Inside information & tips on what to see, do, eat, & special places to stay; Ireland, London & beyond!
Vibrant Ireland

All posts in Kilkenny

October is a terrific month to be in Ireland! SO many festivals!

And I don’t just mean the fantastic Halloween festivals, there are many, many others. I made a podcast to tell you about some of my Top Picks for October in Ireland, but in the few days after I became aware of a few more I’d like to mention. So, read on & then have a listen to the others on the podcast. Enjoy your October in Ireland 😀

Cloughtoberfest Gypsy Jazz & Swing

Gypsy Jazz Cloughtoberfest by Eoin Campbell at justmultimedia

Gypsy Jazz Cloughtoberfest by Eoin Campbell at justmultimedia 

Cloughtoberfest is Ireland’s annual festival of “Hot Club” Gypsy Jazz and Swing celebrating the legacy of Django Reinhardt. It takes place in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary, and the combination of the cosy village setting with a host of lively international musicians makes for quite a unique atmosphere!
This year, the festival is celebrating its 5th anniversary by extending the festival for an extra day… which means even more amazing, uplifting music, workshops and free fringe events right through the October Bank Holiday weekend. Concerts are all held in the intimate setting of Cloughjordan House, bringing together some of the world’s finest guitarists… and if you play yourself, you might just be invited onto the stage! After the concerts there are legendary jam sessions going on into the wee small hours, where you get to play right alongside the festival stars.
All-Stars invite the audience onto the stage at Cloughtoberfest 2013 (c) by Patrick Bridgeman at Best Self

All-Stars invite the audience onto the stage at Cloughtoberfest 2013 (c) by Patrick Bridgeman at Best Self

There’s lots more music to enjoy at “Trad Manouche” sessions all around town where Gypsy Jazz meets local Trad, “Devlesa”, a gypsy campfire BBQ, or you can brush up your guitar or violin skills at a music masterclass with one of the headline performers. The fringe programme also includes swing dance, film shows and much more to keep you busy. With a great selection of fine Irish foods and craft beers to keep up your strength, this weekend is the perfect autumn pick-you-up to keep you swingin’ right through the winter!

This will be the final outing for this quirky festival, so make sure you don’t miss out.  Full details, ticket bookings etc. can be found

My podcast is below, and underneath that is a quick listing of even more October festivals in Ireland

Top Tips for October Events in Ireland

The Belfast International Arts Festival 9 October to 1 November 2015

Cuisle: Limerick City International Poetry Festival 14 October to 18 October 2015

The Waterford Festival of Architecture  13- 18 October 2015 (check out the interesting guided walks!)

The Imagine Arts Festival in Waterford, 15 October to 25 October 2015

The Cork Jazz Festival 22 October to 26 October 2015

Links for festivals mentioned in the podcast:

Savour Kilkenny

The Burren Winterage Weekend

Wexford Fringe Festival

Many Halloween Festivals can be found here

Spirits of Meath

What will you do this October in Ireland?


What do Mick Jagger, Daniel O’Connell, Medieval monks & learning to play the bodhran have in common? Why, it’s the old Smithwick’s beer brewery in Kilkenny; now open to us ordinary folk as The Smithwick’s Experience.

A pint being poured after the Smithwick's Experience tour in Kilkenny, Ireland

A pint after the Smithwick’s Experience tour in Kilkenny, Ireland

That’s Kilkenny beer, right?

Well, yes and no. Let’s clear up some other confusions. Smithwick’s beer originated in Kilkenny City in the 1710 established Smithwick’s brewery, which sent the rich scent of brewing aloft over Kilkenny at the site where the medieval monks of St Francis’ Abbey first brewed. Smithwick’s was Ireland’s oldest operating brewery -303 yrs continuously as Smithwick’s- until 2014 when production was moved over Dublin way to the St James’ Gate Guinness/Diageo factory. Though the actual production of beer has moved, the site now houses The Smithwick’s Experience which opened in summer 2014 to bring to multi-media life the Smithwick’s Brewery’s captivating history.

The Smithwick’s Experience experience

Named as one of Lonely Planet’s top must-see attractions for 2015, I found The Smithwick’s Experience to be done very well & worth the €12 adult ticket and the 70 minutes it takes to do the tour. TIP: minus 10% if you book online. On the Smithwick’s Experience tour you’ll discover tidbits like why on earth these bathtubs are here, what enabled Catholic John Smithwick to found his brewery at the time of the punitive anti-Catholic penal laws, why the ‘Irish Liberator’ Daniel O’Connell became a good friend to the Smithwick family, and how Smithwick’s joined up with a rival Kilkenny brewer to help during the Irish Famine. And of course you’ll learn more about brewing! Don’t miss smelling the different varieties of fragrant hops; very intriguing scents! One should be a perfume- I loved it. You can also try out a brewery job, like giving a barrel of beer a stir. No sneaking a sip, please 🙂 TIP: the video at the very start of the tour is rather over the top. Don’t worry, folks, the rest of the tour isn’t so flowery.  

Peruse over a pint!

After the tour, you may want to linger a bit over over your pint of Smithwick’s Red Ale to peruse the wall photos of celebrities who’ve enjoyed the hospitality of the Smithwick’s. Perhaps try the Smithwick’s tasting trio of beer for an extra €6; interestingly the general consensus at our table was that the Smithwick’s Pale Ale led the pack as our favourite. We toured as part of a group of beer/food/travel loving journalists, & were specially treated to an engaging meeting with Paul Smithwick, who, although the company was sold to Diageo many years ago, still is keenly involved with Smithwick’s and sits on the board along with his brother. Paul told us of  visits from Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful and many others; we snooped around old Smithwick family guestbooks, full of the signatures international celebrities– and original letters from Daniel O’Connell! Told you Smithwick’s history is captivating!

