For whatever reason, I’ve always had it in my head that Kilkenny is aaaages away from Dublin.

The fact is, however, it only takes a leisurely 1 hour and 35 minutes to get from Dublin (Swords) to Kilkenny City – a doable journey on one of your hard earned days off!

About the There-And-Back-In-A-Day Series: I want to help Dubliners, and people living in Dublin, who think they need to take time off work to explore Ireland, to discover our island in one-day, bite-sized chunks. Loads more guides like this en-route!

The Dublin to Kilkenny 1-day road trip: first up – a detailed itinerary

The itinerary for the day
  • Leave Dublin at 8, arrive in Kilkenny at 9:35
  • Fuel up with breakfast at The Fig Tree – 9:50 – 10:40
  • Ramble around the town and grab coffee at the castle – 10:50 – 11:50
  • Experience the Smithwick’s brewery – 12:20 – 13:30
  • Lunch in Kytlers inn – 13:40 – 14:40
  • Explore Dunmore cave 15:00 – 16:30

First things first – getting your 💩 together

As Kilkenny is a short spin from Dublin, and our itinerary for the days is nice and compact, you won’t need to leave home at the crack of dawn,

Set the alarm for half seven and make sure you’re out the door by 8 a.m.

For this trip, you won’t need hiking gear or any special clothing (check the weather in advance), so there’s little or no prep needed the night before.

Getting from Dublin to Kilkenny

Getting to Kilkenny from Dublin is a breeze.

You need to get onto the M50 heading southbound, take junction 9, and then get onto the N7 and then the M9, finally followed by the N10.

After that, you just need to follow the signs for Kilkenny.

Here’s the route on Google Maps below, or you can pop it into AA Route planner.

Stop One – The Fig Tree for Breakfast

Leave Dublin at 8:00, arrive at the Fig Tree for 9:32 (traffic dependent)

For those of you that didn’t grab something to eat before leaving the house, or for anyone fancying a second breakfast in advance of a day’s exploring, the Fig Tree is a solid option.

A leisurely four-minute stroll from Kilkenny Castle, the Fig Tree is located smack-bang in the centre of the city.

There’s a highly recommended Full Irish and Veggie option for breakfast, along with coffee that’s ‘ethically sourced and selected and roasted’.

Skip the coffee for now and fuel up on the grub.

walking in kilkenny town
Photo by Brian Morrison

Stop Two – Explore the city and wrap your hands around a coffee as you ramble about the castle

Give yourself 50 minutes in the Fig Tree and stroll to the castle for around 10:30

On a rain-free day, Kilkenny is an absolute joy to walk around.

The city’s narrow streets and laneways, colourful shopfronts, medieval architecture (Kilkenny is Ireland’s medieval capital), and energetic atmosphere provide the perfect entertainment for a post-breakfast stroll.

Hands-down my favourite nook and cranny in the city is Butter Slip Lane (below).

butter slip land kilkenny
Photo by C Dale Photography

It’s only a couple of minutes from where you munched down breakfast and it’s like a piece of Hogsmeade from the Harry Potter series was airlifted from London and plonked down in the centre of Kilkenny.

Amazing stuff 😍!

A two-minute saunter from Butter Slip land stands Kilkenny Castle, a 12th-century structure that was originally constructed of wood in 1172.

Overlooking the River Nore, the castle stood in all its wooden glory for just thirty years before it was rebuilt with stone by the Earl of Pembroke.

kilkenny castle
Photo by macmillan media

When I visited last (a couple of years back now) there was a little coffee stand in the castle grounds.

If it’s still there, grab a piping hot cup of coffee and have a little float around the castle grounds.

For those of you that fancy checking out the interior of the castle, you can do a self-guided tour for €8.

Stop Three – The Smithwick’s Experience

It should be around 12:30 at this stage (the day’s still young). Our next stop is an eight-minute walk from the castle.

The Smithwick’s brewery was founded in Kilkenny way back in 1710 by John Smithwick, on the site of a Franciscan abbey where monks brewed ale since the 14th century.

The brand was bought by Guinness in 1965 and the brewery was shut down in 2013.

Parts of the old brewery now play host to the Smithwick’s Experience.

During the tour, you’ll learn about Ireland’s rich history of brewing and see first-hand where Smithwick’s beer was once created (while getting to taste the produce, of course).

the smithwicks experience kilkenny
Photo via dugganlynch.ie

You’ll also visit the remains of the 13th-century St. Francis Abbey, where monks brewed ale long ago.

The tour, which lasts between 45 and 60 minutes, costs €13.00 for an adult and has racked up rave reviews online.

Stop Four – Kytelers Inn

It’s now around 1:45 and you’ve already packed-in a loooooad of stuff. Next up – FOOOOD. Mosey on from the brewery to Kytelers (a delightful two-minute walk)

If you’re like me, at this stage of the day your belly will be roaring for a bit of TLC.

We’ve chosen Kytelers Inn for lunch based on its history and the fact that I’ve eaten here before and have fond memories of the place.

Dating back to 1263, Kytelers was first established by Dame Alice de Kyteler – the first recorded person condemned for witchcraft in Ireland.

Kytler's Inn Kilkenny
Via Kytlers Inn

The daughter of a Norman banker, Alice de Kyteler married four times and in the process amassed a considerable fortune.

It wasn’t until her fourth marriage that things started to go slightly pear-shaped.

Her husband, landowner Sir. John de Poer, began showing signs of illness shortly into their marriage.

Before he passed, he changed his Will to the benefit of Alice and her son William.

Naturally, his family weren’t impressed.

They brought charges of witchcraft against Alice before the Bishop of Ossory, claiming that Alice had ‘bewitched’ her husband and forced him to change his Will.

To cut a long story short, she escaped to England and dodged any unpleasantries.

Imagine tucking into food in a place that boasts a history as weird and wonderful as Kytlers?!

Stop Five – Dunmore Cave

Right, head back to the car and take the sixteen-minute drive out as far as Dunmore Cave (all going well you should land here at around 15:00)

dunmore cave entrance
Photo by Abarta Heritage

The earliest mention of Dunmore Cave dates back to a 9th-century Irish triad poem, where it’s chillingly referred to as ‘the darkest place in Ireland’.

There’s no real mystery why.

Dunmore cave county kilkenny
Photo by Mark Heard

In 928 AD, Dunmore cave witnessed the slaughter of 1,000 people at the hands of the Vikings.

The tragic event, which is documented in the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland, was backed up in 1973, when the bones of 44 people were found in Dunmore Cave, and in 1999, when items made from silver and copper-alloy were discovered.

The silver ingots and conical buttons were part of the discovery and dated back to 970 AD.

Join one of the guided tours for €5.00 (adult admission).

Find out more about the history of the cave here.

Stop Six – Home

Once you finish up in the caves, you’re an hour and a half away from being back at home in time for a relaxed Saturday evening after an insanely productive day.

Did you find this guide useful? I’m constantly looking for feedback in order to make tese guides as useful as physically possible – let me know in the comments below!

And that's a wrap.
Would you be tempted to give the above a bash? I’d love to hear any questions you have – so please do lash a comment into the section below if there’s anything you need more info on!