Studying all week and traveling every weekend can be exhausting, but in such a beautiful place it’s nearly impossible to resist the urge to constantly be exploring. This weekend we took a bus to Kilkenny, a small medieval town only an hour and a half from Dublin. 

The town has a long stretch called the Medieval Mile that begins at Kilkenny Castle and ends at St. Canice’s Cathedral. Between these two beautiful landmarks is an abundance of medieval stone buildings, many of which are filled with yummy restaurants and artisan shops now. In addition to its medieval buildings, Kilkenny is known for its artisans. For a taste of this, go to the National Design & Craft Gallery. For medieval history, go literally anywhere in Kilkenny. Wherever you wander, you’ll encounter charming stone buildings, pockets of beautiful nature, and maybe a medieval ruin or two. 

Church ruins we stumbled upon, disappointingly closed off 

Kilkenny Castle 

Built in the early 1200s, the castle has been continuously expanded over the centuries. Given to the Butler family in the 1300s, they inhabited the castle for over 600 years before going broke and giving it to the city in 1967. They sold most of the furnishings and ever since the city has tried to reclaim as many of the antiques as possible, recreating what life would have looked like for the Butlers in their heyday. 

Top: One of many sitting rooms. Middle: Formal dining room. Bottom: Nursery

In addition to the recreations, there was some modern art displayed, like the below play on a Hellenic vase. 

Information on the history of the castle or the Butler family was honestly disappointingly sparse, but at a mere €4 per student ticket the beautiful rooms were worth it. My favorite part was the art gallery at the end. In addition to housing a great collection, the hall itself is gorgeous. A 19th-century architect who redid the ceiling mixed art styles from every era of Ireland’s history. The result is stunning. 

Top: Picture Hall. Bottom: Ceiling art.

Finally, we explored the beautiful grounds. There’s a vast expanse of grass and a variety of gardens. 

This tree was the coolest thing we found. It appeared to have grown into three distinct, but connected trees. 

Medieval Mile Museum 

Kilkenny has a lot of churches and one in the middle of the Medieval Mile was converted to a museum after it fell into disrepair in the 60s. The building interior is somewhat modernized, but a lot of the 13th century structures are still there and its origins as a church are charmingly apparent. 

Top: A converted nave. Bottom: Exposed 16th century roof structure.

Under the building and in the cemetery, they found an immense amount of really old graves so a lot of the museum focuses on that and what can be learned about Kilkenny from them. 

Top: Part of the cemetery outside. Bottom: Some old grave stones.

Although it’s out of order, I recommend stopping here first to get all the information on the Medieval Mile, as well as a handy map. 

Kyteler’s Inn 

If you’re ready for a break try Kyteler’s Inn. Established in 1320, it was originally owned by Ireland’s first convicted witch and is said to be haunted. They also have great music at night. 

Black Abbey 

Very close by is the Black Abbey. Although the exterior is pretty, it’s really known for its beautiful stained glass. 

It was some of the most vibrant and intricately painted stained glass I’ve seen in Europe. The interior was filled with rainbow light, so much so that I couldn’t even take a proper photo of the interior. 

Streaked with rainbow light 

St. Canice’s Cathedral 

Finally, we made our way to the final stop on the route, St. Canice’s Cathedral. Unfortunately, it closes early and we showed up too late both days we were there so make sure you get there early! 

It’s the largest cathedral in Kilkenny and its medieval round tower is one of only a few that you can climb in Ireland. The view is supposed to be incredible. Building finished in 1285 and this was the site of Alice Kyteler’s witch trial. 

If you’re looking to travel, but want to stay closer to Dublin, Kilkenny should definitely be near the top of your list. 

Alexis Harmon studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland during Spring 2019: