Kilkenny Castle is one of the biggest and most important castles in Irelands history, and dates back as far as the 13th century. This magnificent 12th century castle sits on a raised plateau, amongst fifty acres of parklands, overlooking the River Nore. It is located in the centre of the city centre.
The castle was originally constructed by William Marshall, 4th Earl of Pembroke, as an Anglo-Norman stone castle, being completed in 1213. It would have been a square shaped castle with towers at each corner, three of these original towers remain intact. Later it became the principal seat of the powerful Butler family, they purchased it in 1391 and ruled from this stronghold for almost six hundred years. Over the past 900 years it has underwent many alterations and extensions, resulting in a intricate structure featuring many architectural styles that are visible. Two wings of the castle have been sympathetically restored and are home to many magnificent rooms these are accessed by the impressive staircases, that are of various periods and designs. Visitors can see the dining room, drawing room, library, the beautiful Long Gallery, in addition to various bedrooms and bathroom facilities dating to the 1830’s, the rooms are sumptuous and have many original features, like splendid wood panelling, ornate furnishings, antique furniture and treasured paintings that adorn the walls.
Features of the castle include the Parade Tower at its base is the Medieval Room, containing plunging arrow loops that are inserted in the massive walls and demonstrate the highly defensive nature of the early castle. In the middle of the room is a stone pillar and re-used timbers that date from the later medieval period. When the castle was remodelled in the 19th century this room was changed into a wine cellar. It is the only surviving medieval part of the castle. Today this is where visitors to the castle will see the audio visual display on Kilkenny Castle, it provides an excellent comprehensive view into the history of the castle and the numerous relevant programmes of archaeological excavation, conservation and restoration that have taken place.
Butler Gallery is located in a suite of former servants rooms, they now exhibit the work of young and up and coming artists next to renowned international artists. As well as frequently changing exhibitions of contemporary art. They also manage and display the diverse Butler Collection so it can be shown and appreciated by the public.
The extensive gardens contain mature trees and shrubs as well as an ornamental lake. Situated to the front of the castle are the Rose Gardens they were designed and laid out in the shape of a Celtic High Cross with the castle at its peak. The pathland paths lead to a small burial ground. Also located within the park is a large children’s playground. The grounds are free of charge.
Kilkenny Castle is open throughout the year and visitors can explore at their own pace in a self guided tour, there are information sheets available. In addition there are information officers positioned throughout the premises who will happily tell visitors more about the castles rich history and answer any questions. There are also guided tours that take in the main areas of the castle.
The castle hosts a number of cultural and artistic events throughout the year.