For whatever reason, I’ve always had it in my head that Kilkenny is aaaages away from Dublin.
The fact is, however, it takes a handy 1 hour and 35 minutes to get from Dublin (Swords) to Kilkenny City.
A very doable journey that you can do on one of your hard earned days off!
This is part of a new series of guides titled ‘The There-And-Back-In-A-Day Series’
In a nutshell, I want to help Dubliners and people living in Dublin who think that they need a load of time off to explore Ireland discover our island in one-day, bite-sized chunks.
The Dublin to Kilkenny 1-day road trip
First up – here’s what you’ll be doing over the course of the day.
First things first – getting your 💩 together
As Kilkenny is a short spin from Dublin, and our itinerary for the day is nice and compact, you won’t need to leave home at the crack of dawn.
Set the alarm for half seven and make sure you’re out the door by 8 a.m.
For this trip, you won’t need hiking gear or any special clothing (check the weather in advance), so there’s little or no prep needed the night before.
Getting from Dublin to Kilkenny
Getting to Kilkenny from Dublin is a breeze.
You need to get onto the M50 heading southbound, take junction 9, and then get onto the N7 and then the M9, finally followed by the N10.
After that, you just need to follow the signs for Kilkenny.
Here’s the route on Google Maps below, or you can pop it into AA Route planner.
Stop 1 – The Fig Tree for a big aul feed
// Leave Dublin at 8:00, arrive at the Fig Tree for 9:32 (traffic dependent) //
For those of you that didn’t grab something to eat before leaving the house, or for anyone fancying a second breakfast in advance of a day’s exploring, the Fig Tree is a solid option.
A leisurely four-minute stroll from Kilkenny Castle, the Fig Tree is located smack-bang in the centre of the city.
There’s a highly recommended Full Irish and Veggie option for breakfast, along with coffee that’s ‘ethically sourced and selected and roasted’.
Skip the coffee for now and fuel up on the grub.
Stop 2 – Explore the city and wrap your hands around a coffee as you ramble about the castle
// Give yourself 50 minutes in the Fig Tree and stroll to the castle for around 10:30 //
On a rain-free day, Kilkenny is an absolute joy to walk around.
The city’s narrow streets and laneways, colourful shopfronts, medieval architecture (Kilkenny is Ireland’s medieval capital), and energetic atmosphere provide the perfect entertainment for a post-breakfast stroll.
Hands-down my favourite nook and cranny in the city is Butter Slip Lane (below).
It’s only a couple of minutes from where you munched down breakfast and it’s like a piece of Hogsmeade from the Harry Potter series was airlifted from London and plonked down in the centre of Kilkenny.
Amazing stuff 😍!
A two-minute saunter from Butter Slip land stands Kilkenny Castle, a 12th-century structure that was originally constructed of wood in 1172.
Overlooking the River Nore, the castle stood in all its wooden glory for just thirty years before it was rebuilt with stone by the Earl of Pembroke.
When I visited last (a couple of years back now) there was a little coffee stand in the castle grounds.
If it’s still there, grab a piping hot cup of coffee and have a little float around the castle grounds.
For those of you that fancy checking out the interior of the castle, you can do a self-guided tour for €8.
Stop 3 – The Smithwick’s Experience
// It should be around 12:30 at this stage (the day’s still young). Our next stop is an eight-minute walk from the castle. //
The Smithwick’s brewery was founded in Kilkenny way back in 1710 by John Smithwick, on the site of a Franciscan abbey where monks brewed ale since the 14th century.
The brand was bought by Guinness in 1965 and the brewery was shut down in 2013.
Parts of the old brewery now play host to the Smithwick’s Experience.
During the tour, you’ll learn about Ireland’s rich history of brewing and see first-hand where Smithwick’s beer was once created (while getting to taste the produce, of course).
You’ll also visit the remains of the 13th-century St. Francis Abbey, where monks brewed ale long ago.
The tour, which lasts between 45 and 60 minutes, costs €13.00 for an adult and has racked up savage reviews online.
Stop 4 – Kytelers Inn (once owned by Ireland’s first condemned witch)
// It’s now around 1:45 and you’ve already packed-in a loooooad of stuff. Next up – FOOOOD. Mosey on from the brewery to Kytelers (a delightful two-minute walk) //
If you’re like me, at this stage of the day your belly will be roaring for a bit of TLC.
We’ve chosen Kytelers Inn for lunch based on its history and the fact that I’ve eaten here before and have fond memories of the place.
Dating back to 1263, Kytelers was first established by Dame Alice de Kyteler – the first recorded person condemned for witchcraft in Ireland.
The daughter of a Norman banker, Alice de Kyteler married four times and in the process amassed a considerable fortune.
It wasn’t until her fourth marriage that things started to go slightly pear-shaped.
Her husband, landowner Sir. John de Poer, began showing signs of illness shortly into their marriage.
Before he passed, he changed his Will to the benefit of Alice and her son William.
Naturally, his family weren’t impressed.
They brought charges of witchcraft against Alice before the Bishop of Ossory, claiming that Alice had ‘bewitched’ her husband and forced him to change his Will.
To cut a long story short, she escaped to England and dodged any unpleasantries.
Tuck into food in the knowledge that you’re in a place with a delightfully weird and wonderful history.
Stop Five – The darkest place in Ireland: welcome to Dunmore Cave
// Right, head back to the car and take the sixteen-minute drive out as far as Dunmore Cave (all going well you should land here at around 15:00) //
The earliest mention of Dunmore Cave dates back to a 9th-century Irish triad poem, where it’s chillingly referred to as ‘the darkest place in Ireland’.
There’s no real mystery why.
In 928 AD, Dunmore cave witnessed the slaughter of 1,000 people at the hands of the Vikings.
The tragic event, which is documented in the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland, was backed up in 1973, when the bones of 44 people were found in Dunmore Cave, and in 1999, when items made from silver and copper-alloy were discovered.
The silver ingots and conical buttons were part of the discovery and dated back to 970 AD.
Join one of the guided tours for €5.00 (adult admission).
Find out more about the history of the cave here.
Stop Six – Back to the gaff
Once you’ve finished up in the caves, you’re an hour and a half away from being back at home in time for a relaxed Saturday evening after an insanely productive day.
Did you find this Dublin to Kilkenny 1-day guide useful? I’m constantly looking for feedback in order to make tese guides as useful as physically possible – let me know in the comments below!