- 18 Nov - 24 Nov, 2017
- 28 Oct - 03 Nov, 2017
Rising above the River Nore, Kilkenny Castle is one of Ireland's most visited heritage sites. Stronghold of the powerful Butler family, it has a history dating back to the 12th century, though much of its present look dates from Victorian times.
The first structure on this strategic site was a wooden tower built in 1172 by Richard Fitz Gilbert de Clare, the Anglo-Norman conqueror of Ireland better known as Strongbow. In 1192 Strongbow's son-in-law, William Marshal, erected a stone castle with four towers, three of which survive. The castle was bought by the powerful Butler family (later earls and dukes of Ormonde) in 1391, and their descendants continued to live here until 1935. Maintaining the castle became such a financial strain that most of the furnishings were sold at auction. The property was handed over to the city in 1967 for the princely sum of £50.
For most visitors, the focal point of the visit is the Long Gallery, which showcases portraits of Butler family members, the oldest dating from the 17th century. It is an impressive hall with a 19th-century timber roof vividly painted with Celtic, medieval and Pre-Raphaelite motifs by John Hungerford Pollen (1820–1902), who also created the magnificent Carrara marble fireplace, delicately carved with scenes from the Butler family history.
The castle basement is home to the Butler Gallery, featuring contemporary artwork in temporary exhibitions, and to a popular summertime tearoom housed in the castle kitchen. You can access the Butler Gallery and cafe without paying admission.
About 20 hectares of public parkland extends to the southeast of the castle, framing a fine view of Mt Leinster, while a Celtic-cross-shaped rose garden lies northwest of the castle. A gate on the north side of the park leads steeply down to the riverside, where you can walk back into town at St John's Bridge.
Kilkenny is a market centre for a rich agricultural area. Woollen mills were long important to the city’s economy, and textiles and crafts – particularly those made of Kilkenny limestone – are still significant, as is tourism. Other industries include brewing, printing, engineering, and information technology.
Kilkenny Castle stands dramatically on a strategic height that commands a crossing on the River Nore and dominates the 'High Town' of Kilkenny City. Over the eight centuries of its existence, many additions and alterations have been made to the fabric of the building, making Kilkenny Castle today a complex structure of various architectural styles.
The buildings have been in the care of the Office of Public Works since 1969, and many important programmes of archaeological excavation, conservation, and restoration have been carried out there.