Kilkenny in a Weekend, Festival Fun a Cat & Castle


Butler House Gardens Kilkenny Cat

Kilkenny Cat at the Butler House Gardens

To the back of the ivy covered Butler House building there were walled gardens that belonged in a fairy tale and a Kilkenny cat. He stole the show. Silky black and still, his beady eyes focused on the carp fish in the pond. His patience was endless, waiting for just the right moment to go fishing. He creeped forward slowly towards the waters edge. With a swift swipe of the paw he went for it. The fish evaded his attempt and the cat was left damp and disappointed. (The “Kilkenny Cats” are also a nickname for the local hurling team. They were the defending champions who also were left defeated at last years All Ireland Hurling Championship by the Clare team. )

Things to do in Kilkenny for the weekend with the family

On a rainy Friday evening after work we drove to Kilkenny from Dublin to visit my parents. The weather, traffic and drivers on the road were for the most part depressing. However, we were greeted with spicy Bloody Mary’s on arrival  and a big feed of roast chicken soon all was forgotten.

Kilkenny Arts Festival

Kilkenny claims to be a city even through it only has a population of around 25,000. It might not be a metropolis but there always seems to be something on; live music, Kilkenny Cat Laughs Comedy Festival, Smithwick’s Kilkenny Roots Festival, Heritage week, Fashion week or the European Arts Festival. This weekend I caught the tail end of the Kilkenny Arts Festival.

Kilkenny Arts festival and castle

Kilkenny Arts festival and castle

It is a 10 day festival with a wide variety of artists work on display. We had a look at the exhibition on view at Butler House. The Georgian residence which is part of the Castle estate is beautifully restored with the original features such as plasterwork, staircases and marble fireplaces. They even have cosy guestroom accomodation. The family went from room to room to explore all the artwork and speak with the artists directly. Most of the work was too commercial for my taste. Oil paintings of dogs and postcard scenes.  It seemed most artists just stuck with a style most likely to sell which was disappointing but probably necessary in this climate. However, there were a few that really stood out to me like the vibrant glass and intricate jewellery pieces.

Family picnics in Kilkenny

Jerpoint Abbey family Picnic Ireland

Jerpoint Abbey family picnic with Bovril!

Our family are big on picnics. The backpack was filled with boiled eggs, ham sandwich rolls, cheese, mustards, pickles and of course flasks of hot water for Bovril and tea. Yum. Conveniently, there are 2 picnic tables on the grounds of the abbey which made the perfect spot. The other table were occupied by a jovial German family. Dubh (pronounced ‘dove’) our dog was eagerly awaiting any opportunities for treats from either table.

We had a look at some of the old gravestones and then just wandered inside the abbey itself to have a look at the ruins. Apparently you needed a ticket and I got ‘caught’ by the lady without the 3 euro admission…. ahem…

Kilkenny Castle

Another under utilised picnic spot is on the grounds of Kilkenny Castle in the shade of tall trees. A short stroll away near the main entrance are some tables but rarely have I seen anyone using them. With dog walking to be done we grabbed a caffeine boost from the coffee stall beside the castle building. We went for a wander through the gardens and along the leafy path by the canal. The perfect way to clear your head before the drive back to Dublin.


What are your suggestions for things to do in Kilkenny with the family for the weekend? Leave a comment below….