Smithwicks Exerience famous signatures Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger & Marianne Faithful signed the Smithwicks’ guestbooks in the swinging sixties!

So what’s the story with Kilkenny beer?

I’ll let Wikipedia explain:

Kilkenny Cream Ale is similar to Smithwick’s Draught; however, it has a cream head similar to Guinness, and it has a stronger and more bitter taste than Smithwick’s. The Kilkenny name was originally used during the ’80s and ’90s to market a stronger version of Smithwick’s for the European and Canadian market due to difficulty in pronunciation of the word “Smithwick’s”, but it now refers to a similar yet distinctly different beer. (via Wikipedia)

Knowing that TIP, & the following, will help you be like a local:

  • Don’t ever say the w in Smithwick’s. Try saying it more like Smidicks, or Smithicks with the th rather soft & short. Say it more like 1 syllable, not 2.
  • If you enjoyed your pint/glass of Smithwick’s on the tour & are thirsty for more, just down to the right a bit & across the street from the Smithwick’s Experience building you’ll find a charming row of pubs. Cleere’s is the one that the Smithwick’s brewery employees often frequented themselves, and I reckon that’s a great endorsement. In fact, ex- employees still meet up there on Thursdays. Maybe you’ll overhear some old brewery tales 🙂 
    Paradise Row! Colourful pubs in Kilkenny Ireland

    Paradise Row! Colourful pubs in Kilkenny Ireland

Fuel for many a trad music session!

It’s nice being like a local, but some touristy things are great craic too! I can be skeptical of certain of these activities, but I’m willing to give ’em ago & see if that wariness is justified. In the case of learning to play the bodhran (Irish traditional drum) at Kytlers Inn pub with Damien of Irish Beats, my skepticism was rhythmically washed away by laughter, Smithwick’s Pale Ale, and the booming sound of this ancient instrument. As Kytlers serves the different varieties of Smithwick’s we all settled in with our choice as the lesson began, but we didn’t get many sips in; Damien kept us busy with nary a dull moment. Starting off simply, he gradually led us into more complexity, keeping us hard-bitten journos 😉 laughing with his quips. See my wee video below for a taster of the session & our musical abilities.

Beer with a side of witchcraft

Pat Tynan, Kilkenny Walking Tours

The Knowledge! Pat Tynan has been giving Kilkenny Walking Tours for 32 years.

Kytlers Inn is a rambling medieval stone built inn turned pub with lots of nooks; sort of easy to get lost in– perhaps due to its witchy history! Dame Alyce Kytler first started the Inn in the 1200’s, but after all 4 of her husbands died one after the other, she was accused of serving up more than pints and hospitality; she wound up convicted of witchcraft. You can discover her tale, and how she escaped being burnt at the stake, along with more of the wide-ranging history of Kilkenny on one of Pat Tynan’s Historic Kilkenny Walking Tours. Pat has been leading his tours in Kilkenny for over 30 years, and I highly recommend going along on one to get yourself better acquainted with this amazing little city. Kilkenny is small- it’s Medieval Mile is pretty much the length of the city, but it is choc-a-bloc with hidden spots & stories which you just won’t discover without a bit of help. Seriously, you all, Kilkenny City is a wondrous tapestry of charm, history, fine craft, culture, and top notch local food which you may not encounter without a bit of extra local knowledge. Don’t just zip in for a day visit, just mainly taking in the Castle & Cathedral– you’ll be missing so much! 

A Canadian friend who has traveled much of Ireland, the UK, and Europe put it this way

“Kilkenny has a big character & a fascinating history, and so much to offer for such a small city. I’m struck by how un-pretentious the people here are even though they live in this gem. You can see they love their city, are eager to share it and tell you about it– without the pretentiousness I’ve found in similar spots in other countries. Kilkenny City is really accessible– not just because it is small and easy to walk everywhere, but because the people are genuinely welcoming and friendly. Going on the Historic and the Fab Food walking tours gives you the added bonus of meeting some of the people who are behind the small places which add to Kilkenny’s character; like Pat Tynan, who has been doing his tours for 30 years but yet still is enthusiastic about his city and its history. I’m impressed with Kilkenny.”

Kilkenny Fab Food and Craft Trail

Kilkenny Fab Food and Craft Trail

Stunning stones & tasty treats

The Fab Food Trail of Kilkenny also lets you meet some Kilkenny craftspeople as well as sample foodie gems. Wait til you see the unique gem jewellry of Rudolph Heltzel– stunning enough for a Rolling Stone, or you! I’ve done this tour twice with Eveleen, and also her Fab Food Trail of Dublin, and yup, they are fab. From traditional family butchers to modern artisan foodstuffs, you’ll see why Kilkenny is a food lovers hot spot. The Fab Food Trails Kilkenny tour tends to be on Saturdays, with the odd Friday- do click the link to see current dates. The tour lasts about two and a half hours (€50 at time of writing,) and you will be tasting several food delights. One of the tour stops is the downstairs cafe at The Kilkenny Design Centre– TIP:  the upstairs cafe changes character & becomes a  full service restaurant on Thursday through Saturday nights in season.

