Kilkenny is known for Kilkenny Castle, Smithwick’s Brewery, beautiful churches like St. Canice’s Cathedral, and GAA matches. However, like all other towns in Ireland, it is quite famous for its pubs as well. One of the most interesting pubs we visited in Kilkenny is Kyteler’s Inn.
Walking through the streets of Kilkenny, we easily missed this 13th century pub on our first walkthrough of the city centre. The pub is seated on a street corner, however from the outside it looks like an ordinary pub. We began to ask around and heard stories of this famous pub where the owner had been put on trial for witchcraft, and realized we had passed it once or twice already as we wandered around. Upon entering, we found ourselves nearly in awe as our expectations met reality. We were expecting to see a modernized, fully renovated building which simply claimed to still be the oldest pub in the area, however we were met with a candle lit room made of 700 year old stone walls with low arched ceilings and uneven floors. The walls are actually made from the original stones used in the building. In 1986 the pub was purchased by the present-day owner Nicky Flynn who had the intention of reviving the pub. She discovered the original walls lying underneath the plaster during the renovation and hired local stonemasons to come out and repair the original walls. Yes, the pub had its modernized sections with plasma televisions projecting the match of the day and flashing LED signs, but the part of the building which has been nearly perfectly restored over the years was incredible to see.
The history of the pub dates back to 1263 when it was the home of Dame Alice de Kyteler, daughter of a Norman banker. It was properly established in 1324 after Alice was put to trial and sentenced to be burned as part of the witch trials here in Ireland. She had four husbands throughout her lifetime and had accrued a decent amount of wealth due to this. Her enemies eventually caught up with her when one of her servants Petronella de Meath was tortured and eventually confessed to performing witchcraft. This incriminated Kyteler and she was to be burned at the stake for similar charges, however she still had a few friends in the local gentry who helped her to escape to Britain where she was never heard from again.
This story draws lots of tourists into the pub and it surely sucked us in as well. It was in the middle of the day on a Sunday when we made our visit, so it wasn’t particularly lively; however the pub holds Irish music and dance classes such as bodhran sessions. It was awarded the Irish Music Bar of the Year Award in 2012 for its outstanding atmosphere and reflecting upon our visit it becomes apparent that this pub was very deserving and reflective of that award. With plenty of space to sit and eat as well as sing and dance this warm, cozy, and comfortable pub is truly a great example of a traditional Irish pub. It would be interesting to return to Kyteler’s Inn to witness some of this Irish music and good craic; however I fear I may not have the opportunity.