Kilkenny Castle is a sumptuous 12th century building with a beautiful park, which together dominate the surrounding medieval town of Kilkenny. Unlike many other Irish castles, it has been fully restored inside. Visitors are charmed by the "Downton Abbey" style ambience of these rooms, although many are dismayed to learn they can't take photographs inside the building -- a rule enforced by the state owners to preserve paintings and other items from being damaged by camera flashes.
1172 - Strongbow builds a wooden castle in Kilkenny
The history of Kilkenny Castle dates back to 1172 when Strongbow -- the popular name of Richard de Clare, Anglo-Norman conqueror of Ireland -- built a wooden tower overlooking the River Nore.
1260 - William Marshall erects the first stone castle on the site
In 1260, his son-in-law William the Earl Marshall replaced the wooden structure with a four-towered, square-shaped stone castle.Three of those stone towers remain part of the existing structure, and give the building its distinctive look, making it one of Ireland’s most recognisable castles.
1391 - The Butlers purchase Kilkenny Castle
The castle was purchased by one of Ireland’s most distinguished and wealthy families, the Butlers, in 1391. The Butler descendants the Earls, Marquesses and Dukes of Ormonde – lived in the castle for over five hundred years, until 1935. The Butlers were an important family in Irish history both politically and culturally. The lineage went on to include William and Jack Butler Yeats, arguably the country’s most famous 20th century poet and artist respectively.
1967 - Kilkenny Castle is purchased by the Irish Government
Because of the castle’s size, its maintenance expenses are huge, and it was sold to the State in 1967 for the nominal fee of 50 Irish pounds (equivalent to about $300 US dollars at the time), though most of the furniture was auctioned.
Kilkenny Castle Today
Today, many of the castle’s rooms are open to the public. Most impressive is the Long Gallery, with its beautifully painted ceilings and extensive portrait collection of the Butler family members throughout the centuries. One of the towers, known as the Parade Tower, is today used as a conference centre.
The Butler Gallery
A section of the castle is used as an art gallery, known as a Butler Gallery. The gallery has a small permanent collection, featuring local artists, and regularly hold exhibitions.
Kilkenny Castle Park and Playgrounds
The grounds of the castle also very impressive, and include a rose garden, a park, a fountain, and a children's playground in the courtyard.
Free Outdoor Playground
The playground in the park is modern with soft surfaces. There are playground attractions for kids of different ages, from small toddlers to pre-teens. Items in the playground include:
- Climbing net
- Play panels
- Spinning chairs
- Various swings and slides for both younger and older children
Opening times are the same as the park open times (see below)
Kilkenny Castle Park Opening Times
January 9.00am to 4.00pm February 9.00am to 4.30pm March 9.00am to 5.30pm April 8.30am to 7.00pm May to August 8.30am to 8.30pm September 8.30am to 7.00pm October 9.00am to 5.30pm November 9.00am to 4.30pm December 9.00am to 4.00pm Lock-up of the Park begins 30 minutes before closing times.