On this week’s edition of “See the World” we are headed across the pond to the Emerald Isle! Hopefully you had a chance to see Jasper, Alberta, Canada last week and Istanbul the week before. If you missed last year’s “See the USA” series, click here to see what you missed. This week we have Marta from Learning Escapes joining us. Originally from Italy, Marta and her family has called Ireland home for the last ten years. Come see what she says are the best things to do in Kilkenny with kids!
Kilkenny is one of the most charming Irish cities. Located in the centre of Ireland, on the banks of the River Nore, it has a beautiful medieval centre, lively pubs, and a dynamic art scene. One of the major tourist draws is the Kilkenny Arts Festival, which takes place each August, attracting artists from all over the world. It is a great stop on any Irish itinerary and is particularly enjoyable for families with kids, who will love its welcoming atmosphere. Here are our choices for the top 5 family friendly things to do in Kilkenny, Ireland.
Visit Kilkenny Castle
The castle in Kilkenny sits in the centre of the city and is a sight to behold. Large towers made of grey stone frame vast gardens and embody the quintessential image of a medieval stronghold. Kilkenny Castle dates back to the 12th century and despite the many battles it witnessed, it remained inhabited until the 1930s!
The castle interiors are open to visitors, but families are likely to spend most of their time in the play area on the castle grounds. The climbing frames and toys are perfect even for little kids and the view over the castle breathtaking.
If you love design, make sure you stop in the Kilkenny design shop in the castle yard for high quality Irish crafts.
Walk along the Medieval Mile
Kilkenny’s centre is crossed by the ‘Medieval Mile’, a trail looping through the heart of the city and touching most if not all of the city’s main historical buildings. Walking along the Medieval Mile is a pleasure: the ‘Mile’ is lined by colorful houses, shops and restaurants. Good street signs ensure you will not miss out on the main attractions in town such as the Smithwick’s experience and St. Canice’s Cathedral, one of the city’s most impressive sites.
If you have very young kids, they may enjoy discovering the Medieval Mile on the small tourist train or renting a bike from one of the many bike shops in town (kids bike available).
Take a river adventure
Adventurous kids will love the opportunity to go canoeing on the River Nore. The river adventure is offered by a company called Go with the Flow and it is suitable for all ages. Fully qualified instructors guide families along the Kilkenny waterways. This is a perfect chance to discover beautiful, unspoiled scenery for an afternoon or a full day outdoors. All equipment is provided, but the activity is available in spring and summer only.
National Reptile Zoo
Immediately outside Kilkenny city centre sits the National Reptile Zoo. It offers over 6000 square feet of space with over 50 species of reptiles and amphibians. The zoo is the only one of its kind in Ireland and it is strongly geared towards welcoming children and families. It offers many activities aimed at familiarizing children with reptiles in a way that is safe for both. There is also a play area for younger guests and picnic tables (indoors and outdoors).
About 20km outside of Kilkenny city, but well worth a drive if you have active kids, is Castlecomer Discovery Park. Set in the former gardens and stable yard of the Wandesforde Estate, Castlecomer is an outdoor space offering a plethora of activities. There’s zip lining, boating and tree top adventures for older children, with a family trail and a cute fairy village for younger ones.
Located 20 km south of Kilkenny city is the Lost City of Jerpoint Park. The Belmore House was built here by the 1st Earl of Belmore in the 18th century as a hunting lodge. About fifteen years ago, the house and its land were purchased by a retired pig farmer by the name of Joe O’Connell. As Joe went off to explore his land one day (there’s 115 acres), he discovered a building covered in ivy and brush and overgrown with trees. He reached out to the Heritage Council who came to help excavate the property and in doing so discovered the lost city of Newtown Jerpoint. This town was built over 800 years ago, but vanished from all records in the 1600s. Today you can visit the remains of St. Nicholas church (and his tomb) and see the remnants of stone buildings from the time this was a thriving city. Joe leads the tours himself and it’s worth the visit if you’re in Kilkenny.
From history to outdoors adventures, Kilkenny has a lot to offer for families! You can find additional ideas and suggestions on how to make the most of your time in Kilkenny in our Kilkenny city guide for families.
Marta is the travel writer behind Learning Escapes, a family travel blog about cultural travels with kids. Originally from Rome, Marta moved to Ireland over 10 years ago. She now lives in the Emerald isle with her husband and her two children. Marta loves to travel internationally with her family and her blog documents their experiences in Europe and beyond through personal stories, guides and practical tips for families on the move.