Are you looking for an adventure that will take you back in time? If so, then Kilkenny, Ireland is the perfect destination for you! Just an hour and a half drive from Dublin, this beautiful city in the southeast of Ireland is oozing with history, culture, and charm. From exploring the Medieval Mile to visiting the iconic Kilkenny Castle, there is no shortage of things to do in this historic city. After a lovely stop in Kilkenny during our Irish road trip, I am sharing 5 interesting things to do on a day trip to Kilkenny.
Sal and I visited Kilkenny on our first full day in Ireland. After landing in Dublin and exploring all we could in one day, the day before. We woke up early and headed out on Day 1 of our Irish road trip adventure. Our first stop was Kilkenny! We left Dublin around 9:15 am and drove to Kilkenny. Initially, we thought we would spend half a day there, but we ended up staying the entire day! Visiting Kilkenny is a great experience. There is so much to see and do.
Before we get started, some answers to frequently asked questions!
Is Kilkenny a good place to visit?
Absolutely! Kilkenny is known for its rich medieval history and stunning architecture. Kilkenny is packed full of history, culture, and charm. Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a fun day out with the family, there is something for everyone in Kilkenny.
What is Kilkenny famous for?
Kilkenny was the medieval l capital of Ireland. It is famous for Kilkenny Castle, a medieval building and a prominent attraction that played a significant role in Irish history. The town is also famous for its food (more on that later) its Irish crafts and design. In Kilkenny you can browse – and buy – beautiful creations from local artists like silver jewelry, fine art, pottery, and ceramics. In fact, when we arrived there was an arts and crafts fair taking place and that was the second place we stopped (after coffee)!
How to get to Kilkenny from Dublin?
Kilkenny is easily accessible from Dublin by car, bus, or train. The fastest way to get there is by car, with the journey taking around an hour and a half from Dublin. If you prefer public transport, there are regular buses and trains that run from Dublin to Kilkenny and they only take about an hour and a half to two hours, depending on the schedule. This makes Kilkenny an easy day trip from Dublin.
During our visit, we rented a car in Ireland as our travels included a road trip around the island. For that reason, we drove to Kilkenny. However, we recognize that driving in Ireland might not be for everyone, especially if it requires driving on the opposite side of the road. In fact, we did meet fellow travelers, who surprisingly to the same University and me and Sal, who were on an Irish tour because they did not want to drive in Ireland. If driving on the left side of the road is not for you, public transportation, or a tour, is a great way to go!
And if you are road tripping through Ireland, book your car today!
Where to park in Kilkenny?
Speaking of road tripping to Kilkenny. Due to Kilkenny’s popularity, parking can be a challenge. Street parking is available but can be limited and it tends to fill up. Therefore, it is best to arrive early to get a parking spot. Also, be prepared to pay for parking, as most of the parking spots are metered. Some of the options for parking in Kilkenny include Market Yard Car Park, Friary Street Car Park or the Ormonde Car Park, to name a few. The Kilkenny County Council lists the car parks (or parking lots like we say on our side of the pond!) and the price per hour for your reference.
Because we arrived early, Sal and I were able to find street parking. Although, we did have to drive around a bit, making multiple passes down the same streets, before finding a spot. We paid a meter and it cost us €1 per hour. We visited on a Thursday in June. I anticipate parking will be less available on the weekends.
How much time do you need in Kilkenny?
Kilkenny is a small town that can easily be explored in a day. But you may not get to see everything in a day trip. If you have more time, there are plenty of things to see and do that will keep you entertained for longer. Sal and I stayed in Kilkenny longer than we expected. We initially thought we would spend half a day there, but I am glad we spent the entire day in Kilkenny.
Fun Fact: The people of Kilkenny are known as The Cats. This local site tells two versions of how this name came to be. Either way, there are cats all over Kilkenny and if you are a cat lover like me and Buddy, you will be delighted!
Speaking of Buddy.
Where is Buddy?
While Sal and I road tripped to Kilkenny, Buddy spent the morning with his choir on a half-day trip to Glendolaugh and Wicklow. Later that evening, he and his choir returned to Dublin and sang at the Lady Chapel in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Unfortunately, this post will not include a teenager’s perspective.
If you are interested in doing Buddy’s tour, it is included below.
5 Interesting Things To Do On A Day Trip to Kilkenny
1. Walk the Medieval Mile
One of the main attractions of Kilkenny is Ireland’s Medieval Mile. It is a street located in the town center that takes you back in time, with some of the best-preserved medieval architecture. A must-do on any trip to Kilkenny is to take a stroll along the Medieval Mile through the heart of Kilkenny. You will some of the city’s most prominent landmarks and historical buildings, including St. Mary’s Church, Rothe House, the Butter Slip, and St. Canice’s Cathedral.
Sal and I walked the Medieval Mile from Cakeface Patisserie (more on that later!) to Kilkenny Castle via High Street, stopping in to take in the sites along the way. Later we walked back St. Kieran Street until we came across the Butter Slip. From there we walked from High Street to Parliament Street to St. Canice’s Cathedral. We caught the section of St. Kieran Steet that we missed earlier when we made our way to Kyetler’s Inn for dinner.
Wait, what is a Butter Slip?
The Butter Slip is a narrow passageway that connects High Street with St. Kieran Street. The Slip got its name from the days when butter vendors would use it as a shortcut to transport their goods to the market. According to Discover Ireland, the Butter Slip was built in 1616 and once ran underneath two houses!
Medieval Mile in Kilkenny is great for: Travelers of all ages!
Make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes when you explor the Medieval Mile. And it is best to break them in before traveling!
2. Visit Kilkenny Castle and Parklands
Kilkenny Castle is one of the most popular attractions in the city, and it is a must-visit. The castle dates back to the 12th century, and it is now a museum that displays the history of the city and the castle’s long and fascinating history. The stunning castle museum offers an insight into the lives of Ireland’s wealthy aristocracy. There are beautiful gardens and parks around the castle that make it a scenic spot for a picnic or a leisurely stroll.
Kilkenny Castle is located at The Parade, Collegepark, Kilkenny, R95 YRK1, Ireland. For the most up-to-date information including exhibits, hours of admission and ticket prices, visit the website.
Kilkenny Castle was the third stop on our day trip. After grabbing a coffee, visiting a craft fair, and walking parts of the Medieval Mile, we walked over to the castle. Our decision to tour the castle was a spur of the moment choice. As such, we did not buy tickets in advance. There was no line and we visited, but perhaps that is because we were there on a Thursday.
Visitors do not need paid tickets to visit the following areas:
- Kilkenny Castle Gardens
- The Castle Tea Room an onsite restaurant
- Medieval Room
This is great for travelers on a budget. If you are short on time and prefer a quicker visit.
Also, Sal and I loved the Medieval room. It is an interesting space, and they play informative videos about the history of the castle. It is a great place to get the essence of the castle without a ticket. And of course, the gardens surrounding the castle are free and a great place for a picnic lunch or for the kiddos to run around and let out some energy.
We spent about an hour in Kilkenny Castle and enjoyed learning about the history of Kilkenny. Some highlights include The Picture Gallery and The Ros Tapestry, a tale told in thread exhibit. Both were breathtaking!
Kilkenny Castle is great for: Travelers interested in Irish history, art, and castles.
And the Parklands is great for: Picnics. Littles who want to run around and play.
3. Visit the Kilkenny Design Centre
Located in what was once the stables for Kilkenny Castle, the Kilkenny Design Centre is perfect for travelers who love to shop local! Kilkenny Design Craft Centre. The Kilkenny Design Centre boasts a fascinating selection of artwork, handicrafts, and clothing, all of which have been exquisitely handcrafted by local artisans. For travelers looking to take home a unique souvenir or simply soak up some cultural inspiration, the Kilkenny Design Centre is a must-visit.
After we left the Castle, we immediately crossed the street and headed over to Kilkenny Design Centre. There are so many things to see and great shops. Unfortunately, since we were traveling light, we did not purchase anything. But it was fun to browse.
A highlight for me was seeing a cat from the Kilkenny Catwalk 2021 at the Kilkenny Design Centre. The cats were so inspiring that I filmed two Movement Postcards with them. I guess I was missing our cat who was back home in the desert.
While you are visiting Kilkenny Design Centre, walk over to Butler House Garden. It is a lovely garden with beautiful flowers. When we visited, we got to experience the Butler Garden Fairy Door Trail. And we saw another cat from the Kilkenny Catwalk. And yes, I filmed a Movement Postcard with that fuzzy cat too!
Kilkenny Design Centre is great for: Travelers who like to shop, people of all ages.
Butler House Garden is great for: Travelers who love nature and families traveling with littles.
4. Visit St. Canice’s Cathedral and climb the Round Tower
St. Canice’s Cathedral is another significant landmark in Kilkenny. The medieval Cathedral offers a chance to learn about the town’s rich history and cultural heritage. And the Cathedral’s famous Round Tower the remains to be an iconic symbol of Ireland. A climb to the top will reward you with a stunning panoramic view of the town. The 9th-century tower was used as a lookout post by Irish monks. Today, you can climb it for breathtaking views of Kilkenny and the surrounding countryside.
- Tickets to climb the tower are first come first serve. If climbing the tower is a must-do for you, get there early! And buy your tickets in advance.
- Tickets to visit the Cathedral and the Tower can be purchased separately, or together.
- Family travelers with littles or smaller kiddos, there is a height restriction for visitors climbing the Round Tower. The minimum is 4.5 feet.
