Visiting Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle is a popular tourist destination and place worth to visit, especially since photography is allowed.

The history of Kilkenny Castle dates back to the 12th century. As my previous post was dedicated to the Vikings, let’s start from there.

First recorded raid by Norwegian Vikings happened in 795. Among the attacked monasteries was the one on the Skeillig Michael Island – the star location of The Last Jedi movie, and home for a Puffin colony. In 902 Irish kings joined forces to expel the Vikings from Ireland but it didn’t happen until the 12th century when they took control over the Viking towns and wisely decided to let them flourish as centres of international trade. The descendants of Vikings are last mentioned in the Irish historic records in 1311.

The Kings had disputes between them. In 1167, notorious King of Leinster Dermot MacMurrough was deprived of his kingdom by the High King of Ireland Rory O’Connor and fled to France. To recover his kingdom he gained the military support of the Earl Richard de Clare, known as “Strongbow” who agreed to lead his army to Ireland, took control over the East coast, and in exchange for his aid married MacMurrough’s daughter Aoife in August 1170, the day after the capture of Waterford.

In 1172, Strongbow built a wooden tower overlooking the River Nore. It is when the history of Kilkenny Castle begins.

Twenty years later, his son-in-law William Marshal erected the four towered stone castle on the site, of which three towers still remain.

I just have to tell a few words about this remarkable man. A younger son of a minor nobleman, William had to make his own way in life. He began his training as a knight at the age of twelve, and was knighted eight years later. He married Aoife and Strongbow’s only daughter Isabel when she was 18 and he was over 40, and their marriage was long and happy. Thanks to the marriage, he inherited vast amount of land in Wales and Ireland and became one of the richest and most powerful men. William had served five kings as a military advisor praised for his wisdom and honesty, survived many battles and died a Knight’s Templar, aged 72. Archbishop of Canterbury called him the greatest knight who had ever lived.

In 1317, the de Clare family sold Kilkenny Castle to Hugh Despenser who unfortunately got himself hanged, drawn and quartered. In 1391, the castle was seized by Richard II and sold to the Butler family who occupied the castle from 1391 until 1935. After the Butlers sold all the furnishing in 1935, the castle began to fall into disrepair. In 1967, James Arthur Butler, 6th Marquess of Ormonde, sold the castle to the city of Kilkenny for 50 pounds.Β  At the key handover ceremony, young Mick Jagger made appearance dressed in some sort of cape. There is a photograph of him and a young lady, both holding paper plates with snacks.

Here you can read about the development of the castle under the Butler family.

I am sharing a few photographs to showcase amazing restoration work done to bring the castle to life again.

The Dining room.

Kilkenny Castle

The Withdrawing room. The ladies withdrew from the Dining room leaving the men to enjoy their port and cigars.

Kilkenny Castle

The Library.

Kilkenny Castle

The Tapestry room.

Kilkenny Castle

Blue bedroom.

Kilkenny Castle

This remarkable item is much bigger than the modern ones. It dates from 1904 and is original to the castle.

Kilkenny Castle

The Victorian Nursery. This room had remained unopened to the public since used by the Butler family in the 1950s, until 2014.

Kilkenny Castle

Looks creepy to me πŸ™‚

Kilkenny Castle

I don’t know what is the name of this room, but I love the aquamarine furniture and wallpaper.

Kilkenny Castle

Couldn’t miss taking a bird view picture of the Castle back yard with St Canice’s Cathedral and Black Abbey in background.

Kilkenny Castle

The Moorish Staircase, on the way to the Picture Gallery.

Kilkenny Castle

And this is the magnificent Picture Gallery built in the early 19th century.

Initially the gallery was built with flat roof that started leaking shortly after its completion. The new roof was criticized for its Byzantine looks, but I don’t see any problem with that πŸ™‚

Kilkenny Castle

Original picture collection consisted of almost 200 ancestral and royal paintings and pastoral landscapes. I didn’t take photographs of the paintings because they were artificially lit and the light reflected from the surface creating spots. I wonder if such light can be damaging.

In the gallery there are some pieces of furniture, tapestry and a beautiful marble fireplace.

