Kilkenny Main Towns


The small town of Ballyragget is pleasantly situated on the river Nore and is well laid out with a fine square and fair green. The tower of a 15th century Butler castle survives in good condition. Near the river Nore at Ballyragget is a fine Norman Motte with a deep fosse. It is considered to be one of the first mote and bailey castles erected in Ireland by the Anglo-Normans. 5km away is Foulksrath Castle, a mainly 16th century building which is now a Youth Hostel. Near Foulksrath is Swifts Health, the 18th century house where Jonathan Swift, Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin and author of Gullivers Travels stayed with his uncle when he attended Kilkenny College. The historic Donoughmore Cemetery is located close to the village.

Bennettsbridge is situated 8km south east of Kilkenny City and has been noted as a village for craft studios operating there, making glassware, pottery, leather and stone ware. All crafts people involved welcome visitors to their studios.

Callan in the centre of a fertile plain, is an ancient market town which was strongly fortified in medieval times. Corporate rights were granted to the town in 1271. In 1408 there was a battle here in which the Prince of Ossory and 800 of his men were slain by the English. There are some remains of the fifteenth-century Augustinian Priory founded by Sir JamesButler, and traces of the castle which was bombarded by Cromwell in 1650. In the main street stands a handsome memorial in Kilkenny limestone toEdmund Innatius Rice founder of the Irish Christian brothers.

This attractive little town in the hilly northern part of Kilkenny lies in a wooded valley where the river Dinin is joined by a tributary from the west. Though the centre of the country’s largest coalfield the neighbourhood has a scenic charm not usually associated with colliery areas. The district was once part of the territory of the O Brennans, who were finally dispossessed in the seventeenth century, but are still numerous in the area. A biennnial Brennan family rally has been held here.

One of the most beautiful vistas on any river in Ireland illuminates Fiddown on the romantic Suir. It was once another link in the long chain of sites which followed to such a comprehensive degree the transfer from Paganism to Christianity in Ireland. The 6th century monastery where the old churchyard is seen, was founded by the saintly Mo Medog, one of the most experienced of the early missionaries, a veteran of eveangelisation in Scotland and France. The only relic of his day is the stone font. Theother ancient church site, called Killmodalla, later changed in an obvious family compliment to Kildatun, was cruelly dismembered to build stables on the Bessborough Estate, as recently as 1830.

Freshford was the site of a very early Christian church founded by Saint Lachtain in 622 and which was later replaced by a monastic church in 1100. The church of Ireland parish church in 1100. The church of Ireland parish church now incorporates the very fine and unusual Romanesque porch and doorway of this later church decorated with friezes and a figured panel. Little else remains of the original building except, a fine round window with Romanesque moulding, one of the very few in Ireland.

No village in Ireland was more appropriately named. A haven of peace, it snuggles into the side of an immense valley, at the depth of which runs the River Barrow. The views from Glenmor across into County Wexford and the upper and lower reaches of the much availed of river, plus its seclusion, grants its people a place of rest and refuge few can match.

This somnolent river crossing village proclaims again the great wealth of fishing and natural river beauties that utterly captivated the Norman Knights and made County Kilkenny a land worth fighting for. Today it is a major Irish magnet for fishermen and women of all sorts and ages. The bridge across the River Barrow joins County Carlow to County Kilkenny and was a prime target for the Wexford rebels advancing toward Castlecomer on June 23rd 1798

Gowran in county Kilkenny, nationally known today for the sport of kings, still (it is suggested) horse racing, Gowran was for a time the seat of kings, the Kings of Ossory. When the fortunes of the Ossory ruling family the MacGiolla-Phadruig, declined in the 12th century, the town and lands came into the hands of the Norman knight, FitzWalter, the ancestor of the Butler Earls of Ormond. Edward Bruce of Scotland in his essay at power in Ireland captured Gowran in 1317 and during the many battles in the next century against the Norman overlords, Gowran was burned to the ground. It is now a thriving community.

Graiguenamanagh is in County Kilkenny, while Tinnahinch, on the east bank, is in County Carlow. The beautiful bridge, floodlit at night, links the two and dates from 1767 when a canal system was being built on the Barrow to improve navigation. Before the bridge and perched above the town is historic Duiske Abbey, now beautifully restored. It was founded by Norman monks from Stanley Abbey, Wiltshire, in 1204. Take time to walk through the town with its great selection of shops, pubs and music.

