21 Things To Do In Kilkenny (Because There’s More To This County Than Just A Castle)

A LOT more

things to do in kilkenny
Photo by Finn Richards

Howaya! In this guide, you’ll find heaps of things to do in Kilkenny during your visit.

H.E.A.P.S!

I live in Dublin, which is a handy drive to Kilkenny, so we tend to visit for a night or two every few months.

People too often associate a visit to this county with a weekend spent in the town, locked away in a pub for two days, knocking back pints.

There’s plenty more things to see in Kilkenny than a castle and the inside of a pub (although we’ll be showing you both in this guide).

What you’ll get from reading this guide

  • Loads of things to do in Kilkenny (walks, hikes, history)
  • Pub recommendations (for post-adventure pints)
  • Food and accommodation 
  • Advice on what to do in Kilkenny with big groups (for those visiting with friends)
walking in kilkenny town
Photo by Brian Morrison

Things to do in Kilkenny Ireland

  1. Kick-start your day with breakfast at the Fig Tree
  2. Take a ramble around Kilkenny Castle
  3. Discover Dunmore Caves dark past
  4. Soak up a bit of luxury at the Mount Juliet Estate
  5. Spend a night in a gorgeous old castle
  6. Grab a panoramic view of Kilkenny from up Brandon Hill
  7. Head for a ramble at Kilfane Glen and Waterfall
  8. Plan your trip around the Cat Laughs Comedy Festival
  9. Take a tour of the Smithwick’s brewery
  10. Nip into Kytelers Inn (once owned by Ireland’s first condemned witch)

Right, you’ll get a quick insight into the top 10 places to visit and see in Kilkenny above. If you’ve never been here before, Kilkenny is an old medieval town located in the southeast of Ireland.

Known the world over for its castle, people often overlook the rest of the county when visiting.

Here’s loads of stuff to do during your visit.

1. Kick-start your day with breakfast at the Fig Tree

fig tree kilkenny
Photo via the Fig Tree

If you’ve read any of our other guides, you’ll know that the majority of them start off with a recommendation of where to grab breakfast.

This one will be no different.

You’ll find the Fig Tree a handy 5-minute stroll from Kilkenny Castle, smack-bang in the centre of the city.

According to the reviews on Tripadvisor and Google, the breakfast here is class! (and the coffee is ‘ethically sourced and selected and roasted’).

2. Take a ramble around Kilkenny Castle (#1 on Tripadvisor for things to do in Kilkenny)

kilkenny castle ireland
Photo by Finn Richards

It’s probably no surprise that Kilkenny Castle tops Tripadvisors list of things to do in Kilkenny.

It’s one of the most iconic visitor attractions in Leinster and attracts swarms of tourists each year.

Kilkenny Castle was built in 1195 and was a symbol of Norman occupation.

In 13th-century, the castle would have formed an important element of the town’s defense, with its four large corner towers and a massive ditch (you can still see part of this today).

Fancy visiting? If you want to check the interior of the castle, you can do a self-guided tour for €8.

3. Discover Dunmore Caves dark past (#1 on the best places to visit in Kilkenny… in my head)

Dunmore cave county kilkenny
Photo by Mark Heard

A lot of people that visit Kilkenny stick to the city. Which is a shame as there’s plenty to do across the wider county.

And they tend to miss places like Dunmore Cave.

The earliest mention of Dunmore Cave dates back to an ancient, 9th-century Irish triad poem, where it’s referred to as ‘the darkest place in Ireland’.

In 928 AD, Dunmore cave witnessed the slaughter of 1,000 women and children at the hands of the Vikings.

Find out more about the cave and its dark past here.

Fancy taking a tour? You can join one of the guided tours for €5.00 (adult admission).

4. Soak up a bit of luxury at the Mount Juliet Estate

Mount Juliet Kilkenny
Photo via Mount Juliet

If you’re planning a weekend in Kilkenny and you’re looking to indulge, then this place will be right up your street.

Interestingly enough, Mount Juliet was actually a family home up until 1989.

Fast forward 30 years and it’s now one of Ireland’s finest 5-star hotels, offering a luxury experience for those that fancy forking out for something a little more lavish.

I was here for a wedding last year and can vouch for it being swanky, stylish, and comfy.

5. Or spend a night in a gorgeous old castle (you’ll have the whole place to yourself)

tubbrid castle kilkenny

So, if you visit this site regularly you may have read an article where I was banging on about being invited to spend the night in a place called Tubbrid Castle (have a read).

We had the whole place in the picture above to ourselves for a night…

Yes. It was ridiculous.

John, the host (yes, it’s up on Airbnb…), has been carefully restoring Tubbrid Castle for a number of years.

In 2019, the last of the renovations finished and the castle opened for bookings. A ridiculously unique place to spend the night in Kilkenny.

Related Read: These are 23 of the most unusual places to stay in Ireland!

6. Nurse a pint in the ancient Hole In The Wall pub

hole in the wall kilkenny
Photo via the Hole In The Wall on FB

The Hole in the Wall is an 18th-century tavern that’s housed in the oldest surviving townhouse in all of Ireland.

I love the sound of this place already.