Night delight

Anocht's Smithwick's inspired menu, Kilkenny Ireland

Anocht’s Smithwick’s inspired menu, Kilkenny Ireland

The nighttime incarnation upstairs at the Kilkenny Design Centre is called Anocht. (Generally from 5.50 to 9.30pm Thurs-Sat.) Like a local TIP: ‘Anocht’ is the Irish word for ‘tonight’. I’d been meaning to go eat here for ages; they’ve gotten good reviews, won awards, and as an enthusiastic cash-strapped fan of Early Bird menus I found Anocht’s Early Bird tempting for a special night out. But I just never got there. Luck would have it that I finally went as part of this Smithwick’s Experience inspired tour. A special menu incorporating Smithwick’s as an ingredient in most of the dishes was the challenge to the chefs, and boy did they do well. (See photos in my video.)Thank gawd I still had my gallbladder at that point or I would have been devastated to not be able to eat it all :-0 If you’ve got YOUR gallbladder, go! Or, even if you haven’t, go! Apparently once a gallbladder-less person’s liver adjusts, you become able to eat normally/mostly normally again. So, I’ll be back, Anocht. YUM!

Super spot to soak up the sun

Whilst on the subject of food, I must mention the enormous & very tasty lunch portions at our accommodation, the River Court Hotel. Go with a big appetite! One of the fab things about having food, coffee, or a pint here is that you will find that the River Court has a large outdoor seating section along the river with a spectacular view of Kilkenny Castle just across the Nore. TIP: On a sunny day, this is one of the best outside places to sit and sip or sup in Kilkenny. If river, duck, & people watching as you have a drink or a bite is your thing, check it out. On the warmest days you may even be treated to the sight of daring young people diving into the river from John’s bridge. Bring your swimsuit & join in? 😉

River Court Hotel Kilkenny

River Court Hotel Kilkenny

Experience Kilkenny!

You don’t have to be Mick Jagger to get satisfaction from a Kilkenny visit (ahh, couldn’t resist..) As well as the things I’ve mentioned here there’s loads more you’ll enjoy in Kilkenny City. And the green & gorgeous Kilkenny countryside is full of treasures, too; from the Neolithic to the present. You can find out more here; I’ve even made a Google Map trail you can follow. If you’ve any questions about Kilkenny, I’ll do my best to answer; you can ask via Vibrant Ireland & Travel’s Facebook page, or @VibrantIreland on Twitter, or comment on this article. Cheers! Enjoy your pint of Smithwick’s & I hope you will love Kilkenny as much as I do 😀

Having the craic at Kytlers bodhran lesson

Having the craic at Kytlers bodhran lesson

Transparency: I was a guest of Smithwick’s on this sampling of Kilkenny. Being a guest doesn’t change my opinion of what I experience, but it does enable me to tell you about things I couldn’t otherwise afford– for example as a Kilkenny resident for over 10 years I’d never stayed in accommodation there. Being able to stay at the River Court Hotel now means I have firsthand experience & I can advise; I’m often asked about places to stay. Our room looked out over the river to the castle, and was quite nice. The bed was big & super comfy, and I slept well. As always, I advise when you stay anywhere to bring good earplugs (I swear by the soft silicon ones.) I forgot mine this trip! Oops. One of the prices you pay for staying so central in cities/large towns is that they are filled with people & noises. I had the window open & heard a few late night revelers messing about over by the bridge. Shutting the window helped of course, but TIP: be aware that the John’s Bridge & John’s Street area of Kilkenny has very active, often loud, late-night pub-clubs – if you are a light sleeper ask about a room farthest away from the street.

Sample the fun! Video of my Smithwick’s Experience inspired tour of Kilkenny:

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Have fun on YOUR Kilkenny visit!

I’m back from a super fun overnight in Kilkenny City– and have made a little video to show you some of the highlights for you to add to your visit!

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Smithwick's inspired menu at Anocht, Kilkenny

Smithwick’s inspired menu at Anocht, Kilkenny

The Smithwick’s Experience hosted me as a guest on a Smithwick’s inspired tour, complete with a delish dinner at Anocht in which the menu was made up of dishes using Smithwick’s beer as an ingredient! We also did a historical Kilkenny Walking tour, a Fab Food Trails Kilkenny tasting trail with both food & craft, and learned to play the bodhran at Kytlers with Irish Beats— which turned out to be some laugh, even though I cynically started off thinking it could be a bit too touristy. That’s me shown! 😀

I’m in the back-end of beyond in the Irish countryside now, greatly struggling with the internet again (surprise!) as well as getting ready to go into hospital for an op in a couple of days. I’ll give you tips & more details for these Kilkenny gems in a written post once I’ve recovered a bit. Til then, I’ll be hoping against hope that the hospital bed will be even slightly like the super comfy bed at The River Court hotel and the food will be more like Anocht than the normal dry tea & toast! Do you think I may be setting myself up for disappointment? 😉

Does Santa fly along the Christmas Eve Northern Lights to Ireland

Does Santa fly along the Christmas Eve Northern Lights to Ireland

Christmas time is magical in Ireland, and in the wee hours of Christmas Eve Northern Lights lit up the sky in the North & northwest; here are photos.

Meanwhile in the southeast of Ireland, in county Kilkenny lambs were being born, and 3 Wise Women followed the light in the sky, hoping to see the gift of Peace unfold in a stable, even between the great hurling rivals of Kilkenny and Tipperary. See the video below 🙂

PS :  there is a giant gap before you will get to the video. Please just scroll down, as I can’t seem to fix that. Thank you! HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!


As well as the first lambs being born, county Kilkenny was an exciting place to be as filmed 3 Wise Women as they came to the end of their long journey… [youtube_sc url=”” title=”Kilkenny%20Christmas%20video%202014″]

A day being in Ireland is a day well spent; especially if it’s Kilkenny Ireland!

There is so much to do and enjoy in Kilkenny, City and county.

