After an action packed first day in Kilkenny, I spent the night in Kilkenny Tourist Hostel; I haven’t spent a night in a hostel in almost a decade but Kilkenny Tourist Hostel came highly recommended from the good folk over at The Generator in Dublin! I met Angela, ‘The Hostess with the Mostess’ (I gave her that title) who showed me to my room and told me a bit about the place. The hostel is a lovely place to spend the night in Kilkenny; as you walk in, you realise that it is quite simple; there are colourful places that add charm to the build like the cute map of Kilkenny by ‘Fuchshia’ that adorns the entrance hall.
The old building must have been a church at some point in the past because the kitchen (where you can cook your own meals) has pews for seats and a traditional church partition still standing. There’s also communal area where people from around the world congregate over a beautiful fire and swap stories. There is a strict no drinking policy in the rooms and the communal areas close at 10:30 at night so there are no raves and you can get a good night’s sleep!
Why Visit?: The team in the hostel care that you enjoy not just your time in their care, but also your stay in Kilkenny!
Meeting Olympic Boxer Darren O’Neill
My next stop was a little town called Paulstown just outside Kilkenny (JJ Kavanagh comes through the village five times a day!) where I got to meet an actual Olympian! Darren O’Neill is a boxer who has represented Ireland at many levels but amazingly at the Olympics as the captain of the Irish boxing team.
I was genuinely excited to meet him and get his stories on Kilkenny and Paulstown. I was in a treat as Darren invited me to his local boxing club where he started his journey to the Olympics! I met his father also and they told me a bit about the area and especially the gorgeous Shankill castle! Look out for a full post on the meeting with Darren on the website in the next few weeks! If there’s one thing I took from my time with Darren and Ollie, it is that if you decide to do something, do it right! In 2006, when he chose boxing over hurling, he set himself two targets and achieved them through hard work and perseverance.
Why Visit?: Come to Paulstown and take in the beautiful grounds of Shankill Castle!
The Smithwick’s Experience
Back in Kilkenny, I popped on to the high street and strolled back to The Smithwick’s Experience which came highly recommended from so many people in and outside the city! To get to the experience, I recommend walking through the cobbled tunnel that leads you right up to the fabled gates of the brewery that has stood since 1710 as it really gets you in the mindset!
My tour was held by a lovely guy called Colm whose family has worked at the brewery for the last three generations; he took us through a very interactive tour that brings you through narrow doors, winding up staircases and through antique machinery. Apart from the tasting at the end of the tour, the highlight of the tour is the ‘Hogwarts painting room’ where generations of Smithwicks tell the story of the brewery from their point of view. It was a little unsettling at first but it is a nice touch and really added to the experience.
Why Visit?: Perfect for couples and larger groups looking for a present day experience intertwined with the history of ale brewing in Kilkenny. Also, with your JJ Kavanagh & Sons bus ticket you can avail of the 20% off your admission fee 🙂
Kilkenny Castle overlooking the river Nore is the centerpiece of the medieval city of Kilkenny and sits proudly as it has done since the early 1200s. As you walk up the slope to the castle, its majestic frame seems to rise up out of nowhere before offering itself to you. The castle is a massive tourist destination but it was lovely to see so many families from Kilkenny out and about on the expansive castle grounds enjoying lunch and walking around with their dogs in tow. There is a tour in the castle which takes you through the many rooms and floors of the castle and a multimedia room that really puts you in the history of the castle from the arrival of Strongbow, to the Butlers selling the castle to the people of Kilkenny for what seems to have been a symbolic £50. The gardens and park are free and open to the public and are a must if you are visiting Kilkenny. The walk along the river beside the castle was absolutely gorgeous and are worth doing on a sunny day or a clear night!
Why Visit?: Walk the gardens and the grounds steeped in history and lunch at the castle cafe on a nice day.
This was my second time in Kilkenny and I absolutely loved walking the streets of the gorgeous city. Every step is steeped in history and the tiny lanes hold so much atmosphere; as I walked along the Butterslip, my fingers brushing against the stone, I could feel the medieval and communal spirit that still abides in Kilkenny and I loved being a part of it for the weekend. Kilkenny is a must visit while you make your way around Ireland’s Ancient East.
We’ve 7 services daily to choose from to Kilkenny from as little as €10 return
That brings this edition of Trails of Ireland to a close! See you guys soon!