A peat fire warms a pub in Kilkenny as The Beach Boys “Sloop John B” blares in the background, a song about wanting to go home. The woman next to the fire reads her newspaper and steals bites of dinner in between stories. Her glasses rest on the lower end of her nose as her plate of food goes flying due to an accidental elbow. She doesn’t bat an eyelash at her mistake and continues to read the evening news. I sit on the other end of the fire, eating crispy fish and chips. Suddenly I realize being alone in a pub is a good thing. You can observe the soul buried in her literature, the family meeting up with friends, the babies and children perfectly accepted in a bar. This is Kilkenny, Ireland.
I finish the last of my pint of Smithwick’s, the town’s true local brew. The Smithwick’s Brewery began in this town in 1710. Kilkenny keeps close to the bottle, offering countless pubs and bars to sample all manner of beers.
While a political power throughout the Middle Ages in Ireland, Kilkenny is not so much powerful as it is pleasant. The pleasantries begin at the Kilkenny Castle. Massive in size and dark gray in color, this is the castle my Irish dreams are composed. With foundations dating back to the 1100s, Kilkenny’s royal family, the Butlers, eventually bought the castle. When hard financial times fell on the city’s first family, the castle was sold to Kilkenny for a modest £50.
I tour the inside, home to most notable the first toilet in Kilkenny and the Long Room, a space said to be the second longest room in Ireland. The furnishings are all recreations for much of the castle’s interior was sold at auction. I look out from a window in the castle, admiring its expansive green grounds. Once I am free from the tour, I slip out to troll these grounds, finding that classic fool on the hill.
I rest up for the evening at the Butler House, a hotel owned by the Kilkenny Civic Trust. The Kilkenny Castle is within reach from some of the rooms, the former home of John Butler’s mother in 1794. Used as a soup kitchen during the choler epidemic in 1832, even if you aren’t a guest, you are still free to roam the gardens.
A new day in Kilkenny brings a new trek through its streets. I decide to end my last day at St. Canice’s Cathedral, medieval in origin. On the grounds of the Cathedral is the Round Tower, a structure built in 849. It rises to a height of 100 feet.
I decide to join the school group climbing the tower. Little do I know, it is also an ancient way up to the top. I climb wooden planks headed straight upward, with just one side of railing. After the uneasy climb, I hear the chatter of Dutch teenagers as I admire the top of Kilkenny. It’s a long way down, indeed.
The Butler House sponsored by stay while in Kilkenny. My opinions are always my own.