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You’ll find plenty of ideas for things to see and do here, and I’ve made a bit of a Kilkenny map to help you. Also look at the wee video to get a taster of what life in the charming Kilkenny countryside is like. Thanks so much to Suzanna at Zwartbles Ireland sheep farm for letting me visit & film!

US food writer Joanna Pruess loved her day in Kilkenny & Zwartbles Ireland! sheep

US food writer Joanna Pruess loved her day in Kilkenny & Zwartbles Ireland sheep!

Kilkenny Ireland: a perfect mix of city & rural culture.

Campagne Kilkenny Ireland- Michelin star desserts!

Campagne Kilkenny Ireland- Michelin star desserts!


You will truly get the best of ‘both worlds’ here; for example you can experience exquisite tastes at (not one, but 2!) Michelin star restaurants, and explore the rural countryside where several of the food products used in these & other Kilkenny restaurants are farmed. I’ve not yet been to the Lady Helen, but I’ve been to Campagne for special occasions several times. We always go for their Early Bird dinner menu or set lunch menu, as they are good value if you haven’t got the biggest budget. My top tip is to save room for dessert! Seriously have not ever tasted better, so if you are like me & go for 2 courses skip the starter not the sweet 😀

The Ireland you’ve dreamed of

Often when folk visit Ireland they want to experience some of the wonderful ‘cliches’ of Ireland; amazingly green countryside, an ‘Ireland traffic jam’ of sheep herded down a windy road, other-worldly megalithic stone circles and ancient monastic ruins, hospitality & craic of a traditional village pub which also doubles as a hardware shop, a friendly cupán tae in a handmade crafts shop. `

You may think that this is a tall order; perhaps you haven’t loads of time, and figure that in order to experience all this you’ll have to do a several hour trek across Ireland to Kerry, Galway, or Donegal. But you don’t! In under an hour and a half’s journey from Dublin you can be in a very special part of Ireland, a place that everyone, including outdoor adventurers, culture lovers, foodies, fun seekers, and family travellers will enjoy. Welcome to Kilkenny!

Kilkenny Ireland sheep traffic jam

Kilkenny Ireland sheep traffic jam

A world- class friendly city: Kilkenny, Ireland

Kilkenny City was voted the 9th friendliest city in the world by Conde Naste readers in 2013. It’s a compact medieval city home to Ireland’s Medieval Mile; this includes Kilkenny Castle, St Canice’s Cathedral with one of only two Irish round towers you can still climb, Rothe House and much more. There’s nearly always a festival of some sort happening! You should definitely go to Kilkenny City. But what you should also do is explore the Kilkenny countryside.

It is easy to get to Kilkenny City from Dublin. You can take the train from Heuston station, several bus companies go, or you can rent a car and drive. To get to several of the fantastic places in the Kilkenny countryside you’ll need a car. I’m afraid that is true for all of Ireland; many of the gems are tucked away from public transport routes. So, do seriously think about renting a car. If you just can’t get a car, you can still get to some of the towns by bus. There are two routes: Kilkenny City to Thomastown and Inistioge, and Kilkenny City to Graiguenamanagh.

There really is something for everyone in the Kilkenny countryside! What do you want to experience?

You want ancient ruins?

Knockroe passage tomb is second only to those in the Boyne valley when it comes to Irish Neolithic stone carvings. Unusually, is aligned to both the rising and setting sun on Winter Solstice. If you are in the mood for an adventure, this side trip is perfect. Non sign-posted, you have to traipse across some fields to find this truly hidden gem. Finding the 12c Aghavillar monastic site along the way is easier and you can actually go up to the top of the building. Brooding and beautiful, there is a part of a round tower here as well.

Kells Priory Kilkenny Ireland sheep

Kells Priory Kilkenny Ireland sheep

Kells Priory is 1,000 years old. It is a large, walled set of ruins, and the tumbled-down parts are rather maze like. Kids love running around here, and in the field populated by sheep on the short walk to the ruins. Kells Priory is usually deserted, though on my last visit I met a man with his pet fox. This is not the only pet fox in rural Kilkenny! You may also see another man walking with one in Thomastown. With accompanying fox or not, it’s nice to take a nice little walk along the river behind the Priory, where you’ll find the restored Mullins Mill.

Jerpoint Abbey is stunningly elegant & beautiful, dating from the 1100s. Unlike Kells Priory, there is a small visitor centre run by the OPW. Be sure to look carefully around this Abbey, because it has many carvings along and in the stone walls that you may otherwise miss.  There are many more fascinating historic sites in the area- keep your eyes open and investigate!

Want to stroll, or take part in more active outdoor adventure?

In the charming village of Inistioge where the movie Circle of Friends was filmed, walk along the river Nore to ‘Eve’s’ hidden cottage, or stroll in the Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum. You can go kayaking, SUPing, and canoeing out on the river Barrow in Graiguenamanagh, and you can even arrange to take a half day barge trip from St. Mullins to Graiguenamanagh on Larry’s Barge.  If you’d like to get into the water, there are two diving boards (or steps for the less brave) into the river along the quays.


Rent the beautiful Larrys Barge in Ireland

Rent the beautiful Larrys Barge in Ireland

Rent bikes and cycle along the Barrow river towpaths with Bike & Hike Graiguenamanagh (great for families as it is quite flat) or get more challenging along the Trail Kilkenny East Kilkenny bike trail. Or how about a hike up Brandon Hill to look across five counties, or hike in the Blackstairs mountains.

You want tasty artisan Irish food?

There are several award winning artisan food producers in the area, ranging from Stoneyford’s Knockdrinna cheese to Thomastown’s  Goatsbridge trout & caviar to Truffle Fairy chocolates– and loads more. Many of Kilkenny’s restaurants pride themselves on using fresh local ingredients. There’s a whole Kilkenny Food Trail you can explore, too.

