In Ireland, the more popular places travelers would visit are along the coastlines of the country. Dublin is the first county you’ll hit when flying from Europe, where Galway sits on the seabed of the Atlantic. Donegal and Cork also have beaches and marinas that provide a backdrop to the major attractions, which is what makes the inland city of Kilkenny rare among the places to visit when planning your holidays to the emerald isle.
Kilkenny is a beautifully preserved medieval city that houses some of Ireland’s most historically significant landmarks that date back a thousand years. On a sunny day, families and visitors would use the grounds of Kilkenny Castle to reside for sunbathing and picnics, with the free-to-access park stretching across 21 acres of green fields perfect for a slow afternoon. The castle also has regular tours for those all-too-frequent days where the sun might not be out to enjoy.
Outside the castle walls, the city is connected by cobbled lanes that stretch across the River Nore, with music being played from popular bars and pubs housing session music through the day. Although there are dozens of venues to be seen in the city, The Left Bank, a multi-purpose bar and restaurant pitted in the center of town, would be top of the list. The building looms over the city like a giant, with its high ceilings and classic décor being more impressive than the outside impression. A must-see for visitors.
Away from castles and bars, Kilkenny would be nationally regarded as the home of Hurling, a Gaelic game that dominates the sporting calendar year-round. The men’s senior team are one of the most successful in the country, with a record 36 wins in the All-Ireland championship, a tournament that pits the best counties in the country against each other. The sport can be best described as a mix between rugby and hockey, with players using a ‘hurly’ stick to hit the ‘Sliotar’ into the opposing team’s goal. Visitors mustn’t leave the city without trying the sport out, with companies offering hurling experiences for tourists who fancy a whack of the ball. You can find the details of ‘The Kilkenny Way,’ a tour group offering hurling experiences, in Google.
The sport can sometimes look like a real-life game of Quidditch, without the brooms and backdrop of Hogwarts. For fans of witchcraft and wizardry, we need to leave the field and head to St Kieran’s Street, where we have two significant venues named after two notable women. Alice Kyteler and Petronilla de Meath are ‘The Witches of Kilkenny’, who are now commemorated in the form of two namesake restaurants that remind locals of a dark past. Kyteler, after being accused of sorcery by the state after the mysterious deaths of her four husbands, fled Kilkenny to England and escaped almost certain death. Her maid, Petronilla, was left behind by Kyteler, and by association, became the first woman to be burnt to death for witchcraft in Ireland in 1324. For a truly rich and haunting evening, a drink at Kytelers bar followed by dinner at Petronilla’s will allow you to immerse into that troubling story.
Brighter tales can be heard throughout the city every year during the annual ‘The Cat Laughs’ festival, with the world’s funniest people hosting shows during the June public holiday weekend. The line-up is usually one of an international persuasion, interspersed with joke tellers from Ireland that guide visitors through this medieval city with the character and warmth that you’d expect from Irish hospitality.
Cover Photo © credit to iStock/Thomas_Zsebok_Images
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