Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle information

Kilkenny City , Ireland
More information
adult/child €6/2.50, audioguides €5, parkland admission free
Opening hours
9.30am-5pm Mar-Sep, to 4.30pm Oct-Feb, parkland daylight hours
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Rising above the Nore, Kilkenny Castle is one of Ireland's most visited heritage sites. The first structure on this strategic site was a wooden tower built in 1172 by Richard de Clare, the Anglo-Norman conqueror of Ireland better known as Strongbow. In 1192, Strongbow's son-in-law, William Marshall, erected a stone castle with four towers, three of which survive. The castle was bought by the powerful Butler family in 1391, and their descendants continued to live there until 1935. Maintaining such a structure became such a financial strain that most of the furnishings were sold at auction. The castle was handed over to the city in 1967 for the princely sum of £50.

One glance tells you that the castle has been modified through the centuries. First of all it's missing a wall – a key defensive deficiency. Second, there are all those windows – perfect targets for a catapult. Most of the changes date from the 19th century when the only real defensive worry was a peasant flinging a rotten potato.

During the winter months (November-January) there are 40-minute guided tours which shift to self-guided tours from February to October. For most visitors the focal point of the visit is the Long Gallery which showcases portraits of the Butler family members over the centuries and is an impressive hall with high ceilings vividly painted with Celtic and Pre-Raphaelite motifs.

The castle basement is also home to the Butler Gallery , featuring contemporary artwork in temporary exhibitions. Also in the basement, the castle kitchen houses a popular cafe. You can access the Butler Gallery and cafe without paying admission.

About 20 hectares of parkland are a refuge from the clamour of the city. The grounds echo with chirping birds and extend to the southeast, with a Celtic cross-shaped rose garden , a fountain to the northern end and a children's playground to the south. There are some great views of the river. The castle's former stables are now home to the Kilkenny Design Centre .