How to See Kilkenny

The “Marble City” is widely regarded as one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Ireland. A great way to spend a day out is to head out to Kilkenny and enjoy the small city. Today I thought I would sit down with you and chat about one of the most romantic places in Ireland, which is about an hour away from Dublin city centre…

What is the best way to see Kilkenny? Kilkenny is about 1.5 hours away from Dublin centre by car. If you don’t have access to one, the train is your best option. There are also day tours from Dublin to Kilkenny, which visit some nearby sites and return that evening.

Kilkenny is a place steeped in history and today you will be able to find ancient Christian monuments and castles all next to each other. There are also some great pubs and restaurants on medieval streets offering excellent modern food. Kilkenny is often the highlight of many people’s trip to Ireland and yet, it is still somewhat off the beaten tourist trail…

Getting There

Backpacker
There are plenty of ways to get to Kilkenny, you won’t have to hike there like this guy!

You have a few different options when making the journey to Kilkenny. I will mention a couple of routes from different cities, but the focus will be on Dublin. This is the capital of Ireland and by far the island’s biggest city, most people who visit the country will stay here and use it as a base to explore the rest of Ireland from.

Have a look at my list of recommendations for day trips from Dublin, for more logistical information.Opens in a new tab.

From Dublin

Kilkenny is so close to Dublin that many people who live in one will work in the other, so moving between the two is relatively straightforward. Dublin is about 130 kilometres away from Kilkenny, so one of the best options that you have travelling here will be by car. Normally it will take you about 1 hour and 45 minutes to make this journey, though you may need to allow for longer, depending on the traffic. There are multiple car rental companies in Ireland, and I will link to the one I recommend below. This option is a little expensive and I would only recommend it for people who are planning an extended stay in the country.

Once you arrive in Kilkenny, an issue that you may have with a car will be parking. This is an old city, not built for motor vehicles, so finding a parking spot may be an issue at first. If you are having difficulty finding parking, just keep driving around till you find a spot. There are usually plenty of smaller car parks in the city, you just might need to explore a little more in order to find them. Once you do, you will likely need to pay for the spot at a meter, there will be one near to most parking spaces. You will normally need coins to pay, though many newer machines are starting to accept card and contactless payment methods.

If you don’t have access to a car, then the method of transport that I would recommend is the train. Though there are coach and bus services that operate between the two cities, they are less reliable and not much cheaper (more on them later). The train probably offers the most efficient means of getting between Dublin and Kilkenny. You can get on the train at Heuston Station in Dublin, near the Guinness Storehouse, and this will bring you right to the heart of Kilkenny. The journey time is about 1 – 1.5 hours, which is usually quicker than driving. A single rail ticket for an adult will cost about €15.

If, for some reason, you are unable to take the train, then there are bus services available. I would recommend that you take the Dublin Coach route from Dublin city centre. This journey will be about the same as by car (1 hour and 45 minutes), but it will cost €10 each way. Though this option is cheaper, I would only use it as a last resort myself. I want to give you all as many different options as I can.

For my money, the best way of getting from Dublin to Kilkenny is the Wild Rover tour that runs every day. It starts in Dublin centre every morning and goes to Kilkenny, seeing all the main attractions and sights, while also exploring the nearby Wicklow Mountains, it then returns that evening. This is probably the best value for money day out that you are going to get if you want to explore Kilkenny from Dublin in a day. This tour costs €33 and you will get a lot included in that price. Normally coach tours in Ireland have a driver/ guide, but on the Wild Rover tours you will get a separate guide and driver. I feel that this offers a much better experience to visitors to Ireland.

If you want to compare your different options on getting from Dublin to Kilkenny, then you can consult the table below:

Method Journey Time (Each Way) Approximate Price (€) Company Link, for Further Details
Car 1.5 – 2 Hours €43 (24 hours rental) Hertz Dublin
Bus 1.5 Hours €10 Dublin Coach
Rail 1 – 1.5 Hours €15 Irish Rail
Coach Tour Full Day (12 Hours) €33 Wild Rover Tours

From Other Parts of Ireland

I’m just going to give a quick overview of the different options you have on getting to Kilkenny from a few of the other main cities in Ireland.

