Paulstown (Co. Kilkenny / East)
Paulstown, a small village, was once called Whitehall (and still is on some older maps); medieval documents also refer to Poolstown.
Paulstown Castle, now in ruins, is said to have been the residence of Sir Pearse Butler. An imposing medieval Tower House, rebuilt in 1828, reputedly to designs prepared by William Robertson, it was owned by the Flood family for over a century until 1892, when it was bought by the Healy family.
Shankill Castle, originally a Butler family Tower House, was rebuilt in 1708 by Peter Aylward and enlarged and castellated by his descendants in the C19th, with the addition of a gothic porch and a remarkable conservatory. Serpentine bays were added to the canal behind the house. The stable-yard and the castellated entrance to the demesne are attributed to Daniel Robertson. The interior of the castle features a Georgian staircase, Gothic plasterwork in the dining room and a Victorian drawing room.
The castle is set in beautiful parkland. The gardens feature remnants of C18th lime allées, C19th laurel lawns, some Victorian favourites such as the now gigantic Sequoias and self-sown ash trees. An unusual polyhedral sundial has pride of place on a sunken lawn. The walled garden has a charming apple arch under-planted with red tulips; and some antique goblet-shaped pear trees trained against mellow brick. The moated garden, once a rose garden, then forgotten and planted with Sitka spruces, is now a spring garden, and the graveyard blooms all year round.
Since 1991 Shankill Castle has been the home and studio of artist Elizabeth Cope, whose paintings are on display.
Guided tours of the house are given, and two self-catering apartments are available for holiday rental.
Wells Church was built in 1262. The ruin is well preserved, and is surrounded by a beautifully kept graveyard dating back to the 1700s.
Paulstown is near Goresbridge and Gowran on ByRoute 5.
Clara Castle, erected by the long powerful Shortall family, is an unusually well preserved C15th Tower House, with typical Irish merlons along the parapets. The entrance is strengthened by a yett and drawbar behind the door. The building is six stories high and still has many of its original horizontal trellises, oak doors and floors, a splendid fireplace, a murder hole and a remarkable secret chamber, only accessible through an opening masquerading as a lavatory seat. The picturesque forecourt / bawn was probably built in the C17th to protect sheep from thieves at night.
Clara Castle is
Ballyfoyle (Co. Kilkenny / North)
Ballyfoyle is the site of a Purcell castle ruin and an imposing circular moat.
Dunmore Cave is a deep chasm in an isolated crop of limestone on the Castlecomer Plateau, overlooking the Dinn River.
The cave was anciently known as Dearc Fearna – “the Cavern of the Alders”, one of the three darkest places in Ireland.
The Annals of the Four Masters record that the Norsemen of Dublin, led by Godfrey, grandson of Imhar, massacred 1000 people here in 928 AD.
Centuries later, a party of English soldiers entered the cave, and were never seen again, although tradition tells that their fifes and drums could be heard underground in Kilkenny City.
In 1999 a hoard of silver and bronze ingots and conical buttons dating from c.970 AD was found in a rocky cleft deep within the cave.
Dunmore contains some of the finest calcite formations found in any Irish cave. The most important is a 5.8m / 19ft stalagmite called the Market Cross.
Ballyfoyle, due north of Kilkenny City, is not far from Jenkinstown on ByRoute 7.
Threecastles / Three Castles / Odagh is graced by an elegant five-arched stone bridge (1790) spanning a photogenic stretch of the River Nore. The original crossing point is said to have been guarded by three castles.
Tullaroan (Co. Kilkenny / North)
Tullaroan is a village close to the beautiful Slieveardagh Hills.
Brod Tullaroan, a C17th thatched farmhouse, was the home of 1920s hurling hero Lory Meagher, and is now the Lory Meagher Heritage Centre. The main building has been restored as it was in 1884 to give an idea of what life was like for rich Irish farming families at that time. Separate buildings contain Kilkenny GAA memorabilia.
Tullaroan lies between Kilmanagh on ByRoute 5 and Freshford on ByRoute 7.
Grange is the location of the Grange Cragwalk, featuring a pretty waterfall, an Ice House and a very impressive Wellington monument, erected in 1817 by Sir William Barker to commemorate the Duke of Wellington’s 1815 victory at Waterloo. There are fine views of the surrounding Slieveardagh Hills.