You want to experience an authentic traditional Irish pub?

Graiguenamanagh is home to a pub which is also a shop, a hardware store, and a fishing and shooting depot! If you’re lucky, you may hear trad music, or the church bells as you have a tasty pint. Doyle’s is just across the street from the 800 year old (still functioning) Duiske Abbey.

There’s a tiny pub in a farmhouse on the road from Thomastown to Graiguenamanagh, just at the Coppenagh crossroads, . You can glimpse the family watching telly in their sitting room as you sip your pint.

Inside of Doyles, Graiguenamanagh Kilkenny Ireland

Inside of Doyles pub,Graiguenamanagh Kilkenny Ireland. Photo by @GraigueBikeHire

Get your name written in your pint by the barman in Inistioge’s O’Donnell’s pub. Better than Starbucks!

You want Irish crafts?

There’s Cushendale traditional woolen mill in Graiguenamanagh, between Thomastown & Stoneyford you’ll find Jerpoint Glass glassblowers, and in Bennettsbridge there’s Moth to a Flame candle maker and Nicholas Mosse‘s lovely handcrafted pottery & cafe in a picturesque stone mill. Thomastown is a very crafty small town, with several makers and craft shops. Do have a stroll around. There’s even more elsewhere, all on the Kilkenny Craft Trail.

Call it getting off the beaten track, call it community-oriented tourism, or just call it a good idea- exploring rural Kilkenny Ireland will give you an authentic taste of Ireland in uncrowded, special places.

Prepare for that Irish weather!

Transitions well from rainy field nice restaurant! Makes life simpler! My Cotswold Outdoor triclimate jacket

Transitions well from rainy field nice restaurant! Makes life simpler! My Cotswold Outdoor triclimate jacket

One thing I’ve found invaluable when enjoying a day out in Kilkenny, is to be prepared for any weather, any time of year! Even if it is sunny when you start out, it could change and lash down rain for 20 minutes, or just produce a steady, misty drizzle for a few hours before the sun splits the sky again. Don’t underestimate the misty type rain– it will soak you to the skin in a few minutes! Always bring a suitable rain jacket- preferably one that won’t be too warm, or cold!

The joke about Ireland having 4 seasons in one day is TRUE! I’m finding that one of those rainproof jackets that also has a removeable fleece lining is perfect. I got a 3-season one from Cotswold Outdoor online, and I wear it everywhere! I even wore it  into our annual Christmas lunch at Michelin-starred Campagne– I think it looks that good 😀 Cotswold contacted me about testing out an item, and when I chose the 3-season coat I never expected it to look as nice as it does; I figured it would be really frumpy or kinda gaudy because it was functional; but this coat goes fine with most any outfit! You can see me in it in the video & photos; often even with a skirt or dress! Of course if I get it mucky visiting the Zwartbles Ireland lambs that’ll be born around Christmas, I won’t wear it to eat out until it gets a good clean– I’ll let you know how it washes up!  If you are interested in checking out the one I got, it’s also on Sale right now at Cotswold Outdoor; the Women’s Evolution 2 triclimate jacket.

Here’s the Google map with driving routes & some interest points and activities for your visit to Kilkenny.

In the map I have you starting from the area of Kilkenny Castle, heading to Kells. (The route is figure 8-ish, with a side jaunt to Knockroe passage tomb.) I’ve recommended the journey with that starting point because from that driving direction a lovely view of the Barrow valley rises up on your right hand side as you near Graiguenamanagh. There is a roadside pull-off where you can stop and savour the scene.

Have a great time! If you have any questions, tweet me @VibrantIreland. And watch out for those sheep on the road 😀

A version of the Kilkenny information was first was written by me for TBEXcon’s site ahead of their 2013 conference in Dublin.

Graiguenamanagh Town Of Books Festival 2011Book Lover?

Town of Books 2014 is on in Graiguenamanagh, Kilkenny, Sept 12 – 14!

The Town of Books festival here in the medieval village of Graiguenamanagh has sent me this years info, and if you love books and bargains, then this is the place to come. Also, if you are in search of rare or vintage books, this weekend of books should be on your hit-list! Do bring your pals, because even if they aren’t into books, ‘Graig’ is a lovely place to enjoy the outdoors, nestled as it is along the river Barrow by the Blackstairs mountains. If you’d like to see more about visiting Graiguenamanagh, click, and at the very bottom of this post I’ve added in a lovely video of the area & the outdoor fun here. For more on the 2014 book festival, see the info sent, here:

The 14th Annual Graiguenamanagh ‘Town of Books’ Festival will take place in Graiguenamanagh on September 12th (noon – 6pm,) 13th(10am – 6pm) and 14th(10am – 6pm ). This unusual event continues to catch the imagination of the book buying public and once again is expected to bring thousands of people to Graiguenamanagh over that weekend. Graiguenamanagh ‘Town of Books is different from other Irish Book fairs. Usually these fairs constitute a row of tables in a hotel ballroom. In Graiguenamanagh the whole town is involved with booksellers taking over whole shops and carrying quite an amount of stock. The organisers, Graiguenamanagh Town of books Committee in association with Abbey Hall, produce a book trail map and visitors to the town can guide themselves into every nook and cranny to find that special book they require. There will be sellers of antiquarian, second hand, new, children’s, and other specialist subject areas.

