For the History Fanatic
The local area has always been fairly prosperous due to its rivers, its agricultural prowess and even its benign weather. As a result, it’s full of historical delights! First on the not to be missed list is Jerpoint Abbey, an old Cistercian Abbey. Nearby is Jerpoint Park, where you can continue your journey and learn about an old medieval village. Kells Priory to the west is a truly stunning set of towers set into an unspoiled Irish village. My local Kilfane Long Man also fits in here as he (an imposing stone gravestone) dates back to the Crusades. For more from this period, check out the Kilbline Round Tower, a great example of this architecture, found near our pottery in Bennettsbridge.
For Sporty People
I take these visitors to Mt. Juliet where they can play a friendly round of golf, or simply enjoy a meal and drink in the bar overlooking the course (residents can avail of all sorts of activities such as fishing, archery, horseback riding, etc…). Bicycle tours are also becoming popular and bikes can be rented in Kilkenny. There are plenty of possible routes, with help from various operators who will pick you up at the end. It’s a great way to get a strong, slowly gathered impression of the area. Moreover, a newly created River Nore swimming hole in Thomastown should please the aquatic lovers.
Two river walks have been set up in recent years; one from Kilkenny to Bennettsbridge and one over in Graiguenamanagh. These trails are perfect for easy, dawdling conversation and walking. I feel I must also include our garden Kilfane Glen and Waterfall here, as many a romance has blossomed during walks through our woods or by our stream. In fact, many couples come back to have their wedding pictures taken by the waterfall.
Just down the road from the pottery is an open farm, Nore Valley Park, which has animals and all sorts of fun activities for all ages. As a certified granny, I can testify to its value in the entertainment sector! But on a humbler, more inexpensive scale, there is now a fabulous new playground in the middle of our little village of Bennettsbridge, where all are welcome.
Well of course I must mention our wonderful Irish Country Shop in Bennettsbridge, with its cafe, car park, shopping, etc. But there are other little gems around here too. Thomastown is a remarkable village with antique shops, food shops and restaurants, a chocolatier, a craft shop and welcoming pub life. Farther south of this town is Jerpoint Glass Studio which is always worth a look, as everyone becomes entranced by the glass making process. Another local craft of longstanding repute is Cushendale Woollen Mills, over in Graiguenamanagh, where wools are spun and dyed and woven on the spot. It’s called ‘shopping at source’!
My Personal Faves
I have some visitors due this weekend and just to show how manageable a country spin can be, here is the route I’ll propose to them when they arrive:
1. Begin in Bennettsbridge in the Pottery, to learn how we craft our goods and explore the bargain section.
2. Drive down to Thomastown to check out the local artisanal shops and the swimming hole. If there’s an exhibition on in the Craft School, we’ll stop by. Next, we’ll make sure to sample the Truffle Fairy chocolates and maybe indulge in one of their amazing hot chocolate drinks. If we’re still hungry, the Blackberry Cafe, Cafe Sol or the Watergarden Cafe will take good care of us.
3. After enjoying good food we’ll drive south a bit out of town and stop at the ancient Jerpoint Abbey to explore and enjoy the history.
4. Then we’ll drive on a bit and turn off for Mt. Juliet and Jerpoint Glass studio. The fish farm on the left will be a good place to pick up picnic supplies. We’ll stop by the Glass workshop first and then head into Mt. Juliet. After parking in the golf area we’ll visit the bar and conservatory. (Coffee and pub grub are available here and the wifi is terrific.) We’ll leave through the gate into Thomastown so we can see the thoroughbred horses.
5. If my guests aren’t totally overwhelmed at this stage we’ll drive to Kells to see its old towers and mills. If the sun is going down, so much the better. But you could always save this for the next day! My visitors will also be staying in the cottage home, in Kilfane, so they can enjoy this garden at their leisure.
I hope this inspires you to plan a trip to Kilkenny’s countryside – it truly is a breath-taking area!