According to their website, the Hole in the Wall is located in the inner house of a Tudor mansion that was built in 1582.

The current owner has spent the past 10 years fully restoring the pub into the charming little spot it is now.

Traveller Tip: If you’re looking for things to do in Kilkenny at night, leave the modern gastro pubs behind and nip in here.

7. Grab a panoramic view of Kilkenny from up Brandon Hill

brandon hill kilkenny
Photo via Failte Ireland

The summit of Brandon Hill (the highest point in the county) is easily one of the best places to visit in Kilkenny.

On a clear day, you’ll be treated to the most mind-boggling panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.

The walk here can take between 3 and 5 hours depending on pace.

Ireland is the wonderful little island it is thanks to places like Brandon Hill.

Honestly – where on earth would you get a view as special as this?

Trail Guide: I avoid giving advice on long walks and hikes that I haven’t personally completed. If you’re doing the climb, here’s an official guide with directions.

8. Wondering what to do in Kilkenny with a big group of Friends? Nip into Kilkenny Activity Centre!

kilkenny adventure centre
Kilkenny Activity Centre

If you’re visiting Kilkenny with a big group and are looking to do something fun, then visit Kilkenny Activity Centre.

Here, you can try your hand at;

  • Paintball (12+)
  • Bubble Soccer
  • Splatball
  • Body Bowling
  • Foot Darts

I’ve no idea what Splat Ball’ is, but it sounds class!

9. Head for a ramble at Kilfane Glen and Waterfall

kilfane glen
Photo by Wendy Cutler (Creative Commons)

Kilfane Glen and Waterfall date back to the 1790s.

Those that take a bit of time out to visit this picturesque paradise can ramble alongside a waterfall tumbling its way to a rushing stream and through lots of lush woodlands.

Kilfane is well worth a visit if you’re looking for somewhere to spend a quiet afternoon walking and chatting with a friend.

It costs a reasonably steep €7 per person gain access to the gardens here, but the money goes to keeping the garden maintained. 

10. Plan your trip around the Cat Laughs Comedy Festival

cat laughs kilkenny

I’ve been meaning to visit the Cat Laughs Comedy Festival Perhaps for the last few years, but something keeps coming up and clashing with it.

If you looking for things to do in Kilkenny on the June Bank Holiday, BOOK TICKETS IN ADVANCE and visit Cat Laughs.

Each Year on the June Bank Holiday weekend a cracking lineup of both Irish and international comedians descend on Kilkenny for what’s arguably one of Ireland’s best festivals.

If comedy isn’t you’re thing, there’s plenty of other events in town over the course of the bank holiday weekend.

11. Take a tour of the Smithwick’s brewery

Smithwick's Experience kilkenny
Photo by the Smwithick’s Experience

This is another solid option for those of you wondering what to do in Kilkenny with a big group.

The Smithwick’s brewery was founded in Kilkenny back in 1710 by John Smithwick.

He built the brewery on the site of a Franciscan abbey where monks have brewed ale since the 14th century.

The business was bought by Guinness in 1965 and the brewery subsequently shut down in 2013.

Parts of the old brewery now play host to the Smithwick’s Experience.

Is it worth doing?

  • Admission is €13.00 which is pretty damn reasonable
  • You’ll also visit the remains of the 13th-century St. Francis Abbey
  • The reviews online are excellent
  • You can book a tour with GetYourGuide here

12. Have a wander around Jerpoint Abbey

jerpoint abbey kilkenny
Photo by Finn Richards

If you’ve never heard of Jerpoint Abbey, it’s an outstanding Cistercian abbey that was founded in the second half of the 12th-century.

Although Jerpoint Abbey is in ruins, the church, which dates from c. 1160-1200, is still relatively intact which, considering how old it is is pretty incredible.

If you fancy visiting you can check out tombs from the 13th to 16th centuries, a sculpted cloister arcade, and much more.

13. Hit the water in Graiguenamanagh

Graiguenamanagh kayaking kilkenny
Photo by Finn Richards

If you’re looking at the name ‘Graiguenamanagh’ and thinking to yourself, ‘How the f**k would you go about saying that’, it’s pronounced ‘Graig-nah-man-ah’.

And what better way to explore it than by hopping onto one of those stand-up paddleboard yokes and hitting the water.

The lads at Pure Adventure run 2-hour sessions daily during the summer (June – September) and on-demand during the rest of the year. E

Grab a SUP (the lingo) and see Kilkenny for a different angle. 

14. Sink a pint in Bridie’s Bar and General Store

bride's bar kilkenny
Photo via Bride’s on FB

If you fancy dodging the more modern pubs that Kilkenny has to offer, then saunter up to John Street Lower in Kilkenny and keep an eye out from a beautiful blue pub.

Bridie’s Bar and General Store is a very hidden gem.

This pub is a stunning take on an old-world Irish bar and general store.

Stepping over the threshold into this place will make you feel like you’ve gone back in time, thanks to its wood-paneled walls, pewter and marble counters, and Victorian styled bus shelters out back.

If you visit for one, you’ll stay for 4.

