Most of County Kilkenny consists of undulating limestone plain; however, in the north, in Castlecomer district, there are some uplands that provide attractive scenery, as well as to the west, extending across the County Tipperary border - Slieveardagh Hills and Booley Hills. The valleys of the rivers Nore and Barrow have many pleasant landscapes and the county town, Kilkenny, situated at the confluence of the rivers Barrow, Nore and Suir, has numerous points of interest.
The city boasts Ireland's best preserved medieval town centres. Also, the name of the Earls of Ormonde is essentially attached to Kilkenny, since they founded the town, on an existing old Irish settlement. Kilkenny is one of the most picturesque and interesting Ireland has to offer, with narrow winding streets and the Kilkenny Castle and St. Canice Cathedral dominating the town centre. At some point in its history, it challenged Dublin in importance, especially as it was the seat of the medieval Irish parliament called "The Confederation of Kilkenny" at that time. It was the seat of the Earls of Ormonde from the 14th century until 1935.
The town is home to the Arts Festival and the Cat Loughs Comedy Festival for four weeks every year. The Arts Festival is famous around Europe, and it offers music, theatre, literature, film, dance and visual arts every August. It has everything, from cartoons for the kids to serious contemporary drama and classical music. The surroundings for the festival have to be seen to be believed Kilkenny Castle, Duiske Abbey, and there are a lot of outdoor performances as well.
The county has a lot more to offer, apart from its main town. Another historical point of interest not to be missed is Jerpoint Abbey, probably the most impressive monastic ruin in the country, dating from the 12th century. It has some intricate carvings and paintings, as well as well-preserved living quarters and choir, and among the chief attractions, the massive 15th century tower must be mentioned. The cemetery here is still used by the local population.
Kells is a picturesque little village, famous for its 13th century Augustinian Priory, around which it was built. It is called "Kells-in-Ossory", to distinguish it from Kells in Co. Meath. The Priory is noteworthy for being more fortified than most castles built in the same period.
The county has numerous other ancient sites that include Iron Age fortifications, carved stones and crosses, castles and abbeys.
Kilkenny is also home to one of the most interesting and most visited cave, Dunmore Cave, a huge attraction for tourists. Dunmore Cave contains three caverns and dozen of chambers, with many limestone formations worth seeing. Europe's largest free stalagmite is located here "The Market Cross", as it is called by the locals, measuring over 20 feet across. The caves are now a national monument and relics as old as the 10th century were found here, as well as the bones of 50 women and children who tried to find shelter here during a Viking raid.
Kilkenny is also an excellent sporting county, with good opportunities for hunting, angling, shooting and golf, and the county pastime is hurling. The are golf clubs available at Kilkenny, Castlecomer, Callan, riding schools at Warrington, Freshford, Thomastown, adventure centres (Clay Pigeon Shooting at Cuffesgrange, the Countryside Leisure Activity Centre at Bonnettsrath) and open farms (Nore Valley Park at Bennettsbridge).