The Emerald Isle – Kilkenny

Kilkenny is a picturesque city with a rich history and a vibrant culture. The narrow winding streets are lined with colorful buildings that showcase the city’s medieval architecture, while the majestic Kilkenny Castle dominates the skyline. The line, “There’s Dublin, then there’s everywhere else,” rang true for the first time here.

Our day started with a tour of the Lyrath Estate. This is a historic 17th Century Estate House turned hotel, that sits on 170 acres of Irish countryside dotted with lakes, gardens and emerald woodlands. Different country, but it definitely gave Downtown Abbey vibes.

To give you an idea of the rooms, they are very modern. Worth noting is that unlike hotels in the USA, most hotels in Europe do not accommodate parties of four.

The Lyrath Estate had an extra special treat for us – getting to meet the resident falcons. The Hawkeye School of Falconry that is housed on the estate was born out of necessity during the pandemic. It was a creative way to rejuvenate an ancient sport in the safety of the great outdoors. Activities include a private hawk walk, private falconry experience, private family experience, and mixed group eagle experience.

We wrapped up our visit with afternoon tea.

Then we were off to the legendary Smithwick’s Irish Ale House to Mill the Malt, Stir the Mash, and Smell the Hops. Smithwick’s Ale has been brewed in Kilkenny since the 14th century. The company did a fantastic job incorporating original features like stone walls and cobblestone floors with modern technology like Franciscan monk holograms sharing the origins of ale to talking photographs sharing the family history.

Though I’m not an ale or beer drinker, it was fascinating learning the process, using our senses to explore the raw ingredients, and sampling an ale flight. Of all the distillery tours we did, this was hands down my favorite.

Next up was Kilkenny Castle. Located in the heart of Kilkenny city, the castle dates back to the 12th century and has been home to some of the most influential figures in Irish history. The castle’s stunning architecture, which blends elements of Gothic and Renaissance styles, is matched only by the beauty of its surrounding gardens and parkland. The castle offers guided tours, which provide a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the people who once called this grand estate home.

The evening ended with a private dinner at Kyteler’s Inn. Kyteler’s Inn is a charming and historic pub that embodies the essence of Irish hospitality. It is also considered the most haunted pub in Ireland. Established in 1324 by Dame Alice de Kyteler, legend has it Kyteler was accused of heresy, witchcraft and murder. She was forced to flee Kilkenny leaving behind her loyal servants, one of whom was arrested and tried for witchcraft in her place. It is that servant who is said to haunt the pub.

The symbol of a cat is ubiquitous in Kilkenny and Kyteler’s, and is rooted in a story about dueling cats.

Nearing the end of dinner, Owner JD taught us how to make proper Irish whiskeys, and took us to stand in the most haunted corner of the pub. It’s truly remarkable what effect a legend and lighting can have. And Kyteler’s does this so well, people travel the world over to visit.

Up next…Kenmare and Killarney. Stay tuned!

The Emerald Isle – Dublin / The Emerald Isle – Kilkenny / The Emerald Isle – Kenmare and Killarney

The Emerald Isle – Killarney, Adare, and Limerick / The Emerald Isle – County Offlay

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