Inside Ireland: Kilkenny

Kilkenny’s rich history and keen contemporary outlook make it a jewel in Ireland’s Ancient East, and an absolute must for those looking to explore one of the country’s most intriguing destinations.

Kilkenny riverside

The Kilkenny Way:
Nothing resonates with Kilkenny quite like hurling. Hurling is Ireland’s national sport and a UNESCO-listed activity of huge cultural importance to Ireland. But it isn’t so much a sport here as a way of life. Kilkenny is Ireland’s most successful county in terms of All-Ireland finals won. So whether you consider yourself an aficionado or a complete newcomer, the Kilkenny Way will be an experience to remember. The Legends Hurling Museum provides an informative backdrop to this ancient game. You’ll be introduced you to some of the finest players in the sport’s history from across the country. Visitors also get the chance to step out on Nowlan Park to see if they have what it takes to make it as a hurler. Finishing up at the Legends Hurling Bar, you’ll even come face-to-face with the most coveted trophy in hurling; the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Providing you with an insight into the often crazy world of hurling, The Kilkenny Way is not to be missed during your visit to the county.

Check the latest fares to Ireland

Smithwick's Experience

Smithwick’s Experience:
Sure, Dublin has the world-famous Guinness Brewery, but Kilkenny has its own brewing legacy to boast about. And while Irish red ale might not be so well-known as the ‘black stuff,’ what the Smithwick’s Experience does offer is a first-hand look at Ireland’s oldest operating brewery. After learning all about the brewing process and Smithwick’s rich history, all tours conclude with a free drink from one of the brewery’s red, blonde or pale ales.

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle:
At more than 800-years old, Kilkenny Castle remains a vibrant destination for visitors. Completed by the Normans in 1213, the castle initially served as a defensive structure for the people of the town. Later it became a residence for some of Kilkenny’s more well-to-do families, and it has retained its splendour across the centuries. The castle is visited by hundreds of thousands each year. Open year-round, visitors can stroll through a building that has witnessed significant developments over the years. You’ll witness the lingering remnants of the original structure to the magnificence of the castle’s entrance hall, adorned with locally sourced black marble. Beyond the castle walls visitors will find even more to keep them occupied. The castle’s surrounding gardens contain numerous paths where you can stroll around at your leisure. The selection of outdoor amenities make this an ideal spot for families visiting with young children. Not purely ornamental, Kilkenny Castle also plays host to an array of exciting events that, when set against this remarkable backdrop, are truly breath-taking.

View on a bank of the River Nore in Kilkenny

Check the latest fares to Ireland

Kilkenny Arts Festival:
Kilkenny’s famous Arts Festival comes to life in August for over a week and it’s an event worth planning your trip around. A mix of traditional and new, the Kilkenny Arts Festival has the added bonus of a stunningly picturesque backdrop. Founded in 1974, many of the world’s finest musicians, performers, writers and artists have gathered here. Making incredible use of Kilkenny’s numerous churches, castles, courtyards and gardens, visitors to the festival will have their choice of exciting, intimate events to choose from. This is definitely one of Kilkenny’s most exciting annual events. Your only problem will be deciding which act to go and see.

Cat Laughs Festival:
From humble beginnings in 1994, you’ll struggle to find a comedian who hasn’t at one stage or another appeared at Kilkenny’s Cat Laughs Festival. Alongside recurring Irish acts like Dara Ó Briain, Tommy Tiernan and David O’Doherty, a rich selection of international comedians descends on Kilkenny once a year for the funniest few days Ireland has to offer. Spread out across the town, visitors to the festival will be spoilt for choice. This is a great way to explore Kilkenny as you move from venue to venue. It’s not all stand-up comedy – the festival does showcase some alternative forms of comedy too. In Collapsing Horse, you’ll get the chance to experience an internationally renowned theatre company that brings incredible energy to the stage. This is an event for literally anyone with a sense of humour.

Dunmore Cave, Kilkenny

Dunmore Cave:
Kilkenny is not without natural beauty, and Dunmore Cave is a perfect example of this. Formed over millions of years, you’ll explore a series of chambers unlike any other you’re likely to see. Known to the people of Kilkenny for centuries, there is a rich (and sometimes horrifying) human history contained within this cave. Little under a millennium ago, the cave played host to a Viking massacre that saw almost one-thousand people murdered. Thankfully, things have a changed a bit since then and now what you’ll find is an experience expertly created to suit tourists making their way into what was once deemed to be amongst the coldest, darkest places any person could visit in Ireland. Illuminated to allow for a clear view of the cave’s remarkable stone formations, you can still expect it to be fairly chilly once the daylight slips from view. You can warm yourself up with a cup of tea in the visitor centre once you re-emerge from the dark depths of the cave.

We operate daily flights to Dublin and Shannon from Europe, the UK and North America. Kilkenny is easily accessible by hire car or public transport links at Dublin and Shannon Airport.

Read next: Inside Ireland: County Limerick.

Book your trip to Ireland now