We spent our last two nights of our 10 day Ireland road trip in Kilkenny. We hoped to experience a classic Irish town with lots of things to do that would appeal to adults and teenagers alike. In addition, we wanted to be a short drive away from Dublin International Airport for our midday flight to London. Kilkenny ended up being the perfect spot. We thoroughly enjoyed exploring this Medieval town with the extraordinarily preserved Kilkenny Castle and stunning grounds. Mere feet from our hotel in the centre of town, we enjoyed sophisticated restaurants serving International cuisine and lovely Irish pubs offering traditional fare. Within a short drive, we were able to explore the Rock of Cashel and Dunmore Caves. Our last two days in Ireland were busy and exciting, and the ideal way to end our time in Ireland.
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Background To Our Stay In Kilkenny
We started our morning in Limerick at No. 1 Pery Square hotel, a small beautiful boutique hotel. At this point in our trip, we had three of our children aged 14, 16 and 18 years old. Prior to arriving in Limerick, we had spent:
- 2 nights in Dublin – Dublin Attractions With Teens: The Best And The Worst;
- 2 nights in Belfast – Belfast City Break With Teens: An Action Packed Itinerary;
- 1 night in a castle in Lough Eske – The Essential Guide To The Startling Beauty of Slieve League in Ireland; and
- 1 night in Galway.
In addition to visiting these cities and towns, we had explored:
- the spectacularly beautiful Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland –Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway: A Spectacular Day Trip;
- the stunning Slieve League Cliffs (the largest cliffs in Europe) in Donegal –The Essential Guide To The Startling Beauty of Slieve League in Ireland
- the Cliffs of Moher and Inis Oirr (Inisheer) of the Aran Islands –Aran Islands and The Cliffs of Moher: How To Easily Explore Them In One Day.
Accommodation in Kilkenny
We stayed at the Pembroke Kilkenny right in the centre of Kilkenny. The Pembroke Kilkenny is a four star boutique hotel with very large and comfortable rooms. The location was superb. Except for our day trip to Dunmore Caves just outside of Kilkenny, we parked our car in the hotel’s free parking lot and walked everywhere.
For accommodation at the Pembroke Kilkenny or elsewhere in Kilkenny, I would recommend exploring the interactive map below from booking.com which provides reasonably priced accommodation in your preferred location.
Morning Day One Of Kilkenny Itinerary
Rock of Cashel
History of the Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel is the remains of a collection of buildings on top of a hill overlooking the town of Cashel. They were built over hundreds of years beginning almost a thousand years ago. The oldest building is the round tower built in 1100. It is 28 metres (or 92 ft) high. There is also St. Patrick’s Cathedral built in the 13th century and the Hall of the Vicars Choral built in the 15th century. Next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral is Cormac’s Chapel which has 800 year old frescoes lining the archways.
The Rock of Cashel’s early history begins in the 5th Century when St Patrick converted Aenghus, the King of Munster, to Christianity. At the time, the Rock of Cashel was the seat of the High Kings of Munster. In 1101, the Rock of Cashel was given to the church as a gift. Today, the Rock of Cashel is considered one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture found anywhere in Europe.
Location of Rock of Cashel
Rock of Cashel is an easy and pleasant drive from either Limerick or Kilkenny. It is exactly half way between the two.
From Kilkenny, Rock of Cashel is 62 km or a 50 minute drive.
Since we began our day in Limerick, we stopped at and explored the Rock of Cashel on our way to Kilkenny. However, the Rock of Cashel would be an easy half day trip from either Limerick or Kilkenny.
Important Details for any visit to the Rock of Cashel
There is paid parking just below the Rock of Cashel which accepts credit cards. From there, it is a short 10 minute walk up hill to the entrance into the Rock of Cashel. Tickets cost €8 for adults and €4.00 for children with family rates. Credit cards are also accepted here.
Included in the cost of admission is a 45 minute guided tour of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the round tower and the high cross. You do not have to do the guided tour – you are free to roam the grounds on your own. However, access to Cormac’s Chapel is only by guided tour for which you have to pay separately. In addition, it is only offered on a first come first serve basis – you can not purchase tickets in advance. They cost an extra €3.00 per person or an extra €8.00 for a family.
You should allot 1 1/2 to 2 hours at the Rock of Cashel if you plan to do both guided tours. It is a significant cultural site in Ireland so I would plan to arrive before 11:00 am or in the late afternoon to avoid the crowds and any delays in accessing one of the guided tours.
The Rock of Cashel is open all year round although it is closed on significant holidays. You should check the website for any updates.
Our Impressions of Rock of Cashel
We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Rock of Cashel. The views of the town and the countryside below were stunning. The grounds around the historic buildings were lovely with lots of tombstones scattered about to make for some very interesting reading. We took both tours and loved the history that unfolded before us. The 800 year old frescoes in Cormac’s Chapel were staggeringly well preserved.
Travel Tip for Rock of Cashel
Upon arrival, we purchased the additional tickets to Cormac’s Chapel and immediately, joined the next free guided tour of the Rock of Cashel. I thought that one tour would lead to the other. However, that was not the case. We had to leave the guided tour of the Rock of Cashel a little early in order to meet outside Cormac’s Chapel for that tour. Accordingly, before purchasing your tickets to Cormac’s Chapel, I would clarify with the ticket counter how best to organize your time so that you can enjoy both tours without time issues.
Children at the Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel would be a welcoming spot for young children. The entrance and the parking lot are close by so walking to the site is minimal. The grounds around the Rock of Cashel are flat, with lots of grass, and the tombstones are strewed about for some pretty good hide and seek. Most of the free guided tour is outside either on the grass or in the ruins so kids do not need to be completely still or quiet during most of the tour.
Afternoon Day One Of Kilkenny Itinerary
Lunch – Things to do in Kilkenny
We arrived in Kilkenny in the early afternoon. After checking into the Pembroke hotel, we crossed the street and ate a delicious lunch at the Hibernian Bar. We sat outside and enjoyed lovely views of Kilkenny Castle. The restaurant is also located right at the corner of two main streets in Kilkenny so the people watching was fantastic.
Walking tour of Kilkenny – Things to do in Kilkenny
We took a 90 minute walking tour of Kilkenny with Shenanigans Walking Tour for €20 per person. This tour highlights the history of Kilkenny and it’s medieval buildings such as Kilkenny Castle, Rothe House & Gardens, St Canice’s Cathedral & Round tower, Kyteler’s Inn (home of the famous Kilkenny Witch).
We really enjoyed the Shenanigans Walking Tour. What makes this tour unique is that the guide is not only a historian and story teller, but also a magician and comedian at times. If you are looking for a tour of Kilkenny that will keep your kids engaged and will make you laugh, then this tour is for you.
Travel Tip for Shenanigans Walking Tour
We knew that we would be arriving into Kilkenny after the normally scheduled time that the Shenanigan’s Walking Tour is offered. I contacted them and they were happy to offer me another tour later that day for the same price. Accordingly, if you are interested in a this tour but can’t make the scheduled time, do not hesitate to contact them.
Evening Of Day One Of Kilkenny Itinerary
Dinner at Ristorante Rinuccini – Things to do in Kilkenny
We had a late dinner at Ristorante Rinuccini, a high end Italian restaurant across from Kilkenny Castle and a few minutes from our hotel.
After several days of Irish pub food, we were very excited to have an Italian meal. In high season, reservations are a must – the restaurant was packed for most of the night that we were there. Service was excellent and the food was absolutely delicious.
Morning Day Two Of Kilkenny Itinerary
Kilkenny Castle and it’s garden – Things to do in Kilkenny
Kilkenny Castle is found in the centre of Kilkenny. It is a beautiful castle that overlooks the River Nore. Kilkenny Castle has a long history that begins more than 900 years ago. In 1172, a simple wooden tower was built by Richard Fitz Gilbert de Clare, the Anglo-Norman conqueror of Ireland better known as Strongbow. Shortly thereafter, his son-in-law erected the first stone castle with four towers, three of which remain today. In 1391, the castle was bought by the Butler family. Amazingly, it remained in their family until 1935, after which it fell into disrepair as it became too costly to maintain. In 1967, the City of Kilkenny purchased it for £50.
