County Kilkenny is home to rolling green hills of verdant pasture, meandering, picturesque rivers with architecturally amazing arched bridges.
You’ll find an abundance of stone castles from the middle ages, ancient monasteries and cathedrals, and Ireland’s most magnificent medieval city. It truly is a spectacular county.
In today’s post join me on a photographic tour of this beautiful county.
Here’s a little sampling of what awaits you in County Kilkenny.
Location of County Kilkenny
County Kilkenny is one of the twelve counties of the ancient province of Leinster.
County Kilkenny’s coat of arms features three sheaves of grain, perhaps because a golden ale has been brewed there since the 1200’s.
The Smithwick’s brewery continues brewing beer to this very day.
Kilkenny’s GAA county colors are black and amber, and this county is proud of its hurling team. T
hey have won more All-Ireland hurling finals than any other county.
Kilkenny is an old medieval city with a rich heritage and magnificent historical buildings and landmarks.
Beginning as a monastic settlement it grew into a thriving commercial center in the middle ages, and became home to a majestic castle on the banks of the river Nore in the 1200’s. Shop fronts are colorful and inviting.
The city’s tourist office is located in the Shee Alms House, which was built in 1582 by Sir Richard Shee to “accommodate twelve poor persons.” There’s history everywhere you turn in Kilkenny.
Kilkenny Castle dates to the 12th century and was the principal seat of the Butler family, the Dukes of Ormonde.
In the 12th century Strongbow, the legendary or infamous Norman invader of Ireland, built a fort where Kilkenny Castle now stands. It was Strongbow’s son-in-law William Marshall who built the city walls, and the first stone castle on the site.
His industrious efforts ensured Kilkenny grew into an important seat of Norman power and a medieval market city.
This enormous stone castle was remodeled in Victorian times and is surrounded by extensive and beautiful parklands.
Open to the public, the central block of this ancient castle includes a library, drawing room, and bedrooms, which were all decorated in 1830’s splendor. Many of the Butler family portraits and their extensive art collection are on display in the Long Gallery.
A suite of former servant’s rooms is home to the Butler Art Gallery. Exhibitions and events are scheduled frequently. The castle is open for tours and their schedule is available here.
The picture above really shows off Kilkenny Castle’s amazing positioning on the banks of the river Nore.
Kilkenny was once the medieval capital of Ireland, and the past beckons around every corner. The city’s rich medieval heritage is clearly evident in its narrow streets lined with historical buildings and cultural landmarks.
The Black Abbey can be seen in the photo above. Built in 1225 it was a center of Kilkenny life for centuries. It was repressed in 1543, under the direction of the notorious Henry VII and was converted into a courthouse.
Restored in 1778, it is home to stunning staned glass windows, and and extensive collection of statues and relics.
St. Canice’s Cathedral And Round Tower:
Kilkenny City’s origins predate the arrival of the Normans. Saint Canice gave his name to the city which is Cill Chainnigh in Irish, meaning the church of Canice. The saint founded a monastic settlement here in the 6th century.
The magnificent round tower dates back to the 9th century and stands beside an ornate stone cathedral, built in the 13th century.
Another of our infamous invaders, Cromwell wreaked havoc on the cathedral in 1650. Restoration wasn’t completed until the 18th century.
Rothe House is actually a complex of three houses built by John Rothe, a wealthy merchant.
The first of these Tudor mansions, seen here, was built in 1594 but as his family grew, he built further houses behind the first.
Today Rothe House is home to folk and costume exhibitions.
The ruins of Kells Priory are situated near the village of Kells about 15 km south of the city of Kilenny. This ancient holy site dates from the 14th and 15th centuries.
Standing on over 4 acres the ruins consist of a church, a chapel, a sacristy and a number of domestic buildings.
In March 1540 this Priory was dissolved under none other than Henry VIII’s direction.
Bennettsbridge and the River Nore:
Kilkenny’s rivers are magnificent with arched bridges spanning their waters at various locations. Bennettsbridge is home to this beautiful old bridge.
This quaint village has become home to many potters and craft producers in recent years.
Inistioge is a picturesque and historic village on the river Nore in South Kilkenny.
Nestling in the Nore valley it offers some of the best scenery in the region. This ten arched bridge spanning the River Nore is a favorite of photographers.
The recently restored gardens of the Woodstock estate are spectacular.
Jerpoint Abbey is an old Cistercian monastery founded in the second half of the 12th century.
The ruins are amazing and the church boasts old Romanesque details in the stonework. A 13th to 16th century tomb sculpture can be seen in the transept of the chapel.
The tower and cloister date from the 15th century. The sculptured cloister arcade has many unique old carvings.
Dunmore cave offers visitors a glimpse at history blended with geology. This cave system is a series of chambers formed over millions of years. Some of Ireland’s finest calcite formations are found here.
An old Irish annal tells of a Viking massacre at the cave in the year 928 A.D., and Viking artifacts have been found within the cave.
Founded in the 13th century this former Cistercian monastery was yet another victim of the Dissolution, and was suppressed in 1536. The abbey gradually fell into ruin.
However, today it is the Catholic parish church of Graiguenamanagh. An old medieval carving is housed within, showing a cross-legged knight in chain mail, and about to unsheath his sword.
Kilmogue Portal Dolmen:
This portal dolmen was built by our neolithic forefathers about 6000 years ago
Kilmogue dolmen is known locally as “Leac an Scail” which means stone of the warrior or hero. The sheer size of this portal tomb is amazing.
A large capstone rests on two large portal-stones and a pillow stone lies on a back stone, making it one of the largest dolmens in Ireland. Some of the signposts for this dolmen read “Harristown” dolmen.
Norman tower houses or Medieval keeps dot the Kilkenny countryside. You will pass ruins of old castles as you drive around, or some, like Burnchurch Castle still stand proud and tall today.
Built in the 15th century this old castle in a National Mounument.
Kilfane Glen and Waterfall is a pristine garden dating from the 1790s, located near Thomastown. In the middle of these ancient trees a waterfall tumbles its way to a rushing stream.
Open in July and August you can ramble along woodland paths and enjoy the natural beauty of Ireland.
In the ruins of Kilfane church stands a large stone knight dating from the late 13th or early 14th century. He is known locally as “Long Cantwell” and he bears a sword and shield with the Cantwell coat of arms. He may have been a local lord and a crusader.
Websites For Planning A Trip To County Kilkenny:
If you’re planning to visit Ireland’s medieval city and its surrounding county, here are some very helpful links.
And you can explore more of Ireland’s thirty-two counties through this link.
Previously we visited County Kildare on our alphabetical journey around Ireland.
Plus next up on our tour is County Laois.
Happy arm chair travels around Ireland.
Slán agus beannacht!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
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