Day Trip Guide:

Kilkenny, Ireland

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Day Trip to Kilkenny

Taking a day trip to Kilkenny turned out to be another one of our highlights during our time in Ireland. While doing a Workaway in County Carlow, we got a day off and decided to take a public bus and discover some of the best free things to do in Kilkenny.

If you're wondering how to get to Kilkenny from Dublin, there are a few bus options below to choose from. The bus ride from Dublin is roughly 2 hours and will cost between €18-30 for a return ticket.

However if you're traveling locally between Graiguenamanagh and Kilkenny, then you can take the public bus. Despite where you're coming from there are plenty of free things to do in Kilkenny and absolutely worth taking a day trip to explore this cool little city.

How to get to Kilkenny

You might be wondering how to get to Kilkenny, especially if you don't have a rental car. There are several bus lines, like Dublin Coach or JJ Kavanagh, that run all throughout Ireland. Though we only have experience with these companies between Dublin and Kilkenny, these coaches are super comfortable and run between most Irish cities/towns.

On the other hand if you're staying just outside Kilkenny city, suchas County Kilkenny or County Carlow, there are local bus routes that are affordable and reliable. We made the day trip to Kilkenny from Graiguenamanagh in County Carlow; see the time table below for the 881 public bus.

Dublin ↠ Kilkenny

Dublin Coach
  • Return Ticket Prices: €20 from City Centre, €30 from Airport
  • Pickup Locations: Dublin City Centre, Dublin Airport
  • Drop Off Locations: McDonough Junction, Ormonde Rd
  • City Centre Departure Times: 6:00PM, 8:00PM, 10:00PM
  • Airport Departure Times: Hourly from 6:30PM-11:30PM
JJ Kavanagh
  • Return Ticket Prices: €18 from Heuston Station, €30 from Airport
  • Pickup Locations: Dublin Heuston Station, Dublin Airport
  • Drop Off Locations: Kilkenny Newpark Hotel, Ormonde Rd
  • Heuston Station Departure Times: Every couple hours from 6:45AM-11:30PM
  • Airport Departure Times: Every few hours from 2:00AM-11:00PM

Graiguenamanagh ↠ Kilkenny

The 881 public bus line runs from Graiguenamanagh to Kilkenny Castle throughout the day. It costs €8.5/adult for a return ticket between Graiguenamanagh to Kilkenny - see time tables and bus stop locations below.

Graiguenamanagh 07:45 - 14:00
Borris 08:00 - 14:15
Goresbridge 08:10 - 14:25
Gowran 08:20 - 14:35
Clara 08:30 - 14:45
Kilkenny Railway Station 08:35 - 14:50
Kilkenny Castle 08:40 - 14:55
Kilkenny Castle 12:00 - 18:05
Kilkenny Railway Station 12:05 - 18:10
Clara 12:10 - 18:15
Gowran 12:20 - 18:25
Goresbridge 12:30 - 18:35
Borris 12:40 - 18:45
Graiguenamanagh 12:55 - 19:00

5 Things to do in Kilkenny

Generally Ireland is pretty expensive, however are plenty of free things to do in Kilkenny. Arguably the most iconic attraction of the city is Kilkenny Castle. If you're into beer the original Smithwick's Brewery, founded in the 18th century, is located here and offers daily tours. However, our favorite thing we did in Kilkenny was wandering the streets and admiring the colorful buildings around the River Nore. The overcast sky created a lovely contrast behind the vibrant buildings of this quite little town.

1. The Smithwick's Experience

Entrance Cost: €14 Student/€16 Adult

Hours: 10:00AM-5:00PM

Known for being an Irish beer, Smithwick's has its roots in Kilkenny. Founded in 1710, this brewery was functional all the way through 2013 when production moved to Dublin[1]. Nonetheless, the original brewery still stands and offers tastings and tours.

Though we opted to do a tour of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin instead, we think doing a tour of Smithwicks is one of the cool things to do in Kilkenny if you are into beer.

