7 cool things to do in Kilkenny on a budget
Longing for a weekend getaway but loathe to spend too much before the summer holidays?
It's high time you grabbed a travel buddy and chose an Irish city to explore for a few blissful days.
A longtime favourite with hen and stag parties, Kilkenny is jam-packed with fabulous bars and restaurants, but it's also crammed with history.
Taking a wander through the town's quirky laneways and pretty streets is like going back in time.
Here's how to get the best out of your break on a budget...
1. Explore Kilkenny Castle
While tickets for the Castle tour are €8 (totally worth it to roam the old bedrooms, see the adorable children's nursery and gaze at the vast walls of the Long Gallery, built to house the Butler Family's jaw-dropping collection of paintings), you can wander the stunning gardens for free.
Bring a picnic and stretch out on the grass if it's sunny and pop in and watch the free audiovisual presentation to get a real feel for the history of the place.
2. Drop by Bridey's Bar & General Store
This adorable little general store/ bar is essentially every gal's dream: artisan food store at the front, candle-lit pub and Victorian walled garden at the back.
In the pretty beer garden, you can even pick up a cosy hot water bottle to keep you toasty while you sip your gin and tonic!
3. Follow in Mick Jagger's footsteps
Oddly, Mick Jagger makes an appearance in the middle of the Kilkenny Castle audiovisual presentation. He turned up accompanied by Marianne Faithfull to attend the 1967 ceremony when the keys of the Castle were handed over to the people of Kilkenny. Follow in their footsteps by dropping by Kytelers Inn downtown for a few drinks - a local photographer recalls they were drinking Bacardi and Coke.
4. Stay at...
The Kilkenny Hibernian Hotel, smack bang in the centre of the action. With stylish rooms and a fresh, New York style brasserie (seriously, Harper's Restaurant is Pinterest-perfect so bring your camera to dinner) the Hibernian is part of the newly launched Kilkenny Whiskey Guild, which means its cosy bar is home to 60 different types of Irish whiskey.
After dinner, Harper's transforms into a chill cocktail lounge, where guest DJs such as Phil Cauley hit the decks until the early hours and the cocktails flow all night.
A two-night summer break package with a two-course dinner in Harper’s on one evening at Kilkenny Hibernian Hotel starts at a bargain €130 per person. Book here.
And if you can tear yourself out of your cosy bed...
...don't miss the French toast at brekkie...
5. Learn how whiskey is made
If whiskey is your tipple of choice, a tour of a distillery is guaranteed to be a fascinating experience. Royal Oak, a rolling parkland with its own babbling brook, is the home of Walsh Whiskey, famous for The Irishman and Writers Tears brands.
Led by charismatic tour guide Woody Kane, visitors are taken behind the scenes in the only independent distillery in the world to produce all three types of Irish whiskey in one still house, namely – pot still, malt and grain.
Incredibly, the team produce eight million bottles of whiskey annually. Don't leave without picking up one of their fabulous gift boxes for the whiskey lover in your life; three miniature bottles hidden inside a secret compartment in a book!
The one-hour tour (including a guided tasting) is a very reasonable €15.
6. Explore the Medieval Mile
Owing in no small way to the their ancestor's canny knack for resolving issues with words rather than violence, Kilkenny remains Ireland’s best-preserved medieval city.
The stunning new Medieval Mile Museum is a must-see and should be your first stop (entry €7). Inside you can use the interactive map to see where Strongbow, the legendary Norman invader, first built a fort on the site where Kilkenny Castle stands today and take a good look at the incredible relics that were unearthed during the restoration of St Mary's Church, which now houses the museum.
Don't miss the Rothe Chapel and make sure to see the ancient books and letters on the first floor. It's 800 years of breathtaking history at your fingertips.
7. Get a €1 history lesson
As you stroll along High Street, look out for a little sign pointing you in the direction of a curious little laneway. At the end of it, you'll find The Hole in the Wall, the oldest surviving townhouse in Ireland - the 1582 Archer Inner House.
The Elizabethan building with its tavern, snug and Archer room has been fully restored over the last 10 years and is now open to visitors for the first time in hundreds of years. Inside a handful of people can sit and enjoy a drink or a coffee while listening to Mike, the owner, reel off fascinating stories about the history of Kilkenny.