilkenny, Ireland

17 Medieval Façade of the Black Abbey in Kilkenny, Ireland

The Black Abbey has a magnificent, medieval façade accented with blooming flowers in the courtyard. Some of the early 13th century structure remains. However, most of the current building dates from the 14th century, including the enormous windows beneath the ancient tower. The largest is called the Rosary Window. It is adorned with stained glass created by Mayers of Munich in 1892. Oliver Cromwell destroyed much of this priory in the mid-17th century. After a significant restoration, the Black Abbey reopened in 1816.

Abbey Sq, Abbey Street, Gardens, Kilkenny, Ireland

City Wall Marker in Kilkenny, Ireland

The Norman invasion of Ireland began in 1169 when Pope Adiran IV wanted to excerpt control over Celtic Christianity. To protect his Norman stronghold, William Marshal, the 1st Earl of Pembroke, began creating a network of walls encircling Hightown in the late 13th century. When it was finished in 1352, the defense measured almost one mile and enclosed 69 acres. Additional fortifications continued through the mid-17th century, long after the Norman Wars ended in 1541. A few pieces of the walls remain. The longest section – over 300 feet – is near the Black Abbey. Elsewhere, the former perimeter is marked with occasional plaques. Maps are available if you want to walk along the boundaries of the medieval town.

18 St Canice’s Cathedral Round Tower in Kilkenny, Ireland

The Round Tower was constructed during the 9th century, Kilkenny’s oldest structure. Tourists are allowed to climb to its 100 foot height. It adorns the 13th century St Canice’s Cathedral. This gothic-design church replaced predecessors, the earliest one named Cill Channigh from the 6th century. The cathedral’s namesake is Cainnech of Aghaboe. Saint Canice was a 6th century missionary and one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.

The Close, Coach Rd, Gardens, Kilkenny, Ireland

19 Archway of Saint Canice’s Steps in Kilkenny, Ireland

This archway leads to St Canice’s Cathedral. The stone portal is positioned at the top of 26 limestone steps created by Robert Wale in 1614. This flight of stairs is fairly young compared to Kilkenny’s walls constructed during the 13th century. Some of the original wall is still visible along the north and west sections of the church’s cemetery. However, this arch and stairs are typical of the architectural charm of this section of the city called Irish Town.

St Canice's Pl, Gardens, Kilkenny, Ireland