Dublin holds the honour these days, but did you know Kilkenny was once the capital of Ireland? Ok, that was back in the 1600s but, as Alexandra Murphy finds out, the city still retains its medieval magic.
Kilkenny is the perfect hybrid of old and new, city and town, culture and clubbing. So when visiting the old capital, where are the hotspots to hang in?
Modern invention meets new and old Irish flavours and a hint of global at Zuni Restaurant on Patrick Street. Fancy the sirloin of a Kilkenny-reared Angus? This is the place.
The Marble City Bar on High Street is one of the oldest public houses in Kilkenny, and, thankfully for our eyes, has kept many of its original features. If you’re in the mood for cake then pop into their Tea Rooms, where you can stuff yourself with coffees and pastries. Or the other way round…
Another High Street gem is Café Mocha. Along with their homemade bites and huge selection of teas, the café is also a real treasure trove for gifts such as handmade chocolates. Yum!
If you like a little Italian with your Irish, then you’ll love Ristorante Rinuccini. Located in the heart of the city right beside Kilkenny Castle, it’s been around for over twenty years and is one of Ireland’s finest Italian/Irish restaurants. Run by Antonio and Marion Cavaliere, Rinuccini specialises in Irish seafood. Food aside, custom-built wine cellar is an absolute winner. Guests are welcome to explore it, too.
Want to check out the world’s largest hurley? The stick (which is over twenty feet long!) has been signed by generations of hurling legends and can be found at The Field Bar on High Street. The bar also exhibits sports memorabilia from all over the globe including Muhammed Ali’s glove, and jerseys worn by none other than Pele and Maradonna. Those two wouldn’t have needed a hurley. They could have just soloed a sliotar into the net.
Those who appreciate aesthetics as they sup should visit The Left Bank Pub overlooking Kilkenny Castle. Dating back to 1870, the building originally housed a bank. The many remaining period features make this place an absolute gem.
Did you know Smithwick’s has been crafted in Kilkenny city since 1710? The golden ale is made at St. Francis Abbey Brewery on Parliament Street. Go on a guided tour and have some history with your pint.
Finish off your night on the dancefloor of Langton’s on John Street. One of the most popular spots in the South East, it houses several bars under the one roof with live acts, trad music and DJ’s every night of the week. They’ve even won ‘National Pub of the Year’ a record four times in a row, so they must be doing something right!
The Irish weather (usually) gets warmer come the start of June. And the hottest county to be in that weekend has to be Kilkenny – it’s also the funniest. The Cat Laughs Comedy Festival brings together the best Irish and international comedians and prides itself on being the biggest comedy event of the year – not to be missed.
Kilkenny likes to get creative, too. Artists and craftspeople including renowned potter Nicholas Mosse work in studios all around the city.
When it comes to Irish handcrafted gifts you’re spoiled for choice at Kilkenny Design Centre. Overlooking the castle, the centre contains a wealth of knitwear, jewellery, pottery, china, crystal and celtic souvenirs.
The National Craft Gallery is also well worth a visit. The building was once used as the stables of Kilkenny Castle, and is a leading centre for contemporary design. You can watch clay workers in action or even have a go yourself – ah go on!
A castle and craftwork to marvel at, comedians to amuse, and fine food to savour – Kilkenny, you’re spoiling us.