Last weekend I spent the day in Kilkenny. It is 15 years since I last visited the city, so remembering very little of my childhood visit, I literary came to it with a fresh pair of eyes. I loved what I saw.
Located in central Ireland on the river Nore, Kilkenny is a medieval city with a population of about 24,000 people. It is acclaimed internationally as a centre for craft and design, for its beautiful castle and its lively and atmospheric spirit. The old city is characterised by exquisitely restored buildings and narrow winding slip ways. It is small enough that you can explore on foot, yet so packed with fascinating historical architecture, treasure chest shops, design galleries and cosy pubs and restaurants that you could easily pass a carefree weekend here.
Kilkenny was named after a 6th century monk St Canice.His memory lives on in the beautifully restored St Canices Cathedral, built overlooking the city in the 13th century. Kilkenny Castle , one of Ireland's finest, was built by the Normans who arrived in the city during the 12th century. A visit to the castle is an absolute must for newcomers to Kilkenny. At €6 entrance fee per adult and discounts for seniors, families and students it is a very affordable tourist attraction. The Office of Public Works, charged with the restoration and upkeep of the castle, should be commended for keeping entrance fees so low, as well as keeping the castle in such good knick of course! For visitor information visit the Kilkenny Castle website.
Kilkenny city may be old in structure, but it is young at heart It is one of Ireland's creative hubs, home to many independent artists and musicians, design centres and studios- including the renowned Kilkenny design centre- and even its very own Oscar-nominated animation studio, Cartoon saloon. There is a definite arty vibe here. Creative charm and retro chique combines with quaint and cosy comforts to deliver a warm and inspiring environment. It is a free-spirited town with a welcoming atmosphere, helped along by friendly relaxed locals in friendly, relaxed venues.
One of the most charismatic spots in Kilkenny is definitely Bridie's General Stores. We were just minutes on the street when we passed its magical window display and were forced to slink in for a pre-mature coffee. stop Few could resist the tantalising tarts and fancies that devilishly lure you through the door. Once inside there is more to delight. Floor to ceiling shelves of glass jars filled with old-style sweets greet you. A glance at those forgotten- familiar treats had my mouth watering for days gone by. Childhood nostalgia out of the way,you can slip through the swing doors that lead to a wonderfully charming old-world bar. Even empty and in the light of day this place oozed atmosphere. Through the bar again is a stylish-heated-beer garden. Whatever your vice-a tipple, a smoke, or just a sweet tooth- Bridie's will be sure to cater for all.
Want to see more of Bridie's? Check out this little slide show :)
Leaving Bridie's in a dreamy haze we hit the shops. Most of the high-street chains can be found here, and for the thrifty shopper I counted at least 5 charity stores. The highlights for me however were the little boutiques, treasure chest everything stores and hide-away vintage shops. My sister and I through the town gathering a bundle of unnecessary, must-have delights. Luckily we were travelling in a van :) Dandelion Daydreamer, my sister's blog, has covered the many lovely shops we visited. But if you just want a saeak peak then here are some photos that are sure to get you counting you saving for a spree in Kilkenny.
Butterslip-a haven for trinkets and jewellery
Yesterdays-O so lovely French style furnishings and interiors
Shutterbug-Photography studio and second hand store
Exhausted after splurging in the shops we decided to splurge over lunch instead. With so many cafes and restaurants to choose from we found ourselves in a dining dilemma. When in doubt, ask a local. We were directed to Cafe Mocha on the main street and am I glad we were! A giant toy soldier at the door invited us up the stairs and into the restaurant. Inside the country kitchen style cafe we struggled to choose from a tempting menu and then struggled even harder not to look at the cake display while waiting for our lunch. Luckily our food arrived quickly, and it was gone nearly as quick. Delicious home-style cooking with bags of flavour- the only thing after a day on your feet!
We weren't lucky enough to experience Kilkenny after dark, but I am assured that the nightlife is kicking! However, not one to take someone else's word for it, I am already booked in for a night out in Kilkenny in early March.....All in the name of research of course! Once I have sufficiently sampled the pubs and clubs I will report back to the Top Tips Blog! For now I just have to save my pennies so I can hit all those lovely shops again in March....
To keep up with news and events in Kilkenny visit the Kilkenny Tourism website.