After spending a great few days in Dublin we were ready to head out into the Irish countryside. I love nothing more than setting out on a road trip to see more of a country, although sometimes stressful I’ll opt for a road trip whenever I can.
Our first intended location was the town of Kilkenny which is a couple of hours outside of Dublin. The driving was pretty uneventful but I’ve read that many visitors who are used to driving on the right hand side of the road find left hand driving daunting. For someone who has grown up driving on the left but spent many hours driving on the right I can understand why. The left does seem to be a bit more complicated but you should get the hang of it pretty quickly…oh until you get to a roundabout that is!
Kilkenny is on the banks of the River Nore and has some key attractions, St Canice’s Cathedral and the unmissable Kilkenny Castle. The town itself is easy to get around so once you’ve parked up you can spend the rest of the day wandering round on foot.
We walked along the river and then up to the castle on what was a beautiful sunny day. We were incredibly lucky to have blue skies and sunshine for the week we were in Ireland – almost unheard of!
The castle has extensive grounds that reminded me of Petworth Park in Sussex near where we live. We grabbed an ice cream and spent some time walking around the grounds. If you have kids or even without to be honest it would be a great place to bring a picnic and hang out for the day. If we had more time or had thought about it in advance we would definitely have done this.
We decided to skip actually visiting the inside of the castle. What was pretty awesome is in one of the round turrets there is a free video that explains the history of the castle. It is well worth watching to get an idea of the history.
Our next stop was one of the those places that you know is aimed at flying visitors who are after something ‘Irish’ to take home. The Kilkenny Design Centre is a complex of artists studios, a large area of small shops and a restaurant. It is quite expensive but if you’re after a more luxurious gift or souvenir you can’t go wrong here.
Kilkenny town itself has the feeling of a small medieval town much like Arundel with it’s castle and cathedral. The town is quite busy as the roads are small and there are quite a few cars but it is nice to wander around.
We opted to visit the Medieval Mile Museum. A relatively new museum that tells the history of Kilkenny and the surrounding area. The museum is housed in an old church and is filled with modern interactive displays. We were the only people there to start with which was a bit surreal but enjoyable. We got some audio guides and made our way round the exhibitions, there is no set route but you get a feel for where you should go next.
Kilkenny is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Ireland and this museum highlights the history beautifully. The route even takes you outside into the graveyard to look at some of the tombs. We spent an hour or so walking round but you could easily spend a lot longer digging into the specifics of all the artefacts.
I’d read about the Butter Slip in Kilkenny as this quaint shopping street, in the end it was pretty disappointing. We’d walked past it the first time and then when we found it half the shops were boarded up and it was basically just a corridor. Just goes to show the internet can make everything sound fabulous!
I’d also read that the Smithwicks Experience had a bar that you could sample their beers in however this could not be found. Pretty exhausted by this point we decided to cut our losses and stopped for a quick pint at a pub in town before continuing our journey onto Cork.
What we had to skip due to our exhaustion was St Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower. The cathedral dates to the 13th century and is accompanied by a 100ft 9th century round tower. The round tower is thought to be a bell tower but have been used for various things over the year. They remind me of the minarets we saw in Uzbekistan. This one is only one of three round towers in Ireland that can actually be climbed. This is something that we would definitely do if we had more time and weren’t so tired! One for next time!!
I also admitted to take a photo so you can check out some pictures on Google here!
Our day ended with a drive to Cork, check in to our B&B and dinner at one of Cork’s restaurants Elbow Lane Smokehouse. This was the meal we were supposed to have had the night before. Steak, beer tasting and cocktails. It was a perfect mixture of hipster and just plain good food. If you’re in Cork go here!
Kilkenny was a great stop, you could easily spend a couple of days there checking out the attractions and picnicking in the castle grounds or you can tick off the top attractions on a day trip.