For our next stop, we were incredibly excited to see some family who was visiting us, but also because we were lucky enough to be in Ireland on St.Patricks Day! The last time we were in the country for St.Patrick’s Day, we had stayed in Dublin but this time we switched it up and headed west to one of our favorite and most beautiful and charming cities in the country, Kilkenny. As our favorite holiday, the big day arrived with an excitement that rivaled Christmas Day.
The holiday in Ireland, which may be surprising for many, is that it is not as much of a drunk fest as it is in the United States. Don’t get me wrong, while there is still a lot of drinking that goes on during St. Paddy’s Day, the holiday in Ireland – which is a religious holiday first and foremost – is a much more subdued affair, at least when it comes to the born and bred Irish vs. the Irish for one day a year Irish. Most Irish people don’t even do much other than attending a local parade, letting the Americans do all the drinking. In fact, up until 1970, pubs were not allowed to even be open on St. Patrick’s Days. We had a really interesting experience last time we were in the country for the holiday, expecting to be drunk before 10 but finding out you couldn’t buy beer until noon!
After meeting the family in Dublin, we hopped into our rental car for the hour and a half journey to Kilkenny. Dying to get our first of many St.Paddy’s Day pints we found the first pub with parking to stop and watch Ireland finish off the Grand Slam (win every game) at the Six Nations Cup (rugby) against England. From there we took our baggage home, dropped off our bags, and spent the rest of the day doing our own little version of a pub crawl and bouncing around to several different bars. After a well-earned little rest for some dinner, we headed out again, this time to my favorite pub in the whole city, Kyteler’s Inn.
Dame Alice Kyteler was a powerful woman in Kilkenny in the first quarter of the 14th century who opened the inn around 1323, which makes it one of the oldest in all of Ireland. Jealous of her success, her dead husband’s family accused her of witchcraft and she was eventually convicted and sentenced to execution. Luckily for her, her wealthy friends were able to sneak her out of the city and she was never heard from again. Unluckily for her maidservant Petronilla, the bishop who convicted Dame Alice needed a scapegoat and Petronilla admitted to witchcraft after being tortured, and was subsequently burned at the stake.
The history of the inn is one of the several great things about the pub. That night, we had tickets to see a wonderful traditional Irish band called Caladh Nua. Each member of the band was extremely talented and played multiple instruments giving them a great sound while the lead singer entranced us at times with her beautiful voice. It was a really fun experience and something I am really glad we did to celebrate such an amazing holiday. After the performance, we went to a different part of the inn and danced the night away. In all, we had a really amazing time taking in the holiday festivities and I am glad we were able to experience some true Irish culture with the locals.
The next couple days we spent sightseeing around Kilkenny which included several impressive and ancient buildings like the Kilkenny castle, the Black Abbey, and St. Canice’s Cathedral. Kilkenny Castle is the dominant feature of the city which sits right in the center part of town on the River Nore. Construction on the castle began in 1195 by the Normans. The inside of the three-walled castle contains a stunning great hall and other beautiful rooms which require payment for entry. We did not enter on this trip but I have before and think it is well worth it on any trip to the city. The castle grounds are also gorgeous and a perfect place for a long walk on a good day.
The Black Abbey is a small, yet impressive Dominican Abbey which was founded in 1225. Named after the Dominican monks who would wear a black cloak over their habits, the structure is surrounded by the old city walls and is known for its beautiful stained glass windows.
Another great attraction in Kilkenny is Canice’s Cathedral. The enormous cathedral is the second largest cathedral in Ireland and was built more than 800 years ago. There are some really interesting stories described in the self-guided and paid tour that I found extremely interesting and well worth the 5 euros. Even older than the cathedral is its round tower, which was built in the 9th century and is one of the few of its kind in Ireland. A trip to the top is not for those scared of heights like me, but I still find it a good enough experience that I have been up there twice despite that fact. You are able to purchase tickets for both the cathedral and the tower if you wish to see both or seperately if you prefer.
Later, we took a tour of the old Smithwick’s Brewery. Last time we were in Kilkenny we took Evan on a tour of the then working brewery which has since stopped production and has now been renovated and renamed to the Smithwick’s Experience Kilkenny. Smithwick’s was founded in 1221 and is Irelands oldest brewery. The fact that beer is no longer produced there did not take anything away from our experience as we still got to see the most important parts of the old brewery. The redesign was extremely tastefully done and interesting and I would highly recommend visiting on a trip to Kilkenny. It is definitely one of the more interesting brewery tours I have ever been on.
Later in the week, we went back to Dublin for probably the final time on our trip. I have already done a post on Dublin and the Kilmainham Gaol, but this time on my visit we went to the Gaol again and the tour is definitely as great as I remember it being. The tour of the jail is so emotionally stirring due to some of the sad yet heroic stories told by our guide and even those with no interest in or knowledge of the 1916 Easter Rising – which set in motion a series of events that ended with Irish Independence – will find the tour extremely interesting. Along with entrance into the Gaol itself, the ticket also gets you access to a small museum in which all the artifacts described by the tour guide can be seen. The entire tour is just as interesting the second time as it was the first time and I stand by in saying that it is the best thing to see in the entire city of Dublin.
The stories from Kilmainham Gaol are expanded on as one of the most important series of events in Irish history in three different museums based on the Easter Rising in Dublin. As one who finds this particular time in Irish history extremely interesting, I decided to go to the newly opened GPO Museum which is on the main site of where the 1916 rebellion took place in the General Post Office on O’Connell Street. This museum was an incredible experience for me and I loved every second I was there. It gives a really comprehensive view of what happened before, during, and after the Easter Rising on Ireland’s road to independence with varying leaves of detail based on how interested you are or how much time you have. It also contains the original copy of the proclamation of independence which was read from out front of the General Post Office on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916.
We had such an amazing time going around Ireland again and as always I was reminded how much I really do love the country. The people of Ireland are truly some of the nicest I have ever met and help make every trip to Ireland a memorable and unique adventure. Going there for St. Patrick’s Day was a really special and fun experience and I am glad I was able to visit again with some of our family this time.