Today, two wings of Kilkenny Castle have been restored to reflect their 19th Century splendour and include a library, drawing room and the famous “Long Gallery”. The castle sits on over 50 acres (or 27 hectares) of gardens, with extensive walking and running paths, a rose garden, ornamental lake and playground for all to enjoy.
Details of a visit to Kilkenny Castle
You have two options if you wish to explore Kilkenny Castle. You can take a self guided tour for €8.00 (less for seniors or children) or a guided 45 minute tour for €12.00 (again, less for seniors and children). The castle park and garden are not included in either of the tours but you are free to enjoy them whether you tour the castle or not. Please click on this link for more information about the tours or when you can access the castle’s park and garden.
Our experience at Kilkenny Castle
The Kilkenny Castle tour was excellent. Our guide easily covered the castle’s history and pointed out interesting aspects of different rooms. My kids easily stayed engaged and the 45 minutes went quickly.
After the tour, we explored the park and gardens on our own. This was definitely a highlight. They were truly beautiful. We walked around the whole park, enjoying the beautiful garden sculptures scattered around. It was clear that the park was a favourite spot for locals, their dogs and their families.
Afternoon Of Day Two of Kilkenny Itinerary
Lunch at Marble City Bar – Things to do in Kilkenny
We walked a few minutes from Kilkenny Castle to have lunch at the Marble City Bar.
We saddled up to the bar and had a delicious traditional pub meal.
Dunmore Cave – Things to do in Kilkenny
After lunch, we collected our rental car and drove 10 minutes to the Dunmore Caves.
The Dunmore Cave consists of 700 steps down into a series of unground chambers which were formed over millions of years ago. The cave contains amazing calcite formations, such as stalagmites and stalactites (formations that either form from the ground or the ceiling as a result of mineral deposits from water dripping over thousands of years). Dunmore Cave was first mentioned in the 9th century, and is most known for its connect it to a Viking massacre in 928 A.D.
Details of a visit to Dunmore Cave
Access to the Dunmore Cave is only by guided tour which lasts one hour. Entry is €5.00 per adult and less for children, students and seniors. Cash is ONLY accepted. Preceding the tour is a brief movie about the history of Dunmore Cave. There is also an interactive museum with artifacts found in the cave, including evidence of the Viking massacre in the 10th century.
You must be in good physical health to walk up and down the stairs into the underground chambers. There is no elevator or any other form of access to the mouth of the cave. It is cold, damp and occasionally wet below so you should wear long pants, a warm jacket, and closed toe flat shoes with a good sole to stay warm and prevent slipping.
Children are welcome, but they must remain quiet and largely still as the guide talks and tours the group around. Our guide was particularly strict and admonished a group of young boys who couldn’t stop talking or moving.
Our Experience at Dunmore Cave
The Dunmore Cave was a fun and interesting thing to do. We all appreciated exploring something very different from the historic sites that we had spent the last couple of days exploring in Kilkenny and Cashel. The tour is perfect in length. I would not have wanted to spend more than an hour below in the underground chambers.
Evening Of Day Two Of Kilkenny Itinerary
Dinner at Zuni – Things to do in Kilkenny
For our last meal in Ireland, we splurged and went to Zuni Restaurant. This restaurant was located right across the street from our hotel. This was a high end restaurant serving sophisticated food with french influences. It was absolutely delicious. The highlight was dessert when hot chocolate was poured on top of a large chocolate ball thus melting it and creating a decadent chocolate treat. It was the perfect way to end our Kilkenny itinerary.
We really enjoyed our two day Kilkenny itinerary. Kilkenny offers beautiful accommodation, exciting restaurants, and lots of things to do that will keep everyone in your family entertained. In addition, it is only 1 1/2 hours away from Dublin International Airport so it is a reasonable destination to enjoy either upon arrival or just before departing Dublin. If you are looking to experience a vibrant Irish town with a beautiful castle and amazing history, then Kilkenny is the destination for you.
For more information and articles about our 10 day road trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland, please see below.
- Dublin Attractions With Teens: The Best And The Worst;
- The Essential Guide To The Startling Beauty of Slieve League in Ireland;
- Aran Islands and The Cliffs of Moher: How To Easily Explore Them In One Day
- Belfast City Break With Teens: An Action Packed Itinerary
- Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and Giant’s Causeway: A Spectacular Day Trip
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