The organisers of this successful book weekend are looking forward to another bumper weekend in Graiguenamanagh, particularly if we get some more of the fine weather experienced over the summer. Despite the recession the organisers are delighted to report that the number of booksellers applying to trade for the festival is actually every bit as good as last year, so there will be plenty of bookshops for people to browse through. In fact the biggest headache at the moment is securing enough locations for all booksellers to trade from.



Graiguenamanagh ‘Town of Books’ is also unique in that it is held over three days and is not just about selling and buying of books. There are several fringe events that give this book fair the atmosphere of a true festival. Visitors can take walks by the river barrow or hire bikes to cycle down river to the historical St. Mullins just four miles away. There is also Mt. Brandon which overlooks the town and has an eight mile walk around it where anyone can enjoy the view of the entire south east from its hill top. The walk itself is singed under the National Loop walks of Ireland and is easy passable with historical sites to view there also.

There will be traditional Irish music in the bars on Saturday night hosted by Love Graig development committee for the first time in the festivals history to give the night life entertainment a boost for all locals and visitors who intend to stay around for the festival weekend.

Publisher, Author and Historian, Ultan Cowley will give a presentation on his work based on the history of Irish Navvies, Saturday 9pm. ‘’the men who built Britain’’ (Wolfhound Press 2001).

There will be an indoor Market on Saturday and Sunday down at the Boathouse area. This is organised with the help of Borris market.

Food craft stalls on Sunday will be set up at the boat house car parking area ,which is located along the quay beside the river. Other attractions are various children’s art competitions organised by the local schools, live street buskin musicians including the Graiguenamanagh brass band will perform during the days of the festival.

For further information on any of the above items or for the list of booksellers contact the following members of Graiguenamanagh Town of Books;

Martin O’Brien; 086 8211140

John Heddon; 086 4061049  or e-mail .

Also, during the Carlow Autumn Walking Festival this October 3-5 2014, there are Family-Friendly river safaris which will paddle to Graiguenamanagh, and bikes you can rent at Graig’s Waterside Bike & Hike. It will be another fab weekend in the area!

Discover Graiguenamanagh – Written & Presented by Derek Davis from Alchemy Electronic Arts on Vimeo.

Inistioge Cyclothon

Inistioge Cyclothon

Don’t miss these 2 Fun Events in Co Kilkenny!

It’s the last interactive Kilkenny Pop-Up Museum on Thursday, and the Inistioge 24 hour Cyclothon this weekend!

First off we have the last of a very successful & fun series of Kilkenny’s Thursday Pop Up Museum. Over 2,300 people have been over the past 3 Thursdays! Don’t miss this one:


The grand finale! Kilkenny Pop-Up Museum, Thursday 28th August

‘Pop’ on over to The Parade, Kilkenny! 10am-4pm, Free!


All day events:
 Kilkenny’s Archaeological Story Exhibition

Artefacts display and stories

Build your own prehistoric pot! Prehistoric and Medieval Pottery making with the UCD Experimental Archaeology Centre

Medieval stocks, meet the experts and much more!

Timed Events:
11am and 3pm: 10-minute theatre by Cara O Doherty
Lunchtime:   Animation artists from Cartoon Saloon
Lunchtime 1.15 – 1.45pm: Lunchtime lecture by Barry Fitzgibbon on Future Technology of Archaeology


If you’ve been to Inistioge, you’ll know why so many are fond of this gorgeous wee village by the river Nore. Here’s a fun weekend to go check it out if you haven’t yet!

Inistioge 24hr Cyclothon – Community Cycle Challenge, Aug 30-31

The beautiful village of Inistioge is the place to be next weekend as an entirely new event is launched – a community cycle challenge.  The “Inistioge 24hr Cyclothon” will involve two racing bikes on turbo stands situated in the Millennium Garden with 96 volunteers determined to keep the pedals moving non-stop for 24hrs from 3pm on Saturday, 30th August to 3pm the following day.

There will be great deal of friendly competition at the Inistioge Cyclothon between the rival organizations, as local community and sporting organizations including hurling and camogie clubs have been issued the challenge of nominating representatives to take part as have many local businesses including shops, pubs, restaurants and many others.

Over the two days the village will be a hive of activity with all the family catered for.  Children’s activities will include a bungee trampoline on The Square from 3pm-7pm on both days and a 35ft climbing wall from 11am-5pm on the Sunday.  There will be a Barbecue on both days.

A Craft & Farmers’ market will run from 10am-4pm on the Sunday and will have a very strong community representation.  There are already 20 very tasteful stalls booked for and these include Essaness Music Store, Inistioge Food Company, Forest Crafts, Nature’s Oil, Eamon Tobin Baskets to name but a few.

All monies raised at the event will go toward community development projects at the Cois Abhann centre.  The Cois Abhann building is a fantastic facility which has had a very positive impact on the area.  However, fundraising is on-going for the facility and we hope that if we all pedal together we can make this a very successful community event.

So come and join the crowds in Inistioge this weekend for what is going to be an exciting and unique event! 

The Cyclothon Team would like to thank Wheelworx Bike & Triathlon Store in Dublin for providing the fixed bikes for this event.


childrens aran sweater

Child’s aran sweater at Kilkenny Design Centre

Where can you get affordable, authentic Irish Aran sweaters?

This is a question I’ve been asked a few times, most recently by two travel bloggers visiting Ireland for the TBEX conference. Mariellen, and Kristin from, were looking for some tips on price, styles, and degrees of scratchiness 🙂

It will not come as a surprise to you that these traditionally made Irish jumpers (sweaters) are not cheap. The most expensive are the ones which are completely handmade, next in cost are the ones handmade on a loom, followed by sweaters machine made but hand finished. But, I’ve a tip you may use to save yourself some money!

