It’s just about a two hour drive to Kilkenny from Cork City on the M8 (take some cash with for the toll, about €2). Not surprisingly, it was a cold and cloudy spring day when we set out. Our destination was the lovely Zwartbles farm – I wanted to visit the little black lambs just outside the city of Kilkenny. After our farm visit, we stopped over at the town to explore the castle grounds.
Here’s a short historical introduction to the castle: Strongbow, the second earl of Pembroke, who played a leading role in the Norman invasion of Ireland, came to Kilkenny in 1172 and found a great spot of high ground next to the river on which to build a wooden tower. It was a few years afterwards, in about the thirteenth century, when William Marshall, the Lord of Leinster, started the building of this impressive castle on the River Nore in stone. The first version of the stone castle was square with towers at each corner (just three survive there today). It was later to be the chief residence for the Butler Earls and Dukes of Ormonde for 500 years.
A few decades ago the castle was sold to the local Castle Restoration Committee for £50. It was then refurbished and opened to the public. We didn’t go inside the castle this time and instead explored the beautiful grounds, ornamental garden and the rest of the quaint town.