When visiting, Sal and I were immediately in awe of the graveyard surrounding the Cathedral and spent some time walking around the grounds. We opted not to tour the cathedral but instead bought tickets to climb the tower. Luckily, there were some available on site and there was no line to climb the tower. In fact, there were only a handful of other travelers visiting when we did. This means that we had some time alone at the top and the ladder was not crowded.
The climb is not for the faint of heart! It is very steep and could be challenging for travelers who are afraid of heights or find climbing wooden ladders challenging. The climb itself is seven floors and 121 steps up wooden ladders in very tight spaces. But, the climb is worth it! The view from the top is amazing!
- St. Canice’s Tower is only one of two round towers in Ireland that can be climbed.
- It is over 100 feet tall!
- The door to the tower is above ground level for two reasons. First, it was to maintain the structural integrity of the Tower’s foundation. And second because people would store prized possessions at the top of the Tower. The Tower was only accessible using a ladder. During time of Viking raids, monks would pull up the ladder, protecting the valuable contents inside the tower.
- According to staff onsite, it used to be a bell tower.
- The Round Tower is the oldest standing building in Kilkenny!
The Round Tower is great for: Travelers who love history, adventure, or a good view.
5. Grab a bite to eat
There are many places to eat during your day in Kilkenny. The town was even recognized by the Restaurants Association of Ireland as a foodie destination. Kilkenny even has a website dedicated to its cuisine! There are many great places to eat in Kilkenny, which is why grabbing a bite from a local restaurant or café is a must on your day trip.
The first place we stopped during our daytrip to Kilkenny was Cakeface Patisserie. We just so happened to walk right by and I was delighted because when researching the area for our trip, I came across many recommendations for Cakeface. Excited, we popped in and grabbed a coffee. The coffee was nice fuel for a busy day of exploring, but I absolutely regret not getting a pastry!
At the end of our day trip, we were hungry and decided to grab a late lunch at the one and only Kytelers Inn. Kyetlers Inn dates back to 1263 and has a rich history. Founder Dame Alice de Kyteler was accused of witchcraft! Kyetlers Inn is a pub that offers traditional Irish cuisine. It was a charming place to drink a pint and sip some Irish whiskey after a long day while grabbing a bite. We heard that the pub offers traditional Irish music. But there was no music when we visited. Perhaps we were there too early in the day. After our late lunch, we poured ourselves into the car and drove off to spend the night in Blarney.
Great for: Foodie travelers, hungry travelers, travelers of all ages.
Our Day Trip to Kilkenny Itinerary
I am happy to share our exact Kilkenny itinerary in case it is helpful. Honestly, we had nothing planned and no timed tickets. We just went with the flow, but it all worked out. I think we could have saved some time walking if we had planned the day.
- Arrive and find parking
- Grab a coffee at Cakeface
- Walk the Medieval Mile
- Kilkenny Castle
- Kilkenny Design Centre
- Butler House Garden
- St. Canice’s Round Tower
- St. Mary’s Church
- Market Cross Shopping Centre
- Late lunch at Kyetlers Inn
What we missed in Kilkenny
It is impossible to everything in one day in Kilkenny. And despite our best efforts, we missed a few places of interest. Here is what we missed on this trip. Hopefully, we get a chance to return with Buddy and visit these sites.
- St. Mary’s Medieval Mile Museum
- Smithwick’s Experience
- The Black Abbey
- The Butler Gallery
- Rothe House & Garden
What to bring on a day trip to Kilkenny
These are a few things that we brought with us on our day trip to Kilkenny that were helpful:
- Comfortable walking shoes. When I visited Kilkenny, I wore these ankle booties. They were comfortable for all the walking we did and I had no problem climbing the Round Tower in them.
- A crossbody travel bag. A crossbody bag is a must so you have both of your hands free to climb the 7 stories of ladders on the Round Tower! And make sure you get a bag large enough to fit a small water bottle and travel umbrella. Speaking of umbrellas.
- A travel umbrella
- A rain jacket. It is best to come prepared. It is Ireland after all!
Want to stay longer in Kilkenny?
If you want to stay longer than a day trip, there are many great places in and around the Medieval Mile.
Kilkenny is an excellent destination for a day trip for family travelers, families, and travelers who seek a little adventure. If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, make sure to add Kilkenny to your list of must-see destinations. From its stunning castle to its fascinating medieval history, Kilkenny is a beautiful city that’s sure to charm and enchant visitors of all ages. With so many things to see and do, it’s no wonder that Kilkenny has become one of Ireland’s most popular travel destinations. Come and experience the magic of this hidden gem for yourself!
Are you traveling to Kilkenny? Or have you spent a day in Kilkenny? What are your must-sees? Let us know in the comments below!
Do you have questions about family travel or traveling with teens? Feel free to reach out! We are happy to chat and share our experiences! We look forward to connecting with you.
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