In our part of Kilkenny we’re very lucky that we’ve 3 local shops that can stock Aran sweaters- the first two are small & wonderful, but they don’t really specialize in the sweaters, although they can have some.

These two shops do have lovely craft items though, and if you are in the area they are worth a visit. Cushendale Woolen Mill in Graiguenamanagh specializes in blankets & knitting wool yarn; they also are online. The Craft Shop & Cottage Museum at Ballilogue Clochan is a total gem, but is only open to non-Inn guests from June through September. Do click & have a look online- you’ll want to make that trip!

Those places are special but only small, so I’m going to give you information from the larger Kilkenny Design Centre, which is located across from the Castle in Kilkenny City. It has a wide selection, a long tradition in Irish craft, and the staff are very helpful. They’ve also an online shop, but for best selection, do go in.

 Irish Aran sweater knit patterns meanings

Irish Aran sweaters: knit pattern meanings

For Aran sweaters, as well as the traditional ‘scratchier’ wool, you can now also get them in softer Merino wool. Prices depend on the degree of hand-work involved. The approximate prices in Euros are:

Handknit (i.e. knitting needles):  190-220

Hand-loomed:  125

 Machine made but hand finished:  50-70

These are the Kilkenny Design Centre prices, I’ve been told by shoppers it can sometimes cost more in different Dublin shops.

If you really want an Aran sweater bargain, also check the second-hand/pre-loved shops! Seriously- that is where I bought my Aran sweater; it only cost a tenner 🙂

The patterns on the traditional Irish Aran sweaters have different meanings; this photo (opposite) tells you some of them.

There are many colours available, and variations of style, as well as new designs & children’s wear at the Kilkenny Design Centre. They’ve plenty of other Irish designed and crafted items, too, and what is also nice is that the shop is just in front of the National Craft Gallery of Ireland. The gallery shows changing exhibits of top-notch modern craft, and often has interesting events for adults, as well as children’s activities. I love this place! Do check their website.

Ireland’s craft scene is thriving, and you may want to see what craftspeople are producing along the lines of more modern Irish knitwear. The Crafts Council site has a listings service where you can narrow down by craft type, county, and price range. Lots to browse!

I must also mention for the Irish Aran sweaters. They are family run shop located in one of our favorite Irish cities, Limerick, but they also have a big online selection. I’ve not been to their shop yet or bought from them online, but they seem a very good place to check if you want a large selection & are buying online or are in Limerick.

More Aran Sweaters to buy Online

I’ve also been told about Quills Woolen Market, which also has a nice online selection, as well as a shop in Killarney. They’ve also some handmade Aran sweaters in lovely colours- the purply/wine is gorgeous.

Recently I’ve been alerted to Aran Sweater Market which are located on the Aran Islands, Shannon Airport and Killarney as well as online. 

Another online shop is Arans of Ireland, who also have a sale on for St Patrick’s Day, 2017. Check it out!

Arans of Ireland has this lovely wrap on sale for St Patrick's Day 2017

Arans of Ireland has this lovely hooded wrap on sale for St Patrick’s Day 2017

You’re spoiled for choice!

Below are a few photos of items available at the Kilkenny Design Centre, and a modern design from Linda Wilson Knitwear. Happy jumper hunting!Crafts for sale Kilkenny Design Centre Irish aran sweaters for sale Kilkenny Design Centre

Kilkenny Design Centre sweaters

Kilkenny Design Centre sweaters selection

modren Irish sweater, from


At one end of Ireland's Medieval mile, Kilkenny Castle stands guard over the city at night

At one end of Ireland’s Medieval mile, Kilkenny Castle stands guard over the city.

Kilkenny archaeology is popping up in the city!

Every Thursday in August, that is! Under the magnificent gaze of Kilkenny Castle you can get up close & personal with artefacts & events at the Kilkenny pop up museum.

Are you interested in archaeology but would like to enjoy it too?

Whether you are from overseas or over the road, come along to the Kilkenny Pop-up Museum! There is something for all, adults and children, do check it out!

The Kilkenny Pop Up Museum takes place every Thursday in August alongside the Kilkenny Farmers’ Market. While you eat the medieval treats on offer, explore the Archaeological Story of Kilkenny exhibition. Chat to experts about the artefacts. Enjoy the ‘Great Archaeology Discoveries’ lunchtime lectures, attend the witty 10-Minute Theatre. Then & Now play. See animation artists interpreting medieval times while kids can uncover the Big Dig excavation pit and adults can enjoy the experimental archaeology team.

Date:  Every Thurs in August – 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th

Time:  10am – 4pm

Location: The Parade, Kilkenny alongside the Farmers’ Market

Kilkenny Pop Up Museum

Kilkenny Pop Up Museum

Kilkenny is a wonderful wee city, and there’s tons to enjoy there. Did you know that Conde Naste readers voted Kilkenny the 9th Friendliest city in the WORLD? Plus Kilkenny’s full of stories, arts & culture, and historic buildings. With the launch of the Medieval Mile even more gems are being restored– and new attractions added! Kilkenny is definitely a destination to add to your Irish vacation or staycation list.

The Medieval Mile roughly runs from Kilkenny Castle to St Canice’s Cathedral, and takes in Rothe House, The Thosel, St Mary’s church and much more. Visit Kilkenny have made a handy interactive map that shows you places of interest. Do note that medieval spots aren’t just on the main mile, but fan out from it as well. Gardens, brewery experiences, The National Museum in Kilkenny, art galleries & more are all in the works, so keep an eye on Visit Kilkenny for updates.

