BY PALOMA LACY
It’s a well-known fact that it is impossible to have a bad time in Ireland. I’m lucky enough to have wended my way right through the Emerald Isle a number of times, but it had been several years since my last visit, when I landed in Dublin for a friend’s wedding.
An hour-and-a-half later we had driven down to the delightful city of Kilkenny. I was struck by how empty it felt, probably in comparison to the hustle and bustle of Dublin.
Walking around, there was barely a soul around at the beginning of September, which seemed a shame as the sun continued to shine.
Kilkenny is really rather pretty, with pastel coloured buildings, and clean too. No litter bugs here.
Charming enough to feel like a town, without the drawbacks often associated with a city, Kilkenny is on the map for Irish sports and beer fans. If you like either, this is the place for you.
Culture buffs will revel in Kilkenny Castle, part of the Medieval Mile, which captures 800 years of history and hosts renowned and hidden gems, including the enchanting Rothe Gardens and St Canice’s round tower, which at 30m is one of only three climbable towers in Ireland.
Visit The Shee Alms House, a Tudor building dating from 1582. Today it is the Kilkenny Tourist Office.
The Black Abbey is one of the oldest churches in Kilkenny, serving the community for the past 760 years.
The Famine Memorial is new visitor experience to discover, located within the grounds of MacDonagh Junction Shopping Centre, a chance to combine culture with a bit of retail therapy.
Those who like to wander can walk for hours, stopping and shopping at quaint independent shops, grabbing a bite to eat or perhaps a drink in one of what seems like hundreds of pubs. No dying pub trade here.
Where to stay: Smack bang in the centre of Kilkenny is the four star Rivercourt Hotel, which sits nicely overlooking the River Nore.
It feels more like a five star hotel, where nothing is too much trouble, and took me back to a bygone era of hotel glamour.
On the first morning, I woke up late for breakfast, calling down as meal service was finishing and was told I could eat, if I were quick.
I was so pleased I made it, and experienced a lovely spread of local produce that makes up that famous Irish breakfast. Top marks to the kitchen, which managed to get right the one dish that almost every hotel fails at, pre-made scrambled egg.
It was divine. I never eat it at hotels as it’s always terrible, but not so here.
The hotel felt new with all decoration up to scratch. The rooms were spacious, spotlessly clean, with deep carpets and beautifully furnished https://www.rivercourthotel.com/
Where to eat and drink: Kilkenny spoils visitors in search of a good meal, offering up cuisine from a number of different corners of the globe.
I’d heard about a brewery operating a tap room, where you could sample the local beer and have some lunch while there.
The independent breweries once synonymous with Kilkenny began to drop off one by one, until its final working brewery sadly closed its doors in 2013.
However, 2016 saw two great families coming together to return traditional Irish brewing to its spiritual home.
The Smithwick family, in partnership with direct descendants of the Sullivan family, started work to re-open the once-great brewery in the city where it all began.
They enlisted the help of Ian Hamilton, one of Ireland’s most eminent contemporary master-brewers.
Together they are bringing artisan brewing back to Kilkenny.
Today, you can enjoy a range of beer, including the award-winning Maltings Red Ale.
What’s on the menu? The best kind of food to line the stomach when drinking beer, burgers, and home-made pizza cooked in a wood fired oven.
For more see www.sullivansbrewingcompany.com.