Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

Top Tourist Attractions

Kilkenny Castle was built in the twelfth century and has been the principal seat of the Butlers, earls, marquesses and dukes of Ormond for almost 600 years. The castle, set in extensive parkland, was remodelled in Victorian times until it was formally taken over by the Irish State in 1969. The central block includes a library, drawing room, nursery and bedrooms decorated in 1830s splendour.

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle is a jewel in the crown of an enchanting medieval city that has been standing for over eight hundred years, dominating Kilkenny City and the South East of Ireland.

Kilkenny Castle is open to visitors all year round and is largely a Victorian remodelling of the thirteenth-century defensive Castle. Few buildings in Ireland can boast a long history of continuous occupation than Kilkenny Castle. Founded soon after the Norman conquest of Ireland, the Castle has been rebuilt, extended, and adapted to suit changing circumstances.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of visitors come to see this grand country house and walk through its fifty acres of rolling parkland with mature trees and an abundance of wildlife. Other features include a formal terraced rose garden, woodlands, and a man-made lake, which were added in the nineteenth century. There is also a tearoom, playground, and several orienteering trails for visitors to enjoy.


The Ground Floor

  • The Chinese Withdrawing Room

Recreated to its original 18th-century proportions. On the walls are remnants of hand-painted Chinese wallpaper original to the room with monochrome infill carried out by the studio of David Skinner.

During the 19th century, ladies withdrew here from the dining room leaving the men to enjoy their port and cigars after dinner, as was the social convention.

  • The State Dining Room

This was the formal dining room in the 1860s.  Historic evidence shows that this room was hung in the late 19th century with a red flock paper when it was a billiard room. The strong blue on the walls echoes the colour in the original 19th-century-stained glass windows and provides a backdrop for the Langrishe family portraits, which originated in Knocktopher Abbey, Kilkenny, and are now in the care of the State.

The paintings on display are part of a generous bequest to Kilkenny Castle from Lady Grania Langrishe in July of 2012.

  • The Entrance Hall

There has been an entrance hall here at least since the 17th-century rebuilding of the castle.

This room has been redecorated using organic, naturally pigmented copper green paint. This colour is based on two Edwardian Irish Country house schemes; the Entrance Hall at Beaulieu, Co. Louth, and the Saloon at Headford, Co. Meath.

  • The Grand Staircase

This 19th-century mahogany staircase was designed and made by the local firm of Furniss & Son, Kilkenny, and leads to the Tapestry Room and first floor.

The use of mahogany in domestic furniture, which is so synonymous with the Grand House, is virtually unknown before the 18th century.

During the 19th century, this staircase was hung with several beautiful tapestries from the Decius Mus suite, some of which are now housed in the Tapestry Room.

The First Floor

Today the first-floor space is occupied by three rooms: An Ante Room, Library, and Drawing Room, as it was in the 19th century.  The professional layout of the rooms, each opening into the next is characteristic of the Baroque style of the 17th century and was known as an ‘ enfilade’ suite of rooms.

  • The Tapestry Room

This great tower room shows how the medieval castle was transformed in the 17th century to become a magnificent baroque ducal palace. This room was called the Great Chamber in the 17th century and the walls were decorated with embossed and gilded leather hangings on the walls.

  • The Anteroom

An Anteroom was a small room used as a waiting room, that leads into a larger and more important room. The Anteroom and the room below,  today the Serving Room, were constructed in the area where an earlier stone staircase was situated. 

  • The Library

The interior decoration is a faithful recreation of the furnishing style of the mid to late-19th century

  • The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room is typically the room in a house where guests and visitors are entertained. Drawing rooms were previously known as ‘withdrawing rooms’ or ‘withdrawing chambers’ which originated in the sixteenth century.

The fabrics in this room are vintage glazed and block printed English and French chintzes and have been chosen to recreate the style of the rooms as they appeared in the 19th-century family photographs.

The Second Floor

  • The Nursery

This room provides a fascinating glimpse into 19th-century childhood. Period-appropriate furnishings include a Georgian Highchair, cradle, and children’s piano along with examples of Victorian toys and books. Everything you would expect a privileged child of the time to have.

  • The Blue Bedroom

This suite of rooms was allocated to King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1904. The elegant wallpaper is reminiscent of the larkspur design by William Morris.


  • The Chinese Bedroom

The Chinese Bedroom is connected to the blue bedroom by double doors. This bedroom is decorated with a modern reproduction of a hand-painted Chinese wallpaper, part of the Chinoiserie theme of the room.


  • The Moorish Staircase

Created by the architects Woodward & Deane to allow better access to the Picture Gallery and provide another staircase in this awkwardly shaped building. It is a rising half-turn stairs around a sky-lit well.

The East Wing

  • The Picture Gallery

The Picture Gallery was built during the early nineteenth-century building program carried out by the architect William Robertson. It was constructed on earlier foundations. Robertson’s Picture Gallery, in keeping with his work on the rest of the castle, was in a Castellated Baronial style.


  • The Marble Fireplace

The Marble Fireplace is made of Carrara marble and was designed by J. H. Pollen also in a quasi-medieval style. It was supplied by the firm of Ballantyne of Dorset Street, Dublin. Foliage carving attributed to Charles Harrison covers the chimneypiece and a frieze beneath is decorated with seven panels, showing the family coat of arms and significant episodes from the family’s long history.


  • The Ormonde Picture Collection

The history of the Ormonde picture collection is a story of acquisition and sales, collection and dispersal, spread over four centuries.

Extensive research into the collection has been undertaken, which illustrated that while many of the paintings were in themselves very important, the fact that such as significant collection was still together and in its original home rendered this collection of international importance, a key component in this country’s art-historical heritage.

There is a reason why this is a much sort after castle to visit. The historical significance of the castle can also be seen in the self-guided tours, which are well worth it. A stroll through the rose garden is also a must.