This is a charming village with a tree-lined square, lying in a pretty part of the Nore valley where the river winds between woodfed banks flanked by hills. An Augustinian priory was founded here in 1210 by Thomas Fitzgerald, and the nave, tower and adjoining Lady Chapel remain. Some monuments of the tighe family are in the tower, including an effigy by flaxman of Mrs Mary Tighe the authoress of Psyche. The former home of the tighes, Woodstock House, is in a wooded demesne south of the village. The house was damaged by fire in 1922, but the fine formal gardens can still be enjoyed. On a rock above the river at the village are the remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle.

Johnstown is located 3.2km from Urlingford. The village was founded by John Hely of Foulkstown in 1700. The original settlement was probably around the ruins of a fifteenth century Purcell Castle and an ancient church in Foulkstown Demesne, 3.2km away. Johnstown was a very popular resort in the eighteenth century because of the then fashionable attraction of Ballyspellan spa nearby, Dean Swift and his friend Dr Sherrridan were frequent visitors. In nearby, Rathosheen townland is the Ring Fort, known traditionally as the burial place of Oisin, legendary hero of the Fianna, a pre chrisitian group of Celtic warriors. There is a beautifully carved baptismal font and crusification panel in the Romans Catholic church in Johnstown.

Long renowned as Ireland’s Medieval Capital, the city’s origins date back to more than 1,500 years ago. The great building prowess of the Normans is very evident in the 11th and 12th century building they bestowed on the city. Not alone in the large “set piece” buildings, such as Saint Canice’s Cathedral, the great Butler Castle and the four medieval abbeys, but also the linear streetscape, especially the attractive covered slipways. In this generation a deep sense of civic awareness has been manifest in the centres success in the National Tidy Towns competition on no less than four occasions. Kilkenny City is the 1998 national entry for Ireland in the European Entende Florale Competition.

Kilree is 2 km from Kells and may have formed portion of an early Christian system in Ossory. It was a monastery founded by St. Brigid of Kildare, patroness and “Mary of the Gael”. The environs are steeped in Brigidine lore. Kilree (Cell Righ in Irish) makes certain its former importance is not overlooked by the presence of a lofty 10th century round tower. That alone means that in this important and ancient place there was need of lookout vigilance and a need for protection of precious objects.

4.5km beyond Jerpoint Abbey is another village associated with a different great Order of the medieval church. A foundation was made here by the Earl of Ormond, James Butler, for the Carmelite Order of Friars in 1356. Although suppressed by 1540, the Carmelites continued to replace and appoint friars to serve the area until they were finally expelled in Cromwell’s wake in 1654. Nonetheless, the convent called Saint Saviour’s, was in being as recently as 1737 in a tradition repeated by this dedicated Order elsewhere. The tower and doorway of Saint Saviour’s still stand but some of the friary remnants have been included in a more recent residence. The Carmelites have a house and church in the village.

Named for the power of its mills in the Blackwater river valley, Mullinavat’s cosy situation is increased in tranquillity by the dominant Walsh Mountain. Where the sparkling tributary, the River Assy, meets the Blackwater an angle is formed and in that space there was an ancient court, later the castle of Inchacarrin. It was the home of Sean MacBhaiteir Breathnach (1580-1660) one of the most important and powerful gaelic poets of that age, the more intriguing in that he was of Welsh descent. Breathnach is Irish for Welsh, a distinction spelt variously as Welsh, Walsh, Walshe or Wallace.

Near the Kilkenny-Tipperary, and therefore the Munster-Leinster, border, the engaging long village of Piltown is attractively presented. It is nationally famous in recent years for the presence of the Kildalton Agricultural College. Research Station and agricultural exhibition arena and was previously a Catholic seminary. The present Garda (police) barracks was the former 19th century Market House built by the Lord Bessborough. The Ponsonby who lost his life in the Napoleonic Wars is commemorated in the Sham castle. The strange interaction of the Norman and Irish races, their culture and values, lend an eloquent message from the year 1462. A battle took place at Piltown that year over the seemingly remote succession in England.

This town, in beautiful surroundings in the Nore valley, is named after Thomas FitzAnthony Walsh, Seneschal of Leinster, who built a wall around it early in the 13th century and erected a castle, the castle was destroyed by Cromwell in 1650. There are some interesting monuments among the ruins of a large 13th century church and the present Catholic church contains the old high altar of Jerpoint Abbey.

The town of Urlingford has an impressive number of historical monuments in its vicinity. Urlingford is situated in flat countryside with a terrain so level that extensive views may be had and an indication of how important the Anglo Normans considered the territory is apparent when one sees no less than twelve castles form Tinacashel crossroads, 3km away. Near the town are Urlingford Castle and Church. The castle belonged to the Mount Garret Butlers.