Galway

Your options of getting from Galway to Kilkenny are more limited. Making this trip by car is probably your best option, though it is still possible to do it by public transport. If you want to get from Galway to Kilkenny though, be aware that you will likely have to stop off at another city first. Making your way to Dublin first is usually a good option. For more details, please consult the table below:

Method Journey Time (Each Way) Approximate Price (€) Company Link, for Further Details
Car 2.5 Hours €43 (24 hours rental) Hertz
Bus 5 Hours €13 + €10 GoBus Dublin Coach
Rail 5 Hours €35 Irish Rail

Cork

Like Galway, your options of getting from Cork to Kilkenny are limited. This journey will take longer, and you will likely have to make a stop in another city if you choose to do it via public transport. For more detailed information, please consult the table below:

Method Journey Time (Each Way) Approximate Price (€) Company Link, for Further Details
Car 2 Hours €43 (24 hours rental) Hertz
Bus 2.5 Hours €15 Dublin Coach
Rail 2.5 Hours €35 Irish Rail

Belfast

This is not viable in my opinion. If you want to visit Kilkenny from Belfast, you should really make your way to Dublin first.

Things to do

There are plenty of great things to keep you occupied in Kilkenny, this romantic city has a reputation of being one of the most beautiful in the country and is also known as the “marble city”. Historically it has been the seat of rebellions against British rule in Ireland and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited locations on the whole island. It’s also known for the quality of its produce, with great breweries and workshops located all over the city, lets talk about some of the ones you should check out.

The information that I have gathered here is from my research as a guide. I have linked to all these places below for booking information and have given ticket prices for an adult. This information is all below.

Medieval Mile

This is one of the most popular landmarks in the city and forms its main street. If you want to explore one of the best-preserved medieval town centres in Ireland, then this should be your first port of call. Here you will be able to walk cobblestone streets that have been full of history for over 800 years. If you want to have the best possible start to this journey, then you can start at the Medieval Mile Museum. Tours of this museum will cost about €8 and will give you a good overview of all the different things that you will be able to see in this part of the city centre. Though experiencing them is not necessary, it can put everything else that you will see into context later.

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny Castle

This has been the focal point of the town for the nearly 800 years of its history and was the seat of the powerful Butler family right up to the 20th century. Today you will be able to visit this castle for free. During the winter months (November to January), there are guided tours that operate here, and the rest of the year, this experience is self-guided. There are plenty of exhibitions that take place here throughout the year. If you are looking for a bite to eat, the tearooms are highly regarded. Having said all that, the main attraction of Kilkenny Castle must be its gardens. These sprawling gardens are open to the public and are the perfect place to spend a nice summer’s day in town.

Smithwicks Experience

Until production of this beer moved to Dublin in 2014, the Smithwick’s Brewery was the oldest continually used one in Ireland. Opened as a brewery in 1710, this site was used to produce this red ale for about 50 years before Arthur Guinness opened his famous establishment at St. James’ Gate in 1759. Built on the remains of a 13th Century Christian Abbey, this place produced one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in Ireland. Today you will be able to explore the history of the location and the founding of the Smithwick’s company, which wasn’t easy with all the anti-Catholic laws at the time. You will also learn about the brewing process of red ale. There are concession prices for this tour online (€14), which you can find below. The tour will last about 1 hour.

St. Canice’s Cathedral

There has been some sort of religious site here since at least the 6th Century. Today this is the 2nd biggest religious building in all of Ireland, after St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. Named after the patron saint of the city, one of the most unique features about this cathedral is the original Christian round-tower. These structures were built by ancient Irish monks all over the country about 1,500 years ago, during the “Irish Golden-Age” and this is one of only three left where you will still be able to walk up to the top. It will cost €4.50 to enter and an extra €4 to go to the top of the round tower, though you will be able to find discounted tickets online.

Please consult the table below for more detailed information on some of the main attractions in Kilkenny:

Attraction Price (Adult Ticket) Recommended Amount of Time Company Link, for More Details
Medieval Mile Museum €8 About 1 Hour Medieval Mile Museum
Kilkenny Castle FREE About 45 Minutes Kilkenny Castle
Smithwicks Experience €14 1 Hour Smithwicks Experience
St. Canice’s Cathedral €4.50 (Cathedral) €4 (Round Tower) €7 (All Inclusive) About 1 – 1.5 Hours Official Website

Food

fried-eggs
A full breakfast

Like the rest of Ireland, Kilkenny has undergone a sort of “foodie revolution” in the last decode or so. There are plenty of places to check out here if you’re looking for a bite to eat. For your convenience I have added the table below which will have information on various places to eat in Kilkenny. I have either eaten in these places myself, been recommended them by other guides, or have found them online.

