What to Do Between Dublin and Kilkenny: A Full Day Road Trip

You have rented your car in Dublin and now you are anxious to get out on the open road. Your first destination, like many who leave from Dublin, is most likely Kilkenny: The former medieval capital of Ireland eighty miles away.

But what is there to do between these two towns?                             

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On our first day, of many driving around the Island, we stopped at a grandiose estate, visited lakeside ruins and drove along mountainous and sometimes remote areas on our way to Kilkenny.

Gardens, Monastery and a Striking Driving Route

If you have never driven on the left side, try to leave Dublin early in the morning so you do not have to rush during your drive - after renting our car it took us some time to get used to it.

Once you hit the road, it should take approximately 45 minutes to arrive at Powerscourt Estate. This 13th century mansion sits on 47 acres of gardens against the backdrop of the immense Sugarloaf Mountain.

Meticulously arranged in themes such as Italian, Japanese and Rose, the highlight of the estate is its extensive and comprehensive gardens as the manor’s interiors have been converted mostly into modern shops.

From the estate, we took the local R115 also known as the Military Road, which goes through the heart of the Wicklow Mountains.

Going through widespread valleys, along rugged and sometimes desolate scenery, this scenic road was originally built by the British to flush out the Irish rebels after the Rebellion in 1798.

If you enjoy photography, you will want to have your camera ready at all times as there are many roadside outlooks up until you arrive at Glendalough.

The valley of the two lakes or Glendalough has one of the country’s most important monastic settlements founded in the 6th century. After reaching the complex through a small trail, we walked amongst high crosses, a round tower, a roofless cathedral and gravestones that lean almost like dominoes.

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An Afternoon in the Gorgeous Kilkenny

From Glendalough – since you will be driving on small roads - it should take you a couple of hours to reach Kilkenny.

Right as you walk in, you will understand why this medieval town is considered one of Ireland’s most picturesque. The city seems to be actively trying to keep this outlook by displaying freshly painted buildings and potted flowers atop lampposts along its quaint downtown.

The town’s historical center is small and easy to explore on foot. The Kilkenny Castle and the Kilkenny Design Center, almost face each other at the entrance of the city. The castle is a former Norman fortress overlooking the River Nore.

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You can tour its lavish rooms and explore its vast surrounding green fields. The Design Center used to be the castle’s stables and has been converted into shops selling beautiful arts and crafts.

Since we arrived in the afternoon, we explored the historical streets of Kilkenny which quickly died down when its stores started closing for the night.

Tip: If you are short on time, a great way we found to see the town is to walk along High Street, Parliament Street and through St. Kiernan’s. Go through the various slips (connecting alleyways built underneath buildings) and cross St. John’s Bridge for some great shots of the city.


The Wrap-Up: The route from Dublin to Kilkenny can be time consuming since you will be driving on smaller roads. However, the landscape is one most beautiful we have ever seen during our two weeks in Ireland and it should not be missed if you are willing to take the drive. 

The B&B: Fanad House Bed and Breakfast is located in the outskirts of town. It is simple, affordable and very accommodating.

The Restaurant: We finished our night at a great pub in Parliament Street that specializes in craft beer called Brewery Corner. Try their O’Haras beer sampler from a local brewery called Carlow Brewing Company.

- Want to see the full trip and plan your next? Check out our Ireland Two Week Itinerary!