One of the best towns in Ireland for tourists is Kilkenny. It is considered the loveliest inland city, and is located in the southeast part of the country (for a map showing the location click here). It is a well-kept town with a variety of painted buildings and narrow alleyways. The town has two main historical treasures, Kilkenny Castle at one end of town and St. Canice’s Cathedral at the other.
Kilkenny Castle sits above the River Nore, and dates from the 12thcentury although it’s been heavily remodeled and restored over the centuries and now is decorated in the finest fashion of the Victorian era (1830’s). It has some great paintings, furnishings and wooden ceilings. It was owned and occupied by the Butler family until the 1930’s (a very influential family dating back to the 1300’s who also owned Cahir Castle, discussed in another post, click here). Access to Kilkenny castle is by guided tour only, which lasts about 1 hour. No video or cameras are allowed inside.
At the other end of High Street is St. Canice’s Cathedral. The cathedral dates from the 13thcentury and sits on a hill top above the town. I was impressed with the views of Kilkenny from its hundred-foot high round tower. The cathedral is intact and is considered one of Ireland’s key medieval treasures.
About 30 kilometers south of Kilkenny are the medieval ruins of Jerpoint Abbey, a large Cistercian abbey founded in the late 12th century that for some reason is not mentioned in Rick Steves’ Ireland book. The tower and cloister date from the 15thcentury. The sculptured cloister arcade is unusual and quite interesting.
Both Kilkenny Castle and Jerpoint Abbey are part of the Heritage Ireland system, which means you buy a membership card once and don’t have to pay individual entry fees at each site which is part of the system.
The town of Graiguenamanagh was NOT on our itinerary, but a rental car breakdown (my first ever) in this town caused us to spend the night here. We actually enjoyed our overnight stop in this little town on the Barrow River. This was a chance to experience a quiet little Irish village, just a little ways east of Jerpoint Abbey.