From Dublin, we took Irish Rail from Heuston station to Kilkenny’s MacDonagh station. Round-trip tickets cost $28 at most.
What to see and when
To avoid the rain—as we did not—it’s best to visit Kilkenny after April. This compact medieval city can seem a bit sleepy to a big-city dweller, but county Kilkenny is a true artists’ enclave, home to a warm group of masterly sculptors,
potters, jewelers and textile makers. There’s no better place to find them than at the Kilkenny Design Centre, a compound of stores selling handmade crafts such as ceramic bowls and vases, jewelry, knitwear and lovely brushed-mohair blankets.
To get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the skill and technique required to make some of these products, visit the Cushendale Woollen Mills in Graignamanagh. A shop in the front of the mill sells blankets—those from the local company Zwartbles Ireland (run by my friend Suzanna Crampton) are especially gorgeous—and scarves, among other offerings.
Eating and sleeping
The restaurant at the hotel Zuni is one of the more upscale dining options in the center of Kilkenny. It serves “modern Irish” food made with local trout, salmon and Angus steak.
Food Hall of Kilkenny Design Centre is a relaxed place that is good for lunch or afternoon coffee. A shop sells local artisanal food products.
Butler House, a guesthouse fashioned from a former residence of the Butler family, has rooms that are spacious, if a bit corporate, and the location is as convenient as it gets. Behind the hotel is an immaculate walled garden with a path leading to Kilkenny Design Centre and Kilkenny Castle. 16 Patrick Street. Pembroke Hotel, just steps from Kilkenny Castle, looks a bit like the Ikea catalog come to life. 11 Patrick Street.