Tourists flock to Kilkenny in their droves all year round, drawn to the compact city’s medieval heritage, its vibrant atmosphere, and its packed calendar of cultural events.
Amongst the best-known attractions are Kilkenny Castle and gardens, the remaining City Walls, Saint Canice’s Cathedral, and Rothe House and Garden – but Kilkenny’s appeal runs much deeper. Spend a few extra days there to enjoy the craic and dig a bit further into the region’s food and heritage, and you’ll have the chance to try traditional dishes in one of the hundreds of Irish pubs dotted about town, and to hunt down dozens of far-fetched, weird and wonderful local stories of medieval madness, witchcraft, and ghostly goings-on.
Whatever time of year you visit Kilkenny, you’ll find traditional regional dishes on the menus in many of the local pubs and restaurants. And while you’ll stumble across a pub every few steps you take, the Kyteler’s Inn on Kieran Street has a particular allure for those with an interest in history – or the paranormal. With Irish Stew and Bacon & Cabbage on the menu, washed down with local beers or Guinness, you can enjoy a bite to eat while learning about the inn’s amazing history from the information board on one of the walls.
The site of the inn was once the home of Dame Alice Kyteler, born in Kilkenny in 1263, who gained increasing notoriety as her succession of four husbands each passed away in turn – while she accumulated a healthy fortune.
Suspicious locals conspired to accuse Alice of witchcraft, and
she became the first person in Ireland to be accused and condemned for witchcraft. As the angry mob approached her home, she is said to have fled the country – but her maid, Petronella de Meath, was captured instead, perhaps mistakenly, then flogged and burned at the stake on 3rd November 1324. And adding to the Inn’s fascination is the fact that local paranormal enthusiasts say the maid still haunts the site to this day.
Amongst other Kilkenny ghostly legends is the female form that is said to occasionally appear on a staircase and in the garden at Kilkenny Castle, a presence which is said to guarantee that no guest enjoys a restful night’s sleep in the castle. And in the vicinity of St John’s Parochial Hall, sightings have been reported of a tall, thin woman using crutches who wears a long coat, no stockings and has flowing white hair.
If you’re more into food and fantasy, time your visit to coincide with October’s Savour Kilkenny festival, which takes place over Ireland’s October Bank Holiday weekend. The festival features a free, open-air food market on the Parade Plaza and in the Design Yard where visitors can sample gourmet treats from local and regional producers.
Cooking demonstrations take over the Set Theatre in John Street, featuring celebrity chefs such as Donal Skehan and Catherine Fulvio, and other highlights include the Dame Alice Medieval Banquet on Sunday 31st October in the Kilkenny Castle Kitchens.
This article was written by Rebecca Burns on behalf of InsureandGo Travel Insurance.
Photo of Kilkenny Castle & Garden by seanP on Flickr.