Capturing the world with Photography, Painting and Drawing

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny castle Pannel

Fujifilm X100
Landscape Photographer : Nigel Borrington

Over the years since I came to live in Kilkenny I have spend many hours in the grounds of this Castle, the above images are from just some of the times I have taken a camera with me and taken a few shots.

If you do visit Kilkenny, the Castle and its grounds just have to be on your list of places to visit…

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle (Irish: Caisleán Chill Chainnigh) is a castle in Kilkenny, Ireland built in 1195 by William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke to control a fording-point of the River Nore and the junction of several routeways. It was a symbol of Norman occupation and in its original thirteenth-century condition it would have formed an important element of the defences of the town with four large circular corner towers and a massive ditch, part of which can still be seen today on the Parade.

The property was transferred to the people of Kilkenny in 1967 for £50[1] and the castle and grounds are now managed by the Office of Public Works. The gardens and parkland adjoining the castle are open to the public. The Parade Tower is a conference venue. Awards and conferring ceremonies of the graduates of “Kilkenny Campus” of National University of Ireland, Maynooth have been held there since 2002.

Previous owners of the castle

Earls of Pembroke

Kilkenny Castle has been an important site since Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, commonly known as Strongbow constructed the first castle, probably a wooden structure, in the 12th century. The Anglo-Normans had established a castle in 1173, possibly on the site of an earlier residence of the Mac Giolla Phádraig kings of Osraighe. Kilkenny formed part of the lordship of Leinster, which was granted to Strongbow. Strongbow’s daughter and heiress, Isabel married William Marshall in 1189. The Earl Marshall owned large estates in Ireland, England, Wales and France and managed them effectively. He appointed Geoffrey fitz Robert as seneschal of Leinster and so began a major phase of development in Kilkenny, including the construction of Kilkenny Castle and the agreement of rents and privileges with burgesses or citizens of the borough. The first stone castle on the site, was completed in 1213. This was a square-shaped castle with towers at each corner; three of these original four towers survive to this day
Butler dynasty

James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormonde, bought the castle in 1391 and established himself as ruler of the area. The Butler dynasty then ruled the surrounding area for centuries. They were Earls, Marquesses and Dukes of Ormonde and lived in the castle for over five hundred years. Among the many notable, Lady Margaret Butler (c. 1454 or 1465–1539) the Irish noblewoman, the daughter Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond. Lady Margret Butler was born in Kilkenny Castle. She married Sir William Boleyn and was the paternal grandmother of Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII of England.

The Castle became the seat to the very powerful family, the Butlers of Ormonde or Butler family, who lived there until 1935.

Kilkenny castle was the venue for the meeting of the General Assembly, or parliament, of the Confederate Ireland government in the 1640s.

The Irish State

The last member of the Butler family sold the castle to the local Castle Restoration Committee in the middle of the 20th century for £50. Shortly afterward it was handed over to the State, and has since been refurbished and is open to visitors. There are ornamental gardens on the city side of the castle, and extensive land and gardens to the front. It has become one of the most visited tourist sites in Ireland. Now a property in state care. Part of the National Art Gallery is on display in the castle.


Richard de Clare (also known as Strongbow) and other Norman knights came to Kilkenny in 1172, the high ground beside the River Nore was as an ideal site on which to build a wooden tower. He built a wooden castle of the type known as motte-and-bailey.

This strategic site was where the local Kings of Osraige had their chief residence before the Norman invasion.

Twenty years later, de Clare’s son-in-law, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, built the first stone castle on the site, of which three towers still remain.

