Kilkenny is often cited as the Medieval Capital of Ireland, and with streets like Butterslip Lane, you’ll definitely feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.
With its moss-covered walls and old-fashioned lanterns lighting the cobblestones, it’s certainly got a magical vibe.
A hot spot for photos, this medieval corridor is a popular place to lose yourself in the past.
Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Butterslip Lane
Before we take a walk down Butterslip Lane, let’s go over the basics.
This picturesque walkway runs between the High Street and St. Kieran’s Street in the heart of the city. The entrance is tucked away between the shops, though from the High Street you’ll see an archway that leads into the narrow alleyway, while a series of stone steps lead down to St. Kieran’s Street. Around a five-minute walk from Kilkenny Castle, it’s easy to reach.
2. A little slice of Medieval Kilkenny
Butterslip Lane and the many other narrow alleys and walkways that criss-cross the city are iconic of the medieval city. These winding lanes are among the oldest streets in the city, often walled in by historic houses, shops, and churches. Exploring them is a great way to discover some of Kilkenny’s historic hidden gems.
3. Part of a wider story
While the romantic name, ‘Butterslip Lane’, conjures up delightful visions of magical portals and other worlds, the real reason for the name is a little more practical. When it was built in the 17th century, the narrow lane running beneath two houses was flanked by the market stalls of butter vendors on market day.
4. There’s no Harry Potter connection
It appears that someone shared a video of Butterslip Lane on TikTok claiming that a scene from Harry Potter was shot here, but that isn’t true. While there were some harry potter filming locations in Ireland, this unfortunately wasn’t one of them.
About Butterslip Lane and Medieval Kilkenny City
Butterslip Lane has become something of a Kilkenny landmark. The narrow passageway oozes history and with quirky shops housed in the historic buildings that line its sides, it’s a firm favourite among visitors.
In truth, most locals use it as a shortcut from the mainstreet to a road packed with bars, restaurants, and craft shops.
It’s perhaps not worth seeking out in of itself, but you’re bound to come across it as you ramble through the old town.
When it was built
A narrow alley had existed between the two historic houses that line Butterslip Lane for many years.
However, it was only in 1616 that it was established by Nicholas Langton, a powerful merchant, who had it paved and transformed into an official walkway.
The stone steps that you’ll climb if you enter the lane from St. Kieran’s Street date back to around 1750. Hewn from local limestone, they’re inscribed with a simple, yet artistic, pattern.
Kilkenny’s medieval past
A stroll down Butterslip Lane is just one way to get to grips with Kilkenny’s medieval past. There’s lots more to discover, and one of the first stops should be the historic city walls.
First built in the 13th century, they circled the city and covered more than two miles, making them the longest in Ireland in those days. Nowadays, about a quarter of the walls still stand.
Talbot’s Tower is another sight to see. One of the nine original city watchtowers, it too dates back to the 13th century and for more than 500 years, soldiers used it to defend the city.
Once the middle-ages had passed and the city enjoyed a period of relative peace, the tower fell into disrepair. However, in 2005 renovation work began on the tower.
In 2018, Talbot’s Park was open to the public, with the historic tower lovingly restored and serving as the centrepiece.
Things to do near Butterslip Lane
One of the beauties of Butterslip Lane is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Kilkenny.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Butterslip Lane (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Medieval Mile Museum (3-minute walk)
History buffs and casual visitors alike will love the Medieval Mile Museum. It boasts a stunning collection of historic finds from Kilkenny’s past, covering more than 800-years. Located in the former 13th century St. Mary’s church, it’s also the starting point for the Medieval Mile Trail. With guided and self-guided audio tours, the museum provides a truly immersive experience.
2. Kilkenny Castle (5-minute walk)
Kilkenny Castle is a top spot for those looking for medieval marvels in Kilkenny. Sitting proudly in the centre of the city, the grounds cover more than 50-acres and are free to visit. The castle is more than 800-years old and it’s well worth wandering its many halls, chambers, and rooms to get a feel for life in the middle ages.
3. Dominican Black Abbey (7-minute walk)
The Black Abbey is a former Dominican friary that dates back to the early 13th century. After a tumultuous past, the abbey has changed hands over the years but is now back in the hands of the blackfriars. They’ve lovingly restored it to its former glory, and it’s a public place of worship once more.
4. Great food + old-school pubs
Butterslip Lane is home to two fantastic restaurants, Petronella Restaurant and Butcher Restaurant. Both serve up stunning dishes and are romantically placed in this gorgeous lane. Nearby, you’ll find many more stunning places to eat and drink. Indeed, Kilkenny has a bustling pub scene, with a variety of pubs to suit every mood.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.