What better way to discover the history and culture of the medieval town of Kilkenny than by using Ireland’s Medieval Mile as a guide? Here are five fascinating stops on this Kilkenny trail.
Situated in the southeast of Ireland, the medieval town of Kilkenny is a hidden gem. Known most notably for its fantastic hurling team who have won the All-Ireland a record-breaking 36 times, it is also a town renowned for its distinctive history and culture, including the Medieval Mile.
The town of Kilkenny was the unofficial capital of Ireland in 1641 for nine years. Although today it no longer holds this title, it is now known as the medieval capital of Ireland due to its medieval streetscape. One of the best ways to explore the area’s wealth of history and culture is to get a Medieval Mile pass.
The Medieval Mile is a discovery trail running through the centre of Kilkenny, linking Kilkenny Castle to St. Canine’s Cathedral, both of which we have featured in this article. Between these two historic landmarks are a multitude of cobble-stoned streets, historic buildings, museums, and experiences to explore.
Here are our top five fascinating stops on this Kilkenny trail, which brings the history of the town to life!
5. Kilkenny Castle – one of the most fairytale-esque castles in the world
According to the Architectural Digest, Kilkenny Castle is “one of the most fairytale-esque castles of the world” and phenomenally ranked in eighth place as one of the most beautiful castles in the world. You cannot meander through the ancient town of Kilkenny without stopping at this historic castle.
Originally built in 1195 as a defensive stone castle, it overlooks the town of Kilkenny. Two wings of the castle have been restored to their former glory and are absolutely stunning. We recommend a visit to the Long Gallery, which showcases a large collection of the last owners’ family paintings.
The castle is situated on a gorgeous 50 acres of land, and there is so much to discover outside the castle itself. Smell the roses in the rose garden or watch the ducks swim across the lake. There is also a trail that leads you through the magical grounds of this ancient castle.
Address: The Parade, Collegepark, Kilkenny, R95 YRK1
4. Smithwick’s Experience – discover the home of Ireland’s oldest ale
On the site where Smithwicks was brewed for over 300 years, this brewery tour is not to be missed. Recognised as one of Ireland’s oldest breweries, the site was home to a Franciscan monastery where the monks had been brewing ale since the 14th century before John Smithwick began brewing the infamous Irish red ale, Smithwicks.
On the tour, you will learn all about the medieval origins of Ireland’s oldest beer, while also learning about the brewing process. Learn about all the intricacies that go into making the perfect pint of Smithwicks through your knowledgeable tour guide. Finish the tour off with a refreshing pint of beer from the brewery!
Address: 44 Parliament St, Gardens, Kilkenny, R95 VK54
3. Kilkenny’s Famine Experience – uncover stories of the darkest times in Irish history
When the building of MacDonagh Shopping Centre began in 2005, it uncovered a burial ground for 976 famine victims. The former site of the Kilkenny Union Workhouse now pays homage to those who lost their lives during the Great Famine. The audio-visual tour takes a look at the atrocities of the Great Famine.
The stories of the victims are brought to life, in particular two young boys, John and Patrick, who sought refuge in the workhouse after being abandoned by their parents. Although a very sad tour, it is very informative and highlights a dark part of Irish history.
Address: Hebron Rd, Highhays, Kilkenny
2. St. Canice’s Cathedral – the best views of Kilkenny
The site was founded in the 6th century after St. Canice who gives Kilkenny its name. Cill Chainnigh is the Irish for the Church of Canice, which was then translated to Kilkenny. The structure that stands on the site today was completed in 1285 and is a massive Gothic cathedral.
The round tower which was built in the 9th century is the oldest standing structure in modern-day Kilkenny. This tower is one of two round towers that visitors are allowed to climb in all of Ireland. With views of the entire town of Kilkenny and some of the surrounding countryside, it is a spectacular sight on a clear day!
Within the cathedral are beautiful stained-glass windows and unique marble floors. The marble floor is unique as it represents the four provinces of Ireland, as marble was brought from each province to complete the project. The cathedral is also home to the Great War Memorial List, which is a record of all the Irishmen who lost their lives during World War One.
Address: Coach Rd, Gardens, Kilkenny
1. Kyteler’s Inn – the owner who was charged with witchcraft
Established in the 13th century by Dame Alice Kyteler, Kyteler’s Inn is a fascinating spot on the Medieval Mile. Alice had been married four times, and all of her husbands died in mysterious circumstances. She was then accused of witchcraft and was sentenced to be burned at the stake.
Alice fled to England where she managed to escape the witch hunt. Unfortunately, her maid, Petronella, was whipped into confessing to witchcraft and became the first person to suffer being burned at the stake.
Visitors report sightings of a female apparition which sometimes appears in Kyteler’s Inn, however, there is debate over whether it is the ghost of Alice Kyteler or her maid, Petronella. If you are brave enough to venture into this pub, you are bound to get a good Irish feed to accompany your drinks!
Address: St Kieran’s St, Gardens, Kilkenny
All the attractions and stops on the Medieval Mile are within walking distance of one another, making this the perfect way to spend a day in Kilkenny.
A Medieval Mile pass entitles the owner to drop into as many of the top attractions in Kilkenny as you can in one day. It covers all entry fees and also offers discounts in some of the town’s best cafés and restaurants! A pass costs €39 and can be bought here.