If you’re looking for a hidden gem in County Kilkenny, Kilfane Glen and Waterfall should be high up on your list.
This ‘secret’ garden has remained more or less untouched for 200-years.
Faithfully restored, a series of wooded paths, gorgeous gardens, and tumbling streams culminate in a gorgeous waterfall.
Some quick need-to-knows about Kilfane Waterfall
Before scrolling down to read all about Kilfane Waterfall, take 15 seconds to read the points below, first:
Sitting in the heart of County Kilkenny, Kilfane Waterfall is around 18 km southeast of Kilkenny City, about a 20-minute drive away. It’s close to Thomastown in an area famous for stunning scenery and a wealth of ancient attractions.
It costs €7 per person to gain access to Kilfane Waterfall. Reductions are available for families, OAPs, and students, while group bookings can also be arranged in advance. Bear in mind that only cash is accepted.
3. Only open 2 months per year
The opening hours for Kilfane Waterfall are one of the reason many never get to visit. They only open for 2 months of the year as follows:
- From July 1st to August 31st, 2023: 11am to 6pm
4. Full of charm and character
This incredible late 18th-century garden has retained many of its original characteristics 200-years later. The 6-acre plot is in parts wild, with gorgeous woodland, ferns, and foxgloves dominating while gargling streams run towards the gorgeous waterfall. A veritable secret garden, it oozes a magical atmosphere.
About Kilfane Waterfall
Kilfane is much more than just the waterfall, although that is a truly spectacular culmination. It’s a 6-acre landscape, akin to a secret garden that dates back to a time when tastes and fashions were drastically changing.
In the early 18th-century, perfectly manicured lawns and tidy gardens were all the rage, but by the end of the century, things were beginning to change.
A romantic landscape
As the 18th-century drew to a close, the ‘Romantic movement’ was in full swing. More wild, rugged, and expressionistic landscapes were in vogue, featuring water features such as cascades and waterfalls to highlight the untamed atmosphere.
Caves and grottos, as well as wild woodland paths, were also common features, as were the original landscapes themselves.
Rather than transforming a formal garden, untended and often lesser-visited places were typically chosen for ‘Romantic gardens’.
The result created an exciting secret garden, full of nooks and crannies and offering spectacular natural scenes.
Kilfane Glen and Waterfall was created within the demesne of Kilfane House during the 1790s. Heavily influenced by the Romantic movement, landowner Sir John Power and his wife, Lady Power, together with Sir Richard, twin brother of John, began to develop the garden.
The family were well-known in the area, and were leaders in the intellectual society, boasting an impressive library, and founding the Kilkenny Theatre.
As such, the family estate was a model of the latest fashions throughout the 18th and 19th-centuries.
The Powers selected an ideal location for their dream garden. A plot of woodland less than ten acres, featuring a wild ravine on the edge of their estate.
Boasting bare rock face, boulders, and rushing streams, water was diverted to improve the waterfall and create a pool.
A grotto was added, and with this as a backdrop, the iconic thatched summerhouse, surrounded by a more conventional lawn was built for receiving guests.
As fashions changed and the original creators died, the garden lost its appeal. Seeing little to no use, the paths became overgrown, the cottage fell to ruin, and the streams dried up.
Fortunately, it was well-loved in its heyday, and many sketches and watercolours depicting the principal features survived to this day. Additionally, its location on the very edge of the estate saw it pretty much untouched for the past 200-years.
As a result, the current owners have been able to faithfully reconstruct the glen and waterfall. Restoration work is ongoing, but so far Kilfane Glen and Waterfall survives as the best example of a Romantic-era garden, in Ireland.
Things to see, do, and look out for at Kilfane Glen and Waterfall
Ready to enjoy the magic of Kilfane Waterfall? Here’s what you need to look out for.
1. The gardens
Strolling through the gardens at Kilfane Glen and Waterfall is a true joy. You’ll be treated to varying landscapes and a number of paths and trails to explore.
From carefully curated lawns and flower gardens boasting stone and wooden sculptures, to the wild wooded paths, carpeted by bluebells and ferns, Kilfane offers amazing diversity.
Along the way, you’ll come across rustic grottos, hedge mazes, fish ponds, rugged stone bridges, and moss-covered boulders. That’s not to mention the pretty wildflowers and the various fungi that spring up throughout the area.
2. The waterfall
Along your meanderings, you’ll inevitably reach the stream. Follow it as it flows through the gardens before culminating in a 30-foot waterfall.
The pool at the bottom is surrounded by a peaceful garden, the ideal place for enjoying a relaxing picnic or sitting in utter tranquility.
Many visitors comment on the feeling of peace the waterfall offers, making it the perfect place to escape for an hour or two. Depending on when you visit the waterfall can cascade with force or gently pour down the rockface.
3. The thatched country cottage
Originally a summerhouse for guests of the Power family, the thatched cottage is the perfect place to take a seat and relax after walking the grounds.
Sitting at the foot of the waterfall, it’s ideally located to enjoy stunning views. In the past, it has featured as a small cafe and there are also toilets there. With a number of benches and tables, it’s a great place for a picnic!
Things to do near Kilfane Waterfall
One of the beauties of Kilfane Glen and Waterfall 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 Kilfane Waterfall.
1. Jerpoint Abbey (10-minute drive)
Jerpoint Abbey is an amazingly well-preserved Cistercian abbey just outside of Thomastown. Famous for its collection of incredible statues, stone carvings, and the still-standing remains of the 12th-century abbey, it’s a fascinating place to explore. You don’t need to be a history buff to get excited about the artifacts on display, and there’s even a treasure hunt to keep the kids happy.
2. Brandon Hill (18-minute drive)
Brandon Hill is the highest mountain in County Kilkenny and an area of gorgeous natural beauty. One of the best ways to take it all in is to tackle the moderate looped walk, which takes you to the summit where you can enjoy breath-taking panoramic views. With woodland trails, hillside paths, and stunning wildlife all around, there’s plenty to take in.
3. Kells Priory (19-minute drive)
Kells Priory is one of Ireland’s top medieval monuments. An impressive late 12th-century Augustinian priory, much of the ancient church remains standing to this day. Most notable are the seven towers, linked together with a strong stone wall, which makes the priory look more like a fortress than a religious site. With a lovely looped walk that takes in all of the ruins, plus handy QR codes that you can scan for more information, it offers a fine day out.
4. Lovely villages
County Kilkenny is dotted with picturesque villages and towns. From Kilfane Glen, you’re just a stone’s throw away from Thomastown which sits on the banks of the Nore River. Head down the river to Inistoge and you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a watercolour painting. With a pretty village green, historic buildings, hilly roads, and a selection of pubs to enjoy, it’s simply beautiful. Alternatively, head to the banks of the River Barrow, to the riverside town of Graiguenamanagh.
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.