Medieval Knight in Kilkenny. Ireland's Medieval Mile

Sometimes the Medieval walking tour runs in characters & costumes. I took this tour last summer, & it was very good. We were escorted by this medieval knight & met Mr Rothe of Rothe House, Bishop Ledrede, and Dame (witch?) Alice Kyteler

One of the best ways to discover the gems & hidden histories is to take one of the walking tours. Then at your leisure visit the places that especially intrigued, perhaps having some of the famous-amongst-those-in-the-know homemade soup pub lunch in Cleeres! Right next door to Cleeres is The Brewery Corner, which serves a huge selection of Craft Beers, many Irish.

Smithwick’s Brewery Visitor Centre & tours are just opening as I write this on 31 July 2014. I’ve not been yet as it is so new, but when I do go, I’ll report back to you! Here is the link to their webpage. Smithwicks was Ireland’s oldest beer, the monks having brewed on this Kilkenny site in Medieval times. Diago has now moved all the Smithwicks brewing to Dublin, and apparently struggled to recreate the special qualities of the Kilkenny water. See, Kilkenny IS very special! 😀

August is an exciting time in Kilkenny, with the 10 day Kilkenny Arts Festival running from 8-17 August 2014. Many fantastic events and exhibitions will be taking place for all ages. I’ve picked 7 of the most vibrant events to enjoy; you can see them here.

For more posts where Kilkenny features, have a look here. Have fun in Kilkenny!

Art In The Open.Paint Out!

Europe’s largest Art in the Open Festival to take place in the Southeast of Ireland

Go see! Folk from all around the world are coming to Ireland for this unique art festival. I’m quite excited that one of the paint out locations will be here in medieval Graiguenamanagh! If you haven’t visited Graig yet, here’s what Art In The open have to say:

Graiguenamanagh or Graignamanagh (Irish: Gráig na Manach, meaning “village of the monks”) is a town in County Kilkenny, Ireland. It is located on the R705 regional road by the border with County Carlow on the River Barrow at the foot of Brandon Hill. It is home to Duiske Abbey, the largest and perhaps the finest of the thirty-four medieval Cistercian abbeys in Ireland.
This pretty medieval village nestles in the beautiful river Barrow valley about 6 miles north of the Coachouse. It has been called Ireland’s best kept secret and is a veritable treasure trove of varied scenery, ancient buildings, canal boating, river and hill walks, crafts, traditional pubs restaurants.

dog waiting outside Coffee on High cafe, Graiguenamanagh Ireland

Will you bring me out a treat? Waiting patiently at Coffee On High, Graiguenamanagh.

The Graig Paint Out will be Tuesday, 29 July, 2014 and be sure to pop into some of Graig’s treasures like Cushendale traditional woollen mill. You can get local & Irish made products there, in Duiske Glass, and scrummy local food products & local craft in Coffee On High cafe. Be sure to look for Graiguenamanagh man Edward Hayden’s fab cookbook on sale there; Edward’s one of Ireland’s top celebrity chefs as well as being a genuinely nice guy!

TIP:  Cushendale closes for lunch 1230-130, and sometimes Duiske Glass, too, so that maybe a good time to go to Coffee On High 😀

If you’d like to check out other posts on Graiguenamanagh, they are here.

Here’s the scoop on the Art in the Open festival:

Thousands of pieces of art will be created at paint out locations across the Southeast of Ireland next week as Europe’s largest outdoor Art Festival ‘Art in the Open’ takes place from Monday, July 28 until Monday, August 4.

 A huge number of well known international artists will descend on the Irish countryside next week, with artists attending from twelve different countries including Russia, Sweden, Jamaica, Israel and many parts of the U.S, Europe and all across Ireland to participate.

The concept of an Art in the Open festival is that all of the work is created outdoors, on location. Artists arrive at a ‘paint-out’ site with blank canvases, these canvases are stamped on the back acknowledging the artist is starting from scratch and over the next couple of hours at the ‘paint-out’ location the artists attempt to capture the light and the atmosphere of the Irish countryside.  At the end of the festival, the best 250 paintings are selected for a massive exhibition with artists competing for over €5000 in awards.

The public can watch the creative painting process at any of the six Art in The Open paint-out locations across the Southeast:

Courtown, north Wexford: 28 July
Graiguenamanagh, county Kilkenny: 29 July
Enniscorthy in Wexford: 30 July
the village of Ballyhack, county Wexford: 31 July
Clonegal in county Wicklow: 1 Aug
and Wexford town,: 2 & 3 Aug, and where on Saturday 2nd the registered artists and the public will compete in a Charity Quick Draw at1pm in the Selskar area, with the funds going to Wexford Hospice HomeCare.

Some of the festival highlights include a free lecture at the world renowned Wexford Opera House by Spanish artist, Paloma Pelaez Bravo on Bank Holiday Monday, August 4th. Painting workshops and demonstrations with well-known international artists, including Dot Courson (Mississippi), Valerie Craig (Philadelphia), Billyo O’Donnell (Missouri), Aaron Schuerr (Montana) and Antti Rautiola from Finland to name just a few.

Commenting on the upcoming festival Chairperson, Neil O’Keeffe says,

“We are overwhelmed with the level of interest that the festival has received from artists and the public who love to watch the creative process and who look forward to the exhibition. Up to 180 artists will take part and all of these artists will create numerous pieces of art ‘live’ during the festival, they will then choose their best pieces to exhibit at the end of the festival, culminating in an art exhibition of 250 pieces which will be open to the public to view at Whites of Wexford.”

The Art in the Open festival runs from July 28 to August 4

I’ve included their Art in the Open video from 2013 below, and  for further details see

PS: there’s LOADS on this end July & start August in Ireland. Click here to see some more events you may enjoy.

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