Kilkenny Castle

All the information about the ticket prices and hours you can find on the Kilkenny Castle website that will be timely updated, unlike this post πŸ™‚

And this is what Kilkenny Castle looks from the other side of the lawn.

Kilkenny Castle

I hope you enjoyed the excursion.

PS The images of the castle interior used in this post are not for sale.

www.inesemjphotography.comΒ Have a wonderful weekend!

119 comments

  1. Such a great history of Kilkenny Castle, and the photos and words bring it to life ~ what I did not know what the incredible story of William…there is nothing quite learning more about great men and women of our past.

  2. Inese, I did enjoy the excursion very much, thank you πŸ™‚ What wonderful restoration work on the castle. I agree that the nursery is creepy (especially the porcelain doll — those sort of dolls really scare me) and all those shadows. Not a place for a child of huge imagination to sleep without suffering nightmares!

  3. Wow, William had quite a life. Thank you for sharing this. I love historical places, and especially castles. Your pictures really take us there.

  4. Those vikings were there, too, I see! Perfect segue from your last post, Inese…. my imagination is running mad again πŸ™‚ I do like that creepy doll! Lol. What a majestic castle!! It would be hard not to curtsy as one entered each amazing room.

  5. OH MY GOSH OH I MY GOSH! I was there! Actually there, on that green, in…in…when the heck was that…2007? Think so. ! I didn’t have the money to do the tour, but I peeked about best I could. Oh Inese, you take me back! If my family can ever afford the journey overseas, we are DEFINITELY visiting that castle. πŸ™‚ xxxxxxxxxxxx

    1. So delighted to hear that! You might have seen the picture gallery, because it used to be green years ago. I too was confused when I found it being red πŸ™‚ The tickets are quite affordable these days. I think I paid much more in 2002 xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  6. What a fascinating history, Inese. I’m always shocked to hear about these marvelous places being abandoned and left to ruin – probably because we don’t have castles in the US. I’m so glad this one was restored and opened to the public. What an amazing step back in time. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you Diana! It is all about money – the owners simply have no money to maintain castles 😦 Though there are a few smaller castles and so-called ‘big houses’ in Ireland still occupied.

  7. How did I miss this? I think we were away that weekend. Anyway, lovely and that one of the gallery with the new roof is so like the Victorian gallery in our local museum. You did it again–a lovely walk xx

  8. What a place! It’s it fabulous that we have such a colourful history in our countries? I love castles! The walls could tell a thousand stories πŸ™‚ Great post xx

    1. Thank you! πŸ™‚ History fascinates me, and so does the fact that some day we will become a history too. Hope we leave something beautiful after us πŸ™‚

  9. An impressive-looking castle and the restoration work is wonderful. It has such an interesting and colourful history, too. We can’t get away from Vikings for long, can we? Interesting to know of William Marshal’s connections to Kilkenny as well. There’s always so much history behind these lovely old castles, Inese, and I really enjoyed your tour.

    1. Thank you so much, Millie! William Marshal was an exceptional man. I have mentioned him in my blog before, and probably will in the future as he owned the most famous landmarks in the East and South East of Ireland πŸ™‚

  10. Thanks so much, Inese. I’ve always loved castles and can’t resist visiting any around, so I’ll put this one on my list, for whenever I go back to Ireland. Gorgeous pictures! β™₯

    1. Thank you Olga! If you a coming for a short trip, by chance, there is a Malachide castle near Dublin, access by a city bus. I don’t have any photographs of the interior as I visited it decades ago and photography was not allowed at that time.

  11. Love the Picture Gallery and the Moorish staircase. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ It’s unusual to be able to take photos inside these days, so thanks for sharing. One of my walking friends has family very close by Kilkenny so it’s nice to see.

    1. I think they just gave up as people have been taking pictures secretly using their phones anyway. Photography is allowed in most museums these days, except flash photography and commercial photography and video.

  12. Thank you for a fantastic tour. The place and restauration are fabulous. There is so much history in Europe isn’t there?
    Glad to see you gradually back into posting.
    Hope all is getting better (never mind however slowly!)
    πŸ™‚

  13. I suspect for much of its 900-year history (a near inconceivable span here in the new world) that the castle wasn’t quite that grand. Still, not a bad place to hang your hat.

