By this point in my week-long series about Ireland, in honor
of St. Patrick’s Day, you’re getting the hint that I loved Ireland. I certainly did. Ireland has almost everything I look for in a vacation spot: good food, friendly people, stunning scenery, lots of things to see and do, and of course, excellent shopping. The shopping in Ireland was so good we had to buy a cheap extra suitcase to get it all home (much less expensive than shipping it — read my piece about getting your vacation treasures home).
One of the best places for shopping and for simply soaking up the ambience of an adorably quaint Irish town, complete with its own castle, is Kilkenny. Kilkenny is in southeast Ireland and was our first stay outside of Dublin. You pull into town and you’re on a narrow, winding village road, flanked by tiny shops on each side. It is exactly what you might imagine a small town in Ireland to look like. The sidewalks are busy with people and the road goes over a river and past a
We stayed at the Kilkenny River Court Hotel, situated directly across the river from Kilkenny Castle. The location was perfect, but the rooms left a little to be desired. Our rooms looked out over the parking lot and were a bit old fashioned and
dated. There is no air conditioning and signs warn you not to open your windows due to black flies from the river. Which leaves quite a conundrum when it is a warm summer day. There was one tiny window with a screen in each room that we opened, but we were uncomfortable all night. The beds were tiny and quite hard. The lobby, in comparison, was beautiful.
The hotel’s restaurant looks out on the river and the castle, as does an outdoor patio, so you can get your fill of the view there if the one from your room is lacking. We enjoyed dinner at the hotel one night and were pleased to find they easily accommodated our gluten free diet, even bringing gluten free bread with dinner. We each had a three course meal for 21.95 Euros. Greek salad with roasted vegetables, tiger prawns, fried goat cheese salad, mushroom and courgette (zucchini) soup, pork saltimbocca with apple and sweet potato, salmon with fennel, steak, and a lovely lemon posset (mousse) left us very content and pleased. The breakfast in the morning was also well done.
Kilkenny Castle, built in 1195, is open for visitors and is a very nicely kept castle (compared to the
ruins of Blarney Castle) and just across the bridge from the hotel. The real reason to go to Kilkenny is the shopping. Kilkenny is an artisan hub. The Kilkenny Shop has its home base here (with outlets all over Ireland) because so many artisans live and work in this area. You can pick up a map at your hotel or at the local tourism office of all the artisan workshops and stores in the area – there are many.
We visited two such artisan shops. Jerpoint Glass sells gorgeous artisan glass in many colors. I knew about this gallery because my parents visited when they were in Ireland and brought me a few pieces. I was able to add to my collection while there, bringing home a beautiful bowl and vase. We also visited Nicholas Mosse Pottery, but nothing there spoke to me. It’s worth a visit since you can watch the potters in action and there are two floors of goods to choose from, including a large room of seconds.
The best shopping was at The Kilkenny Shop itself,
directly across the street from the castle. I bought many wonderful things here, including my Irish fisherman’s sweater (something you’ll see all over Ireland, but I had trouble finding one designed for a plus-size woman that didn’t just look like a big man’s sweater), some crystal and jewelry. The Kilkenny Shop ships so we had most of it shipped home. We also visited the Kilkenny Shop in Dublin before we came to Kilkenny. While that shop is bigger, I preferred the one in Kilkenny. The Dublin shop emphasizes Waterford and other high price items. I found more unique items in Kilkenny.
We happened to be in town the day before the big Kilkenny Arts Festival, so some artists were already setting up near the castle and the Kilkenny Shop and I found a few treasures there as well.
Wandering around town, we saw a wedding party taking photos at the castle and another taking photos by the river. It was a lovely town to stroll through.
This lively little town is the perfect place to do some shopping and experience a well-preserved castle.
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