The options for day trips from Dublin are rather abundant. Ultimately, we decided on Kilkenny because of its closer proximity to Dublin. Our time in Ireland was limited. The trip to Kilkenny is a journey that we made on train. The travel time is 1.5 hours each way. It appeared at the time of purchase that this trip was on a non-stop pathway. This was not the case, but the trip was right around 1.5 hr minus some minor train delays. Once you arrive in Kilkenny, everything is easily within walking distance. We arrived around 10am on Sunday morning when the city was rather quiet. The walk to town was short, and immediately, we noticed the castle. I opted to start at the far end of town and work our way back to the Kilkenny Castle. I will include a list below of the sights we visited on our trip.
1. Cathedral Church of St. Canice. This church has quite a presence with slanted gravestones outside skewing the perspective including those belonging to the Smithwicks. This structure dates back to 13th century and is the second oldest in Ireland after that of St. Patricks. They do not allow visitors inside during Sunday morning mass, so we were not able to visualize the inside of the church.
2. The Black Abbey. Surprisingly, the Black Abbey was rather deserted when we visited early Sunday. We essentially had the place to ourselves. There is a gorgeous stain glass window you have to see from the inside. This quiet and serene structure dates back to the 13th Century as well. The Black Abbey name comes from the “black friars” that were from the Dominican order known for wearing black cloaks over their habits.
3. St. Mary’s Cathedral. They were having mass Sunday morning, but visitors were still allowed inside. I noticed most of the cathedrals in Ireland have a similar appearance all being composed of a gray stone exterior. In contrast to St. Canice, this church was constructed much later in the 1850s.
4. Smithwick’s Brewery. You cannot miss this on the main drag in town. This is not actually a working brewery, so we opted to tour the more popular Guinness storehouse instead. However, you can tour the inside and at the end receive a pint of beer much like Guinness.
5. Kilkenny Castle. The castle and grounds are massive with a large lawn on one part of the property and a rose garden with fountains on the other. This castle is really a centerpiece of the town. It was built in 1195! You can purchase a ticket and tour the inside of the castle if you desire.
6. Rothe House and Garden. This is an example of a merchant’s townhouse from the 17th century.
You can easily cover the sights in Kilkenny on a day trip. Or, as an alternative, stay here for an overnight and move further south to Cork and surrounding area the next day. It was a rather charming town with a small feel. As I mentioned, the train station is a short walk from town and everything is accessible on foot. On the way in, there are many local stores and boutiques for window shopping. To buy train tickets, go to the Irish rail website at http://www.irishrail.ie. We left from the Dublin Heuston station, which was conveniently located in relation to our hotel. It is one of the main railway stations in Dublin. Your destination will pop up as Kilkenny (MacDonagh). From there, you can search dates and times. The website was very user friendly.