When you think of Ireland, you probably dream about Medieval castles where knights fought invaders and royalty danced in opulent rooms. A great place that hearkens back to these days is Kilkenny Castle, located in the beautifully preserved Medieval town of Kilkenny. When planning a dream trip to Ireland (hopefully in 2021!), put this castle on your must-see list for a family-friendly visit!
Kilkenny Castle is located in the small town of Kilkenny, just 2 hours southwest of Dublin. It is a perfect place to stop for lunch on a trip from Dublin to Ireland’s popular southern coastal towns of Waterford or Cork. While eating lunch in the Medieval town, be sure to check out the castle, which is open to the public. You can have a picnic within its walls and let the kids have a fun wiggle break for free or you can pay to see the interior of the castle. With young kids, seeing the exterior is fine but with kids 10 and up, make time to see the interior of the castle.
Note that due to COVID-19 restrictions, the castle interior is currently closed. The park and garden remain open. Please check all sites mentioned before visiting for current closure information.
A castle has stood on this site since the 12th century when the Irish folklore king, Strongbow, built a wooden castle here. The stone castle was built in the 13th century, with 3 of the 4 original towers still standing today. The 4th tower was demolished after the siege and attack on Kilkenny by Oliver Cromwell in 1650, and the castle also retained heavy damage during the Irish Civil Wars of the 19th and early 20th century. The main owners of the castle were the Butler family, who owned it from 1391 until 1967 when it was given as a gift to the city. Thankfully, it was preserved and restored in the late 20th century and stands as a reminder of Medieval Ireland.
The castle is located at the end of the main street in Kilkenny, along the River Nore. I recommend parking in the car parks located near the market and walking to the castle through the city along High Street, called the Medieval Mile. You will pass historic homes, shops, and pubs, including the infamous Kyteler’s Inn which claims to have been owned by a witch!
As you walk up the hill to the castle, your kids will love the view of the imposing entrance and round towers!
Once you enter the gate, however, the castle opens up to a lovely garden and lawn where your kids can run free. There’s even a fantastic playground in the garden, perfect for all kids!
Bring a picnic or a Frisbee and just people watch. It’s a great place to relax and rest in the fresh air.
If your kids are ages 10 and up, I recommend paying to tour the castle. There aren’t many castles like this still available to tour so take advantage while you’re here. For most of the year, the tours are self-guided, which is perfect with kids. You can move through the rooms at your own pace.
You can start the tour in the round tower of the parade wing where a short movie is shown about the castle’s history.
Then you can purchase your tickets in the main entrance and enter the castle.
Most of the rooms are decorated in the Victorian style, popular during the 19th century. You will start the tour in the basement, which gives you an idea of how the Medieval castle would have looked.
The tour continues up to the ground floor. The first room is the Chinese drawing room.
The state dining room is opulent.
The view outside to the gardens is breathtaking!
The tapestry room is one of my kids’ favorites.
The tour takes you upstairs to the 19th century restored rooms. The drawing room is elegant.
The views out the windows are stunning.
On the 3rd floor (they call it the 2nd floor), your kids will enjoy seeing the nursery with toys.
This is where the bedrooms are located as well, with another amazing view of the rose gardens.
As you gaze out the windows, you can see why the castle was built on this bend in the river. You can see far upstream, which is good protection against invaders!
The last room in the tour is the picture gallery, with portraits of the Butler family dating back centuries!
Be sure to end your tour with an ice cream at the little cafe on the castle’s green.
Since you can’t visit in person right now, check out this video on YouTube to see the beautiful Victorian interiors.
Kilkenny Castle is a great way to take your kids back to Medieval Ireland. Its beautiful grounds and atmospheric interiors make you feel like you have stepped back in time. If you’re planning a trip to Ireland in 2021, be sure to add it to your list!
- Grounds: Free
- Interior tour: 8EUR/adults; 4EUR/children 12-17; free/children under 12
- Recommended for:
- Grounds: all ages
- Interior tour: 10 and up
- Tour time: 1 hour for interior
- Multiple gift shops located just outside the castle walls, including the fantastic Kilkenny Design Centre and National Craft Gallery
- Transportation: Kilkenny is best accessed by car. It’s also accessible by train from Dublin.
- Dining options: If you’re in town for only one meal, it must be at Kyteler’s Inn, which dates to 1324. We ate in the witch-haunted basement and it was one of our most memorable meals in Ireland! There are plenty of other restaurants along High Street.
- Nearby hotels: Kilkenny is a well-known tourist destination so check out its tourism site for recommendations. We stayed at the Castlemartyr Resort, 2 hours away.
- Nearby attractions include: Medieval Mile Museum, National Design and Craft Gallery, Rothe House and Gardens, Castlecomer Discovery Park, and the Rock of Cashel (1 hour drive away)
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