Day Trip to Kilkenny - Smithwicks Experience

Though we opted to do a tour of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin instead, we think doing a tour of Smithwicks is one of the cool things to do in Kilkenny if you are into beer.

2. Visit Kilkenny Castle

Entrance Cost: €8 Self-Guided Tour/€12 Guided Tour

Hours: 9:30AM-4:30PM*

You might start to notice that many places in Ireland have a main castle named after the town or city. That’s also the case for Kilkenny Castle, located on a huge plot of land along the River Nore featuring beautiful gardens and walking paths. It’s open for tours, however, the exterior and surrounding gardens don’t have an entrance fee making it one of the best free things to do in Kilkenny.

*Note: Hours vary depending on the season. However, the castle is open from 9:30AM-4:30PM during all months of the year. To see a full list of hours by month click here
Day Trip to Kilkenny - Kilkenny Castle
Cheap things to do in Kilkenny - Kilkenny Castle

3. Walk to St. Canice Cathedral

Another cool historical site in Kilkenny is the St. Canice Cathedral which dates back to the 13th century. The Round Tower next to the cathedral dates back all the way to the 9th century! In fact, this Cathedral is the second oldest cathedral in Ireland after St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin[2].

Though walking around the grounds of the cathedral is another one of the best free things to do in Kilkenny, you'll need to pay an entrance fee if you want to go inside. The Cathedral ticket is €4/adult, and the Round Tower ticket is €4.50/adult. However, it's possible to buy a combined ticket for €7.50/adult. We didn't feel like paying for any attractions during our day trip to Kilkenny so we just walked around the outside for free. It's worth noting that the hours of entry vary depending on the month you're visiting. Check out the full timetable here.

Cheap things to do in Kilkenny - St Canice Cathedral
St Canice Cathedral 2 - 600 4x5

4. Wander the streets around River Nore

If you’re trying to ball out on a budget like us, then one of the great free things to do in Kilkenny is just walk around the town. We even found a café with Molly’s name on it! Kilkenny is rather small and quiet, but we were so thrilled to stroll these sleepy streets after spending a hectic week in India.

The locals are super friendly and were more than happy to tell you how to get around if you need any help. In fact, we ended up getting a bit lost and were directed back to the bus station by a generous local. We really enjoyed our day trip to Kilkenny and would love to come back again for a longer stay.

Cheap things to do in Kilkenny - Walk along the River Nore
Day Trip to do in Kilkenny - Walk along the River Nore
Walking Kilkenny 8 - 600 4x5

5. Check out Graiguenamanagh

A short bus ride away from Kilkenny is the village of Graiguenamanagh. This is actually where we did our Workaway and from where we caught a bus to Kilkenny Castle. Though it's a smaller village than Kilkenny, it's definitely worth a stroll along the river if you have the time. If you drove yourself down to Kilkenny from Dublin then it’s certainly possible to include this as a pit stop in your day trip to Kilkenny.

Day Trip to Kilkenny - Graiguenamanagh

Where to stay in Kilkenny

If you’re looking to do more than just a day trip to Kilkenny, we noticed more than a few hostels in this small city. Take a look at some of our recommendations below.

From our experience, we like to use Hostel World to check out potential hostels, then check other booking websites like to make our reservations. Sometimes we also message hostels directly to get a better price. We also like to use Airbnb to book accommodations if its a better deal than hostels. Clicking on either of the icons will give you a deal with either of the sites, but are affiliate links so we earn a small commission.

Dorms: $22.65+ USD

Private Rooms: $25.48+ USD

Amenities: Free Wifi, Free Breakfast, 24 Hr Security, Tea/Coffee making facilities, Luggage Storage

Photo Courtesy:

Dorms: $16.99+ USD

Private Rooms: $19.25+ USD

Amenities: Free Wifi, Self Catering Services, Tea/Coffee making facilities, Luggage Storage, Laundry Services

Photo Courtesy:

Dorms: $16.99+ USD

Private Rooms: $24.92+ USD

Amenities: Free Wifi, Free Breakfast, Laundry Facilities, Self Catering Services, Luggage Storage

Photo Courtesy:

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