15. Have a nosey around Butterslip Lane

butter slip lane kilkenny
Photo by Leo Byrne via Failte Ireland

Butterslip Lane is one of my favourite streets in Ireland.

It’s like a piece of Hogsmeade from the Harry Potter series that’s been airlifted from London and plonked down in the centre of Kilkenny.

This is a nook and cranny in the city that you can’t miss.

16. Dive into 800 years of history at the Medieval Mile Museum

medieval mile museum kilkenny

You’ll find the Medieval Mile Museum on the 13th-century site of St Mary’s church and graveyard.

I know a handful of people that have nipped in here recently, and there has been nothing but rave reviews.

Inside this museum is an immense treasure trove of artefacts that encompass the work and lives of Ireland and its people across 800+ years of history.

The museum brings to life Kilkenny’s history as Ireland’s premier medieval City and is getting ridiculously good reviews online (Tripadvisor – 5/5 from 453 reviews. Google 4.5/5 from 311 reviews).

If you’re looking for places to visit in Kilkenny when it’s raining, this is a solid option!

17. Spin around Kilkenny on a Segway

kilkenny segway tours

If you’re after an alternative way to explore Kilkenny, then hop on a segway with these lads and zip around the city.

If you’re warey about giving this a lash, don’t worry – you’ll be taught how to use one in advance.

Once you’re ready to rock, you’ll head off on a tour that’s packed with stories and tales from thousands of years of Ireland’s past.
 
Over the course of the tour, you’ll visit medieval castles, watchtowers, 13th-century Cathedrals, ancient Abbeys and more.

18. Get yo whiskey on (can’t believe I typed that…) at the Ballykeefe Distillery

Ballykeefe Distillery kilkenny
Photo via Ballykeefe Distillery on FB

Hmm. So, I’m slightly confused.

On their tour page, Ballykeefe Distillery only mentions whiskey, but as you can see in the photo above, they produce gin.

Anyway, in this tour, you’ll be discovering the origins of Irish Whiskey via a guided tour led by an expert.

Over the course of the tour, you’ll visit each stage of the brewing and distilling process, from the mill house, to the brewhouse, to the gorgeous copper pot stills, to the warehouse and onto the on-site bottling plant.

You’ll then be taken to the beautiful design tasting room, which was transformed from a stable. 

19. A feed, traditional music, and a flurry of pints* at Matt The Millers Bar & Restaurant

matt the millers kilkenny
Photo via Google

*The flurry of pints is optional, of course.

If you like good food and even better trad music, then get yourself down to Matt the Millers.

This spot is a favourite for both locals and tourists alike, and it boasts a jam-packed music schedule that you can browse in advance.

You’ll find this pub in the heart of Kilkenny City overlooking the River Nore and Kilkenny Castle. 

A solid option for a pint and food with friends.

20. Drop into the Black Abbey

the black abbey kilkenny
Photo by Finn Richards

Kilkenny’s Black Abbey can be found just outside the original walls of Kilkenny City.

When it was founded in the 1220s, it was home to a group of Dominican friars. A couple of hundred years later, King Henry VIII, a royal prick (pun not intended) confiscated it and converted it into a courthouse.

It was eventually restored and opened for public worship many years later in the 19th Century. 

Today, visitors to the Black Abbey can explore the ancient buildings here and check out sepulchral slabs, stone carvings, and sculptures. 

21. Nip into Kytelers Inn (once owned by Ireland’s first condemned witch)

Kytler's Inn Kilkenny
Via Kytlers Inn

This is another VERY unique Kilkenny pub.

Dating back to 1263, Kytelers Inn was established by Dame Alice de Kyteler – the first recorded person to be condemned for witchcraft in Ireland.

Alice de Kyteler married four times over the years and in the process amassed a considerable fortune.

It wasn’t until her 4th marriage when her wealthy husband started showing signs of illness shortly into their marriage (and it was revealed that he changed his Will to the benefit of Alice) that suspicions were raised.

His family brought charges of witchcraft against Alice but, to cut a long story short, she escaped to England and dodged any unpleasantries.

22. Head for a ramble around Jenkinstown Wood

Jenkinstown Wood kilkenny
Illustration via the Irish Independent

We’re going to round off this Kilkenny guide with a trip to Jenkinstown Wood.

This is another lovely place for a walk that’s close (10-minute drive) to Kilkenny City, making it perfect for those of you looking to escape the city for a bit.

There are several lovely forest walks that you can head off on at Jenkinstown Wood, one of which takes you around the perimeter of the woodlands and the demesne along woodland path and sandy roadway.

What things to do in Kilkenny have we missed?

The guides on this site rarely sit still.

They grow based on feedback and recommendations from readers and locals that visit and comment.

Have something to recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

5 COMMENTS

  1. Just found your site Keith. I know , where have I been hiding ?.A drive out to Kells priory is definitely worth the effort and while there a visit to Mullins mill and the quaint coffee shop located in the centre of the mill with the old mill works still there,to marvel over while supping the elixer of your choice, fascinating.

  2. Castlecomer Discovery Park. Tree top climb. Zip line. Archery. Fishing. Coal mine tour. Fairy village. Picnic area. Play ground.

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