The castle was owned by the seneschal of Kilkenny Sir Gilbert De Bohun who inherited the county of Kilkenny and castle from his mother in 1270, in 1300 he was outlawed by Edward I but was reinstated in 1303, he held the castle until his death in 1381. It was not granted to his heir Joan, but seized by the crown and sold to the Butler family.
Butlers of Ormond

The Castle became the seat to a very powerful family, the Butlers of Ormonde or Butler family. They were a remarkable family, resilient, politically astute and faithful to the crown and to Ireland. These loyalties determined their fortunes and career. The Butler family arrived in Ireland with the Norman invasion, and originally settled in Gowran. They changed their name from FitzWalter in 1185 to Butler. The family had become wealthy, and James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormonde, bought the castle in 1391 and established himself as ruler of the area. The Butler dynasty then ruled the surrounding area for centuries.

By the 18th century, the castle had become run down, reflecting the failing fortunes of the Butler family. However, some restoration was carried out by Anne Wandesford of Castlecomer, who brought wealth back into the family upon marrying John Butler, 17th Earl of Ormonde.

In the 19th century, the Butlers then attempted to restore it to its original medieval appearance, also rebuilding the north wing and extending the south curtain wall. More extensions were added in 1854.

The Butler family remained living in the castle until 1935, when they sold its contents for £6,000, moved to London, and abandoned it for thirty years. The impact of rising taxes, death duties, economic depression and living costs had taken their toll. While the Ormondes had received £22,000 in rental income in the 1880s, investment income in the 1930s was in the region of £9,000 and by 1950 these investments yielded only £850. They disposed of the bulk of their tenanted estates in Tipperary and Kilkenny, 21,000 acres (85 km²), by 1915 for £240,000. Death duties and expenses following the death of James Butler, 3rd Marquess of Ormonde in 1919 amounted to £166,000.[2]
Auction Catalogue, 1935

In 1967, Arthur Butler, 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde, sold the abandoned and deteriorating castle to the Castle Restoration Committee for £50, with the statement: “The people of Kilkenny, as well as myself and my family, feel a great pride in the Castle, and we have not liked to see this deterioration. We determined that it should not be allowed to fall into ruins. There are already too many ruins in Ireland.” He also bought the land in front of the castle from the trustees “in order that it should never be built on and the castle would be seen in all its dignity and splendour”. Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull turned up at the castle hand over party, with Jagger telling the newspapers “We just came to loon about

11 responses

  1. Kilkenny was our first stop during a three week trip to Ireland two springs ago. We took the tour of the castle and walked the beautiful grounds and I have several pleasing images to remind me of our stay. It was a lovely introduction to our tour of the Emerald Isle. … Thanks for sharing and got the memory. 🙂

    April 16, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    • Hello Dorothy,

      I love the Castle and its grounds. I am so Lucky to be only be a car trip away, Molly has had some great times!!

      I did the tour about four years ago I must do it again at some point, get someone to take Molly for a walk around the grounds until Its over!!

      Very pleased you enjoyed the post, 🙂


      April 16, 2013 at 1:24 pm

  2. noelgreene

    Great Historical Post Nigel

    April 16, 2013 at 1:00 pm

  3. History has a way of equalization. What was once only for the elite belongs to the entire world. An excellent post and one that I will come back to again. There is a lot of great history here that I have yet to explore!

    April 16, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    • 🙂

      You should have a look at what happened during and after the great war (first world war) Rebecca and The great flu out-break of 1918.

      Many of the elite families of Europe just vanished!

      April 17, 2013 at 1:34 am

      • Disease doesn’t look at bank accounts or titles!! Another profound equalizer of humanity…gives pause.

        April 17, 2013 at 8:44 pm

      • Very True!

        Its always the things that people don’t expect that bring the biggest changes!

        April 17, 2013 at 8:58 pm

  4. You have some amazing places in Ireland! I love this castle and will definitely go there if I ever get the chance to come over. Thanks for the history. It was very interesting 🙂

    April 17, 2013 at 3:28 am

  5. Beautiful photos. Love them

    April 17, 2013 at 4:45 am

    • Thank you, Very Much!!, (Ms Frances) thank you 🙂 🙂

      April 17, 2013 at 8:14 am

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