THE MARBLE CITY
Kilkenny straddles the River Nore, about 12km South of Mount Juliet. It is the county town of Co. Kilkenny – or more correctly, the County City. Though its borough has a population of only 8,500 and the broader city has a population of just under 25,000, the people of Kilkenny are very proud of the Charter given to them in 1609 by King James 1st, granting them the status of ‘City’. And they have every right to be proud. Few cities – or towns – in Ireland offer so much history, culture, craft and pleasure as ‘The Marble City’, so named for the remarkable Black limestone which was in great demand around the British Empire in the 19th Century. A piece of Kilkenny Marble was used for the tomb of King Richard III, in Leicester Cathedral, England.
Kilkenny gets its name from the Irish ‘Cill Chainnigh’ meaning ‘Church of Cainneach’, the saint known in English as St. Canice who gave his name to the elegant Church of Ireland Cathedral situated close to where he founded his monastery in the late 6th Century AD. There is a Round Tower adjacent to the Cathedral, which dates from the 9th Century AD and would have been built to provide protection for the monks from Viking Raiders coming up the River Nore from what is now Waterford.
HISTORY ON EVERY CORNER
You will find History on every corner. The magnificent Kilkenny Castle, for example, was the seat of the Butler Family, the same Butler family Juliet herself joined when she married Somerset, before moving into Mount Juliet. You will find a great deal to explore, from Black Abbey, to Kyteler’s Inn, to the reasons by why The Kilkenny Gaelic Hurling team is referred to as ‘The Cats’.
Kilkenny and its environs have a strong connection with arts, crafts and artisan food production. In 1963 the Irish Government funded the establishment of the Kilkenny Design Centre in the stables of Kilkenny Castle, whose mission was to foster, encourage and inspire design, art and craft in Ireland. The initiative, which continued until 1988, had a great influence on the development of Irish graphic design, textile design and other crafts. It also made the Kilkenny area a haven for artists and a hive of activity. There are a great many potteries, studios and workshops in the area including Jerpoint Glass, just near Mount Juliet, Nicholas Mosse Pottery in nearby Bennettsbridge, not to mention the many designers and crafts people in the city itself. Kilkenny is also home to several cultural festivals including Ireland’s longest running arts festival ‘Kilkenny Arts Festival’, ‘The Cat Laughs Comedy Festival’ and ‘The Rhythm and Roots Music Festival’.