Friday, October 18, 2013

Kilkenny Castle: Architecture and Design Through the Ages

The Kilkenny Castle located on the River Nore in Kilkenny City was built in the early 13th century.  Throughout the history of the castle the building was renovated a number of times as the building changed owners, making the site today a mixture of architectural styles and time periods.

There are guided tours available at the Castle, however I arrived in between tours so the staff provided a map and sent me off on a self-guided tour.  The layout of the castle was a bit confusing at times, mostly because of the numerous renovations and additions that the building as undergone.  Resulting in the walk through the space feeling disjointed.

This disjointed feeling might also come from the fact that because the Castle was occupied for centuries the interpretation of the site tries to include elements from different time periods.  So the medieval period is seen in the basement of the castle where there are arrow loops, defensive rooms, and a wicker style ceiling. This is contrasted with a dinning room that reflects life in the castle during the 1860s and the library which is decorated in late 19th century style.

Perhaps the most striking architectural addition to the Castle is the Picture Gallery Wing which was added to the building in the early 1800s by architect William Robertson.  The high painted pitched roof is remarkable and the Gallery contains many of the portraits and paintings that were collected by former residents of the castle. 

The Castle is surrounded by gardens and parkland that is open to the public.  Elements of the older gardens have been maintained including a rose garden, sculptures, and walking paths.  Though many of the trees have been removed to provide open park space.

Former Carriage Building
Across the road from the Castle are the former carriage buildings and stable yard which were built in 1790.  The former stable buildings are now owned by Kilkenny Civic Trust and feature a number of craft studies, the Kilkenny Design Centre, and the Crafts Council of Ireland. The buildings are beautiful with a number of rounded arches, circular windows, and copper-domed tower being highlights.  The Design Centre also has a variety of handmade Irish crafts, which I could have spent hours looking at -- I ended up buying a hat that was made locally. It was great to see the stables buildings being used and the exteriors of the buildings being preserved.

Photographs by Andrew MacKay

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