      1. In Brisbane during the 1980s, many heritage-listed buildings were bulldozed during the night to make way for Developers’ buildings, as we had a corrupt politician. Mind you the buildings were only a couple of centuries’ old.

    1. When the roof started to deteriorate, it was the time to sell the interior. They needed money so I heard. Who has money enough to maintain such a building these days?..

  14. But for you who would have let me have a wisp of Kilkenny? Even after all those changes down the centuries, the place seems to have clung to its doughty if chequered spirit. Impeccable shots, as usual.

    1. Thank you so much! The history was complicated, but Kilkenny people remained fighters. You should see their ferocious Kilkenny Cats hurling team. The legends!

  15. What a fabulous place! Thank you so much for showing us around, Inese! I love that photos were allowed, itΒ΄s sadly not always the case, is it? The grounds and views are wonderful but what I really enjoyed was looking inside this time – all those wonderful rooms with their high ceilings, beautiful furniture and tapestries! The Moorish Staircase is my favourite I think, and the loo was a hoot! πŸ˜€ xxxxxxxxxxxx

    1. Sarah, the loo is one of my favorites first of all because of its size. We all know that people were smaller in size a century ago. So, why this gigantic pot? Enigma. I didn’t want to ask the staff though. Didn’t want to leave a bad impression πŸ˜‰ xxxxxxxxxxx

      1. I’m not even sure if they’d know why. And maybe it’s better to leave some things in the dark. πŸ˜‰ If it had been from the early middle ages my guess were that the size would have allowed for a person better to hide in them or escape through them. In any way it’s a fascinating subject! 😁 xxxxxxxxx

            1. Aww – you remember my Count… πŸ˜„ Thank you so much, Inese, you don’t know what this means to me. I took his stories from my blog because I hope I can turn it into a real book and maybe even get it published someday, so he feels rather lonely with me being his only audience to his antics.πŸ˜‰ xxxxxxxx

    1. Thank you for joining the tour! They have a display of the photographs showing the state of the castle when it was acquired by the city. I think it is safe to say that the castle was rebuilt πŸ™‚

  16. Fantastic shots, Inese, and the rich history is a delicious meal….. or should I say tapestry. πŸ˜€ Thank you so much for all the love and time you put into this wonderful article! Resa xo

    1. Hope you visit some day. A tip: GPS might be useless in Ireland, and even get you in trouble. It is fun to see unbeaten paths, but for the first visit go with a tour operator.

    1. So delighted! I was there at about the same time πŸ™‚ There was no photography allowed at that time, and the guided tour didn’t give you any freedom πŸ™‚ For some reason I think the walls in the portrait gallery were light blue or green, not red like they are now, but may be I am wrong.

    1. Thank you so much Jason. It is a neat place to visit, though stripped of its old glory it is only a museum. Historical aspect impresses me more than the visual beauty. Irish history is incredibly fascinating.

    1. Dear Sheldon, I am so very sorry, I have been off the internet ( and off virtually anything else) for a good few months 😦 Now I am just trying to return and visit the blogs I love, but it is a slow process… bear with me ..

  17. Very nice little tour of the place. I am glad to learn the place allows photograph. The castle reminds me of visiting a palace in UK. One of the room has dolls and small chairs (small children kind) like the one in this castle. It is a little creepy, really. Thank you for the lovely tour!

  18. Thank you for another wonderful tour. I enjoy heritage and you provided me with history eye candy. I am with you with the aquamarine blue. In the right setting, it is beautiful. I love reading the history you have provided as I am a history buff and your words have allowed me the imagination of living in that castle. Thank you

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Joseph. Generations called this castle home, and it is difficult to imagine what has been happening here over the centuries with all the political changes, conflicts, and personal dramas. As they say ‘if the walls could speak’ πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you for your comment! I am delighted you found memories in my post πŸ™‚ They officially allow photography since 2016, because people are taking mobile phone photos anyway. The guided tours are scarce though. I remember they had an ‘only guided tour’ policy before. Now you can roam the castle and stay there as long as you wish.

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