With my parents being over in autumn, I took the chance to plan a day in the beautiful town of Kilkenny. To be honest, my mom’s biggest dream was to go there eventually, after traveling to Ireland several times. I made her dream come true. Other than the local beer breweries I have not really looked into Kilkenny myself. Being part of the #IrelandsAncientEast campaign of Tourism Ireland there is definitely loads to see: design, fashion, arts and of course historical sites.
Most impressively, when you enter the town is surely Kilkenny Castle which is located on top of a little hill overlooking a river. When I was standing on one of the bridges into town center, I was astonished how present the castle still appears. And of course I was wondering, what is in there? What’s the story behind it?
I always wonder who lived in the castles, who worked here and how those big rooms ever heated up not to be damp and cold. Kilkenny Castle is one of the enriching highlights in town. It might be very touristy in summer, but when I got there (late September) I didn’t need to queue for a ticket. You enter the castle, pay your fees and walk through the dungeon and one of the towers into Medieval times. Meeting noblemen and reading (or listening to) stories from former times, I eventually felt like a noblewoman myself. Walking through several rooms who have been re-decorated and refurbished to their 19th century looks. The castle is old, very old indeed. It’s 800 years but it’s looks have changed several times, especially on the inside. Very interestingly, the castle has been owned by the same family, the Butlers, for 600 years.
You work yourself up from the tower, Ground and First floor and end up in the Picture Gallery Wing which is a happy place. The very decorative mid-19th century style with a wooden roof and many paintings on the wall, it was strange and lovely at the same time. Even the castle website quotes the magazine, The Irish Builder criticizing the decorative scheme:
a roof probably intended to be Byzantine but is merely bizarre.
The gardens and the courtyard give an impressive view into the country and of course onto the castle and the town of Kilkenny itself. If you find yourself relaxing there on the grass on a sunny day, take a snack with you and have a picnic. Plus: in the former Kitchen Hallway you find a contemporary gallery! Isn’t it great that old and new, history and art are together in one place? You find Opening hours & admission fees here.
Design Hot Spot
Just across the castle gateway the National Center of Design opens up in the former stables of the castle. The beautiful building itself houses a fabulous shop (very touristy!), a gallery and some workshops (Rudolph Heltzel Goldsmith). I walked through buildings, had a look at beautiful pottery and ceramics as well as scarves and wollen goods and ended up in the Butler House & Gardens behind the Design Center. I really wished I was able to live in the early 20th century just to see how people dressed and walked through the little yard, sat on a bench next to the pond and picked rose hips to make some tea. You might call me romantic, but I love to dip into a different era.
Back in the gallery, I was delighted with the exhibition Obj. in which artists present objects overlapping with technology, artificial intelligence and robotics. Since I am currently studying Digital Education I am still stunned of what you can make through digital processes. My favorite piece was definitely the interactive sculpture by Daniel Rozin.
The Design Center also hosts an art festival in August.
How to get there
I looked up train and bus times, but since my parents do not own a LeapCard to get cheaper tickets, I went for a local car rental in Naas. I was really happy with the car (Opel Corsa, only 4.000km) and the service there, easy, quick and without much notice.