Edit Blog Post
Published: August 14th 2006
From the garden looking at the main attraction.
When pronounced correctly with the emphasis in the right places, Kilkenny sounds like two distinct words: Kill and Kenny (because in Irish, it is two words, though the pronunciation differs slightly). As in, “Oh, my God, they killed Kenny. Those bastards!” So perhaps you can understand why the city’s name has always been a little threatening to me. Yet as I discovered during a recent daytrip to the city, Kilkenny is anything but threatening and every bit an enjoyable, captivating city.
Following our arrival from Waterford, Helen and I started with lunch at Kyteler’s Inn, whose first proprietor was known for ritual sacrifices and eventually accused of practicing witch-craft waaaaay back in 1320’s. Now it’s a charming pub complete with high definition televisions to watch the footy. I can’t imagine Dame Alice Kyteler envisioned this is how her inn would end up nearly 8 centuries later (unless she was a clairvoyant as well as a witch. I certainly wouldn’t put it past her.), but they did serve up a nice lamb with mint sauce. I don’t know if the lamb was a ritual sacrifice before it ended up on my plate, however.
From the Kyteler Inn we ventured to
Kilkenny Castle, the city’s most famous attraction. This medieval castle stands above the river Nore and has quite the storied history, including a various number of occupants from different stripes of life. The Viking conquerors of the region founded the castle, and it was originally a fortress. That changed when the castle’s longest serving occupants the Butler family took up residence here. The Butlers were responsible for transforming the castle from a fortress to a residential palace. The family lived in Kilkenny Castle from the 1300’s until the 1930’s. Then the castle was officially handed over to the city in 1967, restored, and now under the auspices of the Office of Public Works, tourists like me get to wander around inside.
It was the ideal time to be in Kilkenny, really. In addition to having some pretty decent weather, the city was hosting an Arts Festival, and the home team was playing in the All Ireland Hurling Championship semi-finals. Hurling, by the way, is a home-grown Irish sport dating back centuries. The modern incarnation reminds me of what the offspring from a marriage between lacrosse and field hockey might look like. However, my offspring analogy is somewhat flawed because
in all likelihood, hurling predates both lacrosse and field hockey. In any case, I hope it helps the uninitiated visualize the sport a little better.
As it was such an important match, the town was abuzz with excitement. Kilkenny’s black and amber colours were flying everywhere, and fans both young and old donned their Kilkenny jerseys to support the home side. Watching the hurling was something I’d hoped to do while I was in Ireland and it was through sheer luck that I arrived in time for this important match. While it would have been really cool to see the match live, if I couldn’t see it live, then the next best thing was watching it in high definition down at the pub with true Kilkenny fans in Kilkenny.
Hurling is a quick and exciting sport, but relatively easy to follow. Watching the sport for the first time, I picked up the gist of it pretty quickly: hit the ball over the bar between the goalposts and score a point; hit the ball past the keeper into the net below the goalposts and score three points. And the two sides, Kilkenny and Clare, gave us a cracker of
It's pretty big and pretty impressive. The castle grounds, which used to encompass over 27,000 hectares, are now only 50.
a match. Tied going into the second half, Kilkenny pulled out to a comfortable lead only to have Clare turn up the pressure and nearly tie it up in the waning moments of the game. In the final minutes though, Kilkenny ran away with it and emerged victorious, and there was much rejoicing, particularly when the train from Dublin returned and the hundreds of Kilkenny fans who were at the match returned.
Helen and I had to catch the last bus out of town at 10, which happened to be around the time that the exuberant Kilkenny residents were really turning it up party-wise, but hey, while I’m sure we could have stuck around until the wee hours of the morning, and I could have unleashed some Edmonton-style celebrating, burning a few wood pallets and smashing some bus shelters, it was a great daytrip and henceforth when I see a can of Kilkenny beer in the liquor store, I’ll be warmed by pleasant memories instead of slowly backing away, fumbling for the door then running for my life screaming like a schoolgirl. Because Kilkenny doesn’t mean Kill Kenny.
(Opps, sorry friends. Some of my information here is a
The castle as seen from the courtyard.
bit flawed. When I get a chance, I'll fix it up so that it's more accurate. In the meantime, may this be a reminder to all: always check your facts or risk looking like an idiot).
Tot: 2.975s; Tpl: 0.016s; cc: 9; qc: 57; dbt: 0.0299s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb