With Covid19 restrictions finally being lifted, Ireland is trying to figure out what our new normal will look like. One thing we do know is, social distancing is something we will have to live with for a long time. On your staycation this year, take advantage of the great outdoors and the natural social distancing offered by the beautiful walking trails in and around Kilkenny. After a rewarding day of hiking, return to Pembroke Hotel, the cleanest hotel in Kilkenny (according to the traveller review site, TripAdvisor, and the world’s largest booking engines, Booking.com and Expedia) to relax and recover. Here are our picks of the best walking and hiking routes in Kilkenny.
1. Kilkenny City Walks
Our location in the centre of Kilkenny is great for shopping and seeing the excellent attractions of the city, but it also gives easy access to some great city walking trails. Passing shops, restaurants and the finest cultural attractions Kilkenny has to offer, there are a range of walking routes in the city located throughout the Nore Linear Park – a network of approximately ten kilometres along the bank of the River Nore of footpaths and cycle lanes which run to the north and south of the city, and connect with the stunning Nore Valley Walk (more on that below!)
One of our favourite walks in the city is the 2km Bishopsmeadow Walk (you might also hear it called the Linear Walk), which takes you from Vicar Street/Riverside Drive north to the Bleach Road. Don’t miss the beautiful weir at the end of the walk! This route is very popular with dog walkers, so if you want to see all the good boys and girls this is the perfect walk for you. There’s also an outdoor gym area at the start of the walk, free for all to use.
Canal Walk & Lacken Walk
Heading in the opposite direction, the Canal Walk & Lacken Walk bring you south along the River Nore, passing by the ruins of the old mills dating originally from the 12th & 13th centuries, after the Normans first arrived in Ireland. Milling corn and other grains initially, the mills changed hands over the years, eventually becoming the famous Ormonde Woollen Mills which made high-quality blankets and employed over 500 people. An unfortunate fire in 1969 destroyed the Mills and their stock, only leaving the ruins we see today.
Enter the Canal Walk from Canal Square at the foot of John’s Bridge (near the Hurling Monument and a two-minute walk from Pembroke Kilkenny). This pathway, dating from 1763, is nestled just outside the walls of Kilkenny Castle and you can easily imagine the former royal residents enjoying this private walk on their doorstep. Follow the path until you approach a pedestrian bridge which crosses over the Nore and links to the Lacken Walk on the eastern bank of the river.
The Lacken Walk comprises a mix of old pathway dating back to the 1950’s which travels to the rear of the old Health Board grounds at St. Canice’s. As the path opens out into the flood plain a boardwalk is provided to take walkers across in the event of wet ground. The walk will take you back to the city centre, ending at the Lacken Steps on the Dublin Road. You can start at either point but this route is our favourite as it allows you to enjoy the spectacular city views from the viewing point on Maudlin Street after you exit at the Lacken Steps. The views are some of the best in Kilkenny, you are in for a treat! Try to time it with a sunrise or sunset for those Instagram photos!
After that, head down Maudlin Street, over John’s Bridge and into the grounds of the famous Kilkenny Castle. Spend an afternoon exploring the luscious green fields, woodlands and the wonderful heritage surrounding you. There’s a brand-new playground for the little ones too. Make sure to enjoy a hearty breakfast by Pembroke Kilkenny’s stylish restaurant, Statham’s to fuel your stroll.
While Kilkenny City has a huge amount of charm and plenty of heritage sites to visit, you might like to get to know the other communities in the wider area. Venture outside of the city limits to enjoy a community walk in one of the quaint local towns which have some beautiful loop walks for you to stretch your legs and enjoy some isolation and peace, away from the city.
Head to Windgap, start in the lake area and enjoy the village loop, which will take approximately one hour. For something more demanding in the same area, try the Bearna Breac route with 7km of hilly terrain and forest roads. It will be a challenging but rewarding trek. About 10km north of Kilkenny city, the Jenkinstown Park Walled Garden Loop is a great option for families, even if just to meet the reindeer! It’s steeped in history, plus not far from Dunmore Caves, so a great option on a warm summer’s day – pop in for a tour of the caves to cool down after your walk. There’s no colder place in Kilkenny than the caves!
3. Easy scenic walk in Castlecomer
For an easy walk in one of the quainter parts of Kilkenny, head out to the Castlecomer Discovery Park for an exciting day out. About 30-minutes’ drive outside of the city (in the same direction as Jenkinstown), you will find one of the county’s most beautiful natural areas, dotted with recreational activities for all ages, including fishing and boating on the recently restored leisure lakes. It’s the ideal place to visit on your Kilkenny weekend break if you’d like to experience beautiful scenery on a choice of lovely loop walks including the 1.5km Ladies Walk, the 2km Arboretum Walk and the 4km Captains Walk. Make sure to pop into Jarrow’s Café for some refreshments after your walk.
4. Challenging hikes in Kilkenny County
If you want to make a day of it, you can continue the Lacken Walk all the way to Bennettsbridge, Thomastown and Iniostioge. The most popular stretch is from Kilkenny to Bennettsbridge at roughly 12km. The scenery is unrivalled and you’ll meet swans, herons and friendly horses on your trip! Please note that there is limited public transport from Bennettsbridge to Kilkenny, so if you’re not up for the walk back, you may need to hire a taxi depending on the time of day.
If you are a seasoned hiker and are looking for a challenge, you might enjoy the Brandon Hill Loop, a challenging walk of about 20kms. Begin in the town of Graiguenamanagh and the trailhead is at the Barrow Valley Activities Hub located on the River Barrow. A high level of fitness and experience is required for this trek with terrains including minor roadways, forestry tracks and uneven hillside paths.
Do not forget to wear hiking boots/supportive runners, rain gear and bring a phone, and plenty of water and snacks to keep you going!
After a long day of hiking or walking in Kilkenny and its surrounds, you’ll want to relax and recover in luxury. Pembroke Hotel, Kilkenny’s most beautiful boutique hotel is in a perfect location to explore the natural beauty of the county while having bars, restaurants and shops right on your doorstep. Book your weekend break in Pembroke Kilkenny, with peace of mind knowing we are the city’s cleanest hotel as voted by TripAdvisor, Expedia and Booking.com users.
Katie McGarr is a savvy travel and lifestyle writer for Pembroke Hotel Kilkenny
, a four-star boutique hotel in Kilkenny, offering exceptional accommodation and dining experiences in Ireland’s historic marble city. When she’s not taking vibrant street photos, you can find her writing articles about travel, food, and lifestyle.