Things to Do in Kilkenny
The limestone cave complex at Dunmore stretches around 0.5 km (0.25 miles) underground and descends to a depth of 46 m (150 ft). It is open for guided tours of the caverns, which are rich in gleaming limestone stalactites and stalagmites that have been forming, drip by drip, for more than 300 million years. The most spectacular is a vast, colonnaded pillar dubbed the ‘Market Cross’, which is found in a chamber known as the ‘Town Hall’ and is over five m (16.5 ft) high. There is evidence in ancient Irish literature of man settling in the caves as far back as the ninth century, while bones and teeth found in the inner chambers of the complex are thought to be the remains of Vikings murdered in 928. In addition, a hoard of silver and bronze coins, wire buttons and ingots were discovered there in 1999; they are currently displayed in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin and are believed to date from around 970 AD. A small visitor center showcases the history and geology of the cave complex.
The vast Gothic cathedral of St. Canice is named in honor of a sixth-century Irish abbot and preacher and sits on the site of a church dating right back to that time. Completed in 1285, it is a prominent landmark in the charming – and tiny – Irish city of Kilkenny, which in the sixth century was the main settlement of the ancient Kingdom of Ossary. The town grew to be a Catholic center of some importance in Ireland, which explains the presence of the country’s second-largest cathedral. Complete with rose windows and slender spires, the exterior of the cathedral is built of limestone, and on sunny days its interior is aglow with light that sparkles on the patterned marble floors from the stained-glass windows. Among its treasures are several unusual 17th-century tomb chests and the reputed stone throne of St Kieran, a fifth-century bishop. St. Canice also houses the Great War Memorial List, containing the names of all Irishmen who died in World War I.
The slender, 98.5-foot (30-meter) round tower adjacent to the church was built in the ninth century and originally acted as a look-out tower to protect the residents of Kilkenny and their precious religious sites. It can be climbed by a steep internal stairway for views over the medieval rooftops of the city center.