We landed in Shanon at 6am Irish time and jumped in our tiny rental car to head to Kilkenny. It was about a two hour drive but Brad stuck to the left side of the road like a champ and we made it without any issues. Once we arrived, we attempted a little nap in the car because we were completely jet lagged, but it didn’t give us much of a boost. We decided to shake it off and walk into town to take advantage of our one day in Kilkenny!
We were prepared for Irish weather, but luckily the rain held out just about the entire day. The weather was actually really pleasant, in the high 60s, and perfect for lots of walking. The town was so quaint and cute and was dominated by castles and cathedrals.
Kilkenny Castle is the obvious place to visit in such a small town. We have seen a lot of English and European Castles, but when we walked through the gates, this one took our breath away and we couldn’t get enough. The enormous castle was sitting on a pristine lawn and the contrast of the colors was stunning.
The famous “Strongbow” (known for his role in the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland) constructed the original wooden castle in the 12th century. The castle was expanded over many years and changed ownership several times. The well-known Butler family owned it for over 500 years, but eventually allowed it to fall into such a state of disrepair that James Arthur Butler sold it to the city in 1967 for only £50. The state has obviously refurbished it and it is absolutely gorgeous.
Outside of the castle are quaint paths that lead to shops of local artisans and designers.
After our jaunt around the castle, we grabbed a little pick-me-up to energize us for the next stop 🙂 Yes. Those are waffle sticks. Covered in nutella and candies. Yes they were amazing. Yes we felt sick afterwards.
Down the Medieval Mile from the castle are the more religion – oriented landmarks.
The Black Abbey is a beautiful Catholic priory that was established in 1225. It was so dark inside that I couldn’t get many pictures, but I will share some of the exterior. The inside was beautiful, dark, quiet, with almost a creepy and calming stillness.
The name Black Abbey derives from the black cloaks that members of the Dominican Order wear over their usual white habits.
We ventured onto the nearby St. Canice’s Cathedral, which is a cathedral for the Church of Ireland. It is the second largest cathedral in Ireland – the first being St. Patrick’s in Dublin City.
The cathedral itself is stunning, but the real draw for us here was climbing the traditional “Celtic Christian Round Tower” dedicated to St. Canice. You can see it on the right in the image above.
Brad and I usually don’t miss the opportunity to climb a bell tower, and I am so glad we didn’t skip this one! Every bell tower we have climbed in the past has been a lonnnnnggggg narrow winding spiral staircase. This one was completely different; the only way to ascend this tower was a series of lots of tiny, skinny, STEEP ladders. At the top of each ladder was a small platform, only big enough for maybe two people to stand on. We had to shout up and down the ladders to coordinate the transitions smoothly.
It was a little scary since you could see the drop below you between the rungs of the ladders.. but I just stayed focused and kept on moving. There were people behind me which kept me motivated 😉 My fearless husband of course scurried right up with no problem and took pictures of me during the climb.
The view from the top was beautiful, although the platform only held 4-5 people. Man that was a skinny, skinny tower!
As a bonus photo from our day in Kilkenny, please enjoy the following advert we saw plastered everywhere. A wonderful Gaelic reminder that “dog poop can blind children.”