Located a mere 60 miles from Dublin, Kilkenny offers Royal Holiday members a chance to experience Ireland at its most ancient and exciting. With an imposing medieval castle buttressed by a lively town filled with history, craftspeople, and charming pubs, Kilkenny also possesses modern urban delights like gourmet restaurants and excellent shopping. Royal Holiday travelers will do well to experience this Irish paradise, which offers the chance to enjoy the past and the present side by side.
Royal Holiday members stay at the enchanting Knocktopher Abbey, located south of the city in the tamed wilds of County Kilkenny. With condominium-style accommodations ranging from studios to presidential suites, it can house couples hoping for a romantic Irish getaway and big Royal Holiday families alike. Situated in a charmingly restored abbey, the resort’s rooms all come complete with kitchens and entertainment systems. The grounds include easy access to activities like golf, go-kart rides through the manicured parkland, and horseback rides through the countryside. A soothing retreat from Kilkenny proper’s bustle, Knocktopher Abbey provides restorative relaxation like few other places in the British Isles.
Royal Holiday members will find that Kilkenny has a long and proud history. Properly called Cill Chainnigh, Irish for the Church of Cainnech, or St. Canice, the city had its foundations in a church first built in the 6th century. While evidence of earlier settlements suggests Mesolithic tribes once called County Kilkenny home, the area first came to prominence during the reign of the Kings of Ossory. The city’s most famous landmark, Kilkenny Castle, was first built in the 12th century and served as the home of the Butler dynasty for 500 years. By the modern era, the city had become home to the craftspeople, including those at the Kilkenny Design Workshops that have since brought renewed fame to the region.
Visitors will naturally want to begin their tour of the region at Kilkenny Castle, southeast of the city center. First opened to the public in 1967, it features exhibition halls, tours, and a summertime café within the castle, as well as vast parkland outside. However, in the city, Royal Holiday members will find much more history, such as the 1700’s marketplace at the Thosel, the magnificently restored Black Abbey, and the museum of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society at the 16th-century Rothe House. Royal Holiday visitors who tire of the pub crawl in Kilkenny can see how beer was made in medieval times at the St. Francis Abbey Brewery, the oldest such establishment in Ireland. Others will want to experience the wonders of modern Kilkenny at the National Crafts Gallery, which lies just across the way from Kilkenny Castle. The gallery offers the full range of Irish arts and crafts, including items made using practices that have been handed down over centuries and items made using new methods of expressing the Irish spirit.
Of course, Kilkenny offers much more than crafting masters and dusty history. Ireland’s homegrown game of hurling, which can frequently be seen at the popular games of the Kilkenny Cats, can be picked up by Royal Holiday members through the Ultimate Hurling Experience Tour. The Kilkenny Design Centre and the shopping area around it provide incredible opportunities for Royal Holiday visitors looking to bring home a bit of Ireland. Depending on the time of year, however, the city’s focus is on its numerous festivals, such as The Cat Laughs Comedy Festival, Kilkenny Arts Festival, and numerous other events celebrating food, the arts, music, and the theatre.