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Introducing Thomastown

This small market town has a serenity it hasn't known in decades now that the M9 has diverted Dublin traffic away from the compact and attractive centre. Named after Welsh mercenary Thomas de Cantwell, Thomastown has some fragments of a medieval wall. Down by the bridge, Mullin's Castle is the sole survivor of the 14 castles once here.

Like the rest of Kilkenny, the area has a vibrant craft scene. Look out for Clay Creations displaying the quixotic ceramics and sculptures of local artist Brid Lyons.

Just 4km southwest of Thomastown, high-fliers tee off at the Jack Nicklaus–blessed Mount Juliet. Set over 600 wooded hectares, it also has its own equestrian centre, a gym and spa, two restaurants, wine master-classes, and luxurious rooms catering to every whim, right down to the pillow menu (accommodation from €130).