Kilkenny is a hotbed of historic attractions with a huge variety of sights to see and things to do.
Rothe House is a fascinating example of a Tudor-era merchant house, in which visitors can explore a myriad of rooms, basements, courtyards, and gardens.
It recaptures life in the early 1600s and various artifacts and displays help tell its story.
Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Rothe House
Before we find out more, let’s take a look at some of the basics.
Rothe House is located on Kilkenny’s historic Parliament Street, more or less in the middle of the Medieval Mile. It’s just five minutes walk from Kilkenny Castle in one direction and St. Canice’s Cathedral in the other. You’ll find plenty of parking at Market Cross Car Park or Dunnes Car Park.
2. Opening hours
Rothe House is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. The last admission is at 4:00 pm.
An adult ticket for Rothe House costs €7.50 while concessions cost €6.50. Children under the age of 16 can enter for free (see latest ticket prices).
Rothe House is open for self-guided tours throughout its opening hours. On a self-guided tour, you’re able to explore the inside areas at your leisure. Meanwhile, guided tours run daily at 2:30 pm during the winter season and last around 40 minutes.
About Rothe House
Located more or less in the middle of the Medieval Mile, Rothe House dates back to 1594, when the first of the three houses was built.
The entire complex consists of three houses – dated 1594, 1604, and 1610 – three enclosed courtyards, and a spacious garden and orchard.
There’s a museum located within the complex, which boasts a variety of archaeological finds from Kilkenny and its surroundings.
The only burgage plot in Ireland
Rothe House is situated on the last remaining burgage plot in Ireland, making it nationally significant. Burgage plots tended to feature long, narrow strips of land, which were rented out by the town lord.
Once extremely common, they were introduced by the Normans. Nowadays, this is the only surviving example of such a plot in Ireland.
The Rothe Family
The Rothe family were predominantly merchants, and successful ones at that. The houses were built by John Rothe Fitz-Piers in order to accommodate a growing family.
Rather than extend the original house, he took advantage of the narrow, but long, plot of land – which stretches from Parliament Street to the city walls – by building an additional two houses.
The Rothes were also involved in politics. During the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, they and around ten other powerful families were part of an oligarchy that controlled Kilkenny.
They were also involved in the confederation of Kilkenny and it’s believed that meetings were held in the house. As a result of this involvement, the house and land were confiscated after King Charles I’s defeat during the English civil war.
After Charles II was reinstated as King, the house was returned to the Rothes. However, they lost it again in 1690, following the Battle of the Boyne.
Over the following years, the house changed hands several times. For more than 100 years, it was used by the Gaelic League, where Thomas MacDonagh taught Irish history.
It was eventually bought by the Kilkenny Archaeological Society in 1962. They restored the gardens and maintained the houses and courtyards, eventually opening the doors to the public.
Things to see at Rothe House
There are plenty of things to see when you visit Rothe House which is why is well worth a look if you’re in the city.
Here’s a brief overview of what you can expect from a visit here.
1. The garden
The garden at Rothe House has been lovingly restored to appear as it would have done in the 17th century.
Indeed, the original layout of the garden was uncovered in archeological digs during 2008, allowing for a faithful reconstruction. These digs also revealed the seeds and pollen of the original plants.
As such, the Rothe House gardeners can grow the same heritage varieties that were being grown by the Rothe family 400-years ago. Rothe House garden is now the only urban garden from this period that is open to the public, making it well worth seeking out.
2. The museum
The museum at Rothe House is home to a wonderful collection of artefacts unearthed by the Kilkenny Archaeological Society. Most of these were found locally and the collection spans thousands of years.
Dotted throughout the three houses, you’ll find some incredible items on display. Some stand out pieces include;
- Giant deer skull and antlers: having been extinct for more than 10,000 years, this is a remarkably well-preserved specimen that hangs proudly above one of the fireplaces.
- Ogham Stone: dating back to the 6th century AD, the inscription on this ancient memorial reads; ‘The stone of Cunaligans, son of Coillas’
- Blunderbuss: this lovingly crafted firearm is said to have been owned by the notorious outlaw Captain James Freney, the Robin Hood of Kilkenny.
Rothe House is home to more than 200,000 family history parish and civil records, making it the main genealogical research centre for Kilkenny City and County.
It’s the place for those with Kilkenny ancestry to start their search for long-lost relatives. A professional genealogist works on-site and can help with your queries, either online, or by appointment when you arrive in Kilkenny.
Things to do near Rothe House
One of the beauties of Rothe House is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best things to do in Kilkenny.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Rothe House (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Great food and old-school pubs
Kilkenny is a hub for foodies and lovers of old-school boozers. Historic pubs fill up every nook and cranny throughout this medieval city, providing something for every type of drinker. Old-fashioned talking pubs sit side by side with historic inns, late bars, and trad music venues. When you’re hungry, there are plenty of choices, no matter what your taste.
2. Medieval Mile Museum (5-minute walk)
The Medieval Mile Museum is a superb way to delve into the rich history of Kilkenny. Sitting in the centre of the city, it features a host of exhibits and displays, each brought to life through self-guided audio tours or guided tours with experienced storytellers. The museum is also the starting point for the Medieval Mile Trail, a fascinating guided tour of the city’s hidden gems.
3. Kilkenny Castle (9-minute walk)
Kilkenny Castle is a must-visit and there’s loads to see. While the grounds are free to roam, it’s worth paying for a ticket to have a look around inside. You’ll find a wealth of displays as you explore the vast hallways, dining rooms, drawing rooms, and historic bed chambers. With a cafe and restaurant on-site, you can spend a leisurely afternoon within the castle.
4. Dominican Black Abbey (4-minute walk)
The Black Abbey is one of Kilkenny’s most iconic sights. Dating back to 1225, it’s had a tumultuous history and the solid stone walls still bear some scars. However, it’s mostly undergone impressive reconstruction to bring it back to its former glory. Highlights include Ireland’s largest stained-glass window and a 14th-century limestone figure of St. Catherine of Alexandria.