Establishment Name Type of Food How Expensive
Zuni Modern Café (Lunch + dinner options) €€ – €€€
Foodworks Modern Cuisine €€ – €€€
John Cleere’s Traditional Irish “pub grub”. € – €€
Mocha Vintage Tearooms Traditional Irish food, focus on light dining (good for lunch) €€ – €€€
Langton’s Pub Traditional Irish food, cooked with modern methods. €€ – €€€

Nearby Attractions

There are plenty of other things to experience near to this city too, this area has been inhabited for thousands of years and has a rich, storied history. When you get the chance to explore some of the natural wonders nearby, its not hard to see why people have wanted to live here for so long! Here are just a few of the options that you have if you want to explore the area near Kilkenny city.

Kells Priory

The book of Kells is one of the most important and famous artefacts in all of Ireland and it was created near Kilkenny. Today you will be able to explore the ruins of the Augustinian Priory near the town of Kells.

You don’t need any guides or organised tours and can see this area by yourself completely for free.

Like almost all the monasteries in Ireland, this places suffered heavily as a result of the protestant reformation and it was destroyed by Henry VIII.

Dunmore Cave

This series of caves is a beautiful natural formation near Kilkenny with a tragic history, it was the site of a Viking Massacre during the 10th Century. Viking invaders killed about 1,000 people in two nearby settlements, then suffocated the survivors, when they tried to find sanctuary in the caves. The site was excavated in the 1970’s and has since opened to the public for tours.

You will only be able to take a guided tour of the caves and they cost about €5 for an adult ticket. You will be able to find discounts for family and groups online.

The Wicklow Mountains

Wicklow1
Wicklow National Park

Located just south of Dublin city is easily one of my favourite places in all of Ireland, the Wicklow Mountains.

I have already mentioned this attraction before, so this next section is taken from another guide on my website:

…If you decide to come here you will find beautiful coastal towns and villages, ancient Christian monasteries, stone-age monuments among many other great attractions. County Wicklow also has the largest national park in the Republic of Ireland and its full of wildlife and some of the best hiking routes in the country. From the Wicklow Mountains you will also be able to find some of the best views of Dublin city and the south east of Ireland.

This area of Ireland is also within easy reach of Dublin city centre. The best way to travel around Wicklow is probably via car, this is a popular weekend activity among locals. Getting to Bray, the largest town in County Wicklow and right on the border with Dublin, should take less than half an hour from the city centre. Getting to Wicklow town, in the centre of the county’s coastline, will take a little over an hour by car. There are public transport links to both towns, while the DART will go from Dublin as far as Bray, Irish Rail will offer routes to Wicklow town and there are bus services also. This will usually take about 1.5 hours to get to Wicklow town.

If you want to see as much of the area as possible, the tour that I would recommend is run by Wild Rover Tours. This is the same tour that I spoke about when talking about Kilkenny. This tour will last all day and covers the Wicklow Mountains, the national park and Glendalough Monastery and the tour then goes on to Kilkenny. I always try to recommend these tours whenever possible, because they are only a few euro more expensive than the cheapest option and have a dedicated driver and a dedicated guide, most only have a driver-guide. This means that you will get a much better experience.

For a comparison of the different options available, please consult the table below:

Method Journey Time (Each Way) Approximate Price (€) Company Link, for Further Details
Car 30 mins – 1.5 Hours €43 (24 hours rental) Hertz Dublin
Bus 30 – 45 Minutes €3 Dublin Bus
Rail 30 – 45 Minutes €5 Irish Rail
Coach Tour Full Day (12 Hours) €33 Wild Rover Tours

For more information on visiting the Wicklow Mountains, you can find my full guide.Opens in a new tab.

Jack

Jack Redmond has been a tour guide in Ireland for the past decade. Having received a national guiding qualification, he has brought thousands of travelers all over the island of Ireland.

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