Mike's Travel Tips

Republic of Ireland

Day Area Things to do
Day 1-2 Kilkeny Kilkeny, located about two hours by car south-west of Dublin, is a sixth century medieval city and the main city of Ireland's "Ancient East". This a must visit on a tourist's itinerary (although many skip it). The village was founded as a Christian Church in the medieval Irish kingdom of "Ossory". By the late thirteenth century, Kilkeny was under Norman-Irish rule. In 1609 King James I of England granted Kilkenny a Royal Charter giving it the status of a city. Following the Rebellion of 1641 (Irish Catholics against the control of England), the Irish Catholic Confederation ("Confederation of Kilkenny" - Irish self government) was based in Kilkenny and lasted until the Cromwellian conquest (England's forces under Oliver Cromwell) of Ireland in 1649. Kilkenny was a brewing centre from the late seventeenth century.

In my opinion, one full day (i.e., two nights) in Kilkenny is enough to see the town, but if there is a festival or event, perhaps longer is required.

It is really nice to walk around the town, on the main street as well as through the cobled alleyways. We frequented a great pub-restaurant that has live Irish music -- Matt the Millers. For shopping, there is a nice small but modern mall --Market Cross Shopping Centre in the heart of Kilkeny where they have a huge supermarket as well as other shops such as Pennys (Primark) for clothes (really good prices). We stayed at a quaint guest house called Fanad House, which is perfectly located, only few minutes walk from the Kilkeny Castle and city center - clean, quiet, great breakfast, and parking -- highly recommend!
Kilkenny Castle: Built in 1195 by Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke ("Strongbow") one of the leaders of the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland (although others say William Marshal, 4th Earl of Pembroke). A few "years" down the line, James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormonde, bought the castle in 1391 and established himself as ruler of the area. The powerful Butler family were to be the owners of the castle for over 500 years.
Visitors can enter the courtyard for free and roam the large gardens. To enter the building, there is an admission fee. There are special events held at the catsle throughout the year; check their website to find out more. To see a PDF of detailed information of the castle rooms, click here. We didn't enter the building, but enjoyed soaking up the sun in the courtyard and the large vast lawns.

Kilkenny Design Centre: Located in the old stables (of James Butler) of Kilkenny Castle, which is located just across the road, the design centre has an impressive range of Irish craft (jewellery, knitwear, Celtic gifts, china and crystal, pottery and glass, and home and fashion accessories) from some of Ireland’s best known and exceptional craftspeople and designers. It's beautiful to simply walk through the center. The yard is also home to the National Design & Craft Gallery. Going through the stable yard, you can visit Butlers House, Georgian home to the Earls of Ormonde who also built the Kilkenny Castle, stables and coach house at the rear. It has sweeping staircases, magnificent plastered ceilings, marble fireplaces and a charming walled garden.

Smithwicks Breweries Tour: The brewery is on the site of the St Francis's Abbey (around 1234), where Franciscan monks had brewed ale since the 14th century, and ruins of the original abbey still remain on its grounds. The abbey stopped functioning around 1700 (presumed to have turned into military barracks). Smithwick's Brewery was founded by John Smithwick in 1710. This is a really nice tour of a brewery. It is a short and sweet tour, explaining how they make the beer (ale) and the history of the place. In some places the tour has surprisingly quite sophisticated audio-video shows. At the end of the tour, you are given a complementary taste of their beers, which are outstanding! We didn't book in advance and got the next tour, but if you are visiting in peak tourist season, it's recommended to book in advance.

St Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower: Founded in the 6th century and named after St Canice, this church has been a place of worship for over 800 years! The Round Tower is the oldest standing structure in Kilkenny. You can climb to the top of the tower and get a great view of the city. However, it's a winding narrow stairway to the top -- not for the those afraid of heights or physically big people! But definitely recommended! We didn't go into the church, but it is recommended. The entrance fee for the Round Tower and Cathedral are pretty cheap (around 4 EUROs each).The Cathedral holds concerts -- choir -- during the year. For more information, see their website.

Castlecomer Discovery Park: This park is only about 30 minutes north of Kilkenny. It is great for kids with a lot of adventures such as ziplining and high rope course, archery and boating etc. I would do check out of the hotel in Kilkenny early in the morning to get to the park when it opens (9:30 or 10:00) so that you have enough time to do the park and get to Kinsale before dark.

Day 3 Kinsale Kinsale: Kinsale is a quaint town on the southern coast of Ireland with little alleyways and cobbled streets and shops with pastel-colored facades.

I think the town is not a must when travelling with kids (my kids were a bit bored and driving all the way to this town might have been a bit of a detour). The one advantage is that it allowed us a sleepover before doing the Forest Adventures (mentioned below). However, if you base yourself here for the love of the sea and watersports, then I am sure it can be a great place to be with kids.
The town is reknown for its good restaurants. We ate great fish at Fishy Fishy restaurant, which was excellent.
Charles Fort: Charles Fort is a five-bastioned star shaped fort, a layout specifically designed to resist attack from the sea, by cannon. This remarkable piece of military engineering was completed in 1682 during the reign of King Charles II. It was involved in many important battles and soon became a British army barrack for over 200 years, before being relinquished by British forces following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. I highly recommend visiting. It offers an amazing view to the sea and Kinsale. It has large strecthes of green grass where kids can run around or you can simply sit on the grass and enjoy the view.

Zipit Forest Adventures: This is an excellent tree-to-tree climbing adventure park for all ages (minimum age is 7 and 1-meter tall) without any previous experience! You move from tree-to-tree by walking on various ropes and obstacles and omega (ziplining). This is one of the best parks we have visited in the world - very creative tree-to-tree passes. There are 5 circuits (named by color) for different ages, height and ability. The circuits differ in height above ground and complexity. You can start at the easiest circuit and work you way up to the hardest circuit. You are put in a climbing harnesses and given an excellent hands-on explanation on how to climb using the harnesses. For those who are too small to do this or simply don't want to do this can walk around the park and see the deers etc. - there is also a playground for young kids.
Location: Farran Park, Cork (30 minutes from Kinsale and 20 minutes from Cork city). The GPS takes you all the way there. It is a beautiful drive that takes you through the forest.
Duration: To do all the circuits can take a few hours (preparation with explanation is about 30 minutes).
Tips: Book in advance! They are open even when it's raining and closed if too windy or stormy. Make sure you have a few coins to access the parking lot - it cost 5 Euros and the machine accepts only coins. Bring refreshments - water and food - as it can take a few hours.

Day 4-6 Killarney Gap of Dunloe
Celtic Steps show
Muckross House and Gardens
Torc Waterfalls
Kinse Demo Sheepdogs
Food: Salvador
Shopping: Primark
Day 7 Dingle Dolphins / peninsula / Inch beach
Day 8-9 Spanish Point Beach / Lahinch beach / Cliff of Mohers / Caves / Burren Salmon
Day 10 Dublin Trinity College / Guiness Brewery / Vikings spalsh tour / Archeological museum /