Kilkenny, Ireland – Home of the Medieval Mile – and Some Damn Good Pubs
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
Dublin is jumping off point for a number of trips into Ireland’s countryside. For visitors seeking a unique blend of old world and new, the town of Kilkenny (just a couple hours away is a must stop. A “Medieval Mile,” loop features the St. Canice’s Cathedral with a climbable 9th Century round tower at one end and the formidable Anglo-Norman 12th Century Kilkenny Castle at the other. In between, are remnants of ancient walls, slipways, Dominican abbeys, great shops, restaurants and pubs. Narrated tours are available on a trolley that departs every 10 minutes daily from March to October (www.kilkennycitytours.com).
Check out Kytelers Inn, which dates to 1324. Ambiance in spades across multiple levels, including a basement, bricked grotto bar. The proprietor, Alice Kyteler, was notable as the first person charged with witchcraft in Europe. She escaped burning at the stake, but her servant wasn’t as fortunate. The food was just so-so, but the live music and vibe in the bars was craic!
Smithwick’s ale was brewed in Kilkenny for generations on a site where monks made some of the first beers. The brewery tour (www.smithwicksexperience.com) tells the incredible tale of its origins and the challenges Catholic-owned business endured under earlier laws. Plus, you get to taste the product at the end.
If you’re lucky enough to visit when Ireland’s national sport, hurling, is in season, try to take in a game. Kilkenny is a perennial champion and the place to see this exciting sport.
Here are some dining and lodging recommendations:
Whisky aficionados must visit Dylan’s Whisky Bar , just down the hill from the castle and next to the excellent Matt the Miller’s Restaurant. At Dylan’s (yes, named after Bob), you can sample the best Irish whiskies, including a somewhat pricey but oh-so-good, three-glass flight of the top of the top shelf editions. Redbreast 21, incredible - and more than a $200 a bottle - was the highpoint. Head bartender Nicky Butler sets them up and is a wealth of whisky knowledge.
Rive Gauche, Petronellas, and Restaurante Rinuccini are great dining options. The Pembroke Hotel (www.kilkennypembrokehotel.com) and Butler House are good lodging bets. Butler House was the Georgian-style dower house for Kilkenny Castle. The décor seems a bit of mismatch, but breakfast is served in the castle’s refurbished stables. Book early and get a room overlooking the beautiful gardens. Can’t wait to visit again!