7. Recreation, Tourism and the Arts

7   Recreation, Tourism & the Arts

Strategic Aim: To protect and improve recreational, tourism and arts facilities for the benefit of residents and for the promotion of tourism.   

7.1   Introduction

Open space performs a wide range of roles in enhancing cities, towns, rural villages and the wider countryside, including functions relating to amenity, biodiversity, education, social and community benefits, and health benefits.  Playing fields, parks, gardens and informal open spaces are not only important as a recreational resource but also provide valuable green areas for wildlife corridors and habitats, act as buffers between different land uses, enhance visual amenity especially in developed areas and contribute to the health and quality of life of citizens.

The Council is committed to the protection and sustainable development of the amenities of the county for recreational purposes to benefit the residents of the County and to aid in the promotion of tourism.  The Council will use its powers under the Planning & Development Acts to ensure that adequate recreational open space and facilities are provided for all groups of the population at a convenient distance from their homes and places of work.

Residents of, and visitors to, Kilkenny City and County benefit from a rich natural heritage, including its rivers valleys, wetlands, woodlands and uplands.  These natural heritage components plus open spaces and playing fields form part of the interconnected networks of Green Infrastructure in the county and its urban areas. 

7.2   Provision of Public Open Space & Recreational Facilities

The Council will endeavour to make provision for a hierarchy of parks, open spaces and recreation areas within the County so that the population can participate in a wide range of active and passive recreational pursuits within easy reach of their homes and places of work.

The Council, with the assistance of the Social Economic Committee, agencies and sporting organisations in Kilkenny, will seek to:

  • Increase levels of local participation, improve access and promote the development of opportunities for all groups to become involved in sports and recreation, in conjunction with Kilkenny Recreation and Sports Partnership (www.krsp.ie.).  This is particularly relevant in the case of low participation groups such as disadvantaged groups, older people, girls and women, people with disabilities, unemployed people and those who live in disadvantaged communities or areas lacking amenity infrastructure.
  • Encourage where appropriate better use of existing facilities and assist in the provision of new facilities.


  • The Council shall seek the preservation and improvement of amenities and recreational amenity facilities, and shall facilitate and provide for the extension of recreational amenities in the county where appropriate, subject to environmental, heritage and financial considerations.


7.2.1   Protection of Open Space

The Planning Authority will not normally permit development which is not compatible with or would result in the loss of green infrastructure or land zoned for recreational or open space purposes. An exception may be considered where one or more of the following requirements are demonstrably met:

  • There is a clear excess of playing fields or open space provision within the area. This should take into account the long-term needs of the community, the type, recreational, amenity value and accessibility of such provision.
  • Alternative compensatory provision is made which is both accessible to and of equal or greater quality and benefit to the community served by the existing open space.
  • The continued use, proper maintenance and enhancement of the amenity/facility can best be achieved by the redevelopment of a small part of the site that will not adversely affect its overall sporting, recreational and/or amenity value.
  • The site is indicated for an alternative use in the development plan.

7.3   Recreation and the Countryside

7.3.1   Outdoor Recreation in the Countryside

The Council will normally permit development proposals for outdoor recreational use in the countryside where all the following criteria are met:

  • It will not result in damage to sites of nature conservation importance or features of the archaeological and built heritage;
  • It will not result in the loss of the best and most versatile agricultural land;
  • It will not  cause harm to the appearance and character of the local landscape and can be readily absorbed into its surroundings by taking advantage of existing vegetation and /or topography;
  • The amenity of the people living nearby or the enjoyment of other countryside users is not adversely affected by the nature, scale, extent, frequency or timing of the recreational activities proposed including any noise or lighting likely to be generated;
  • Any ancillary built development is small in scale, designed to a high standard and sympathetic to the surrounding environment in its siting, layout and landscape treatment.
  • Consideration is given to access to the proposed facility by means of transport other  than the private car and;
  • The local road network can safely handle the extra traffic the proposal would generate and satisfactory arrangements are provided for access, parking, drainage, litter and water services.

7.3.2   Walking and Cycling

The Irish Sports Council has published an Irish Trails Strategy[1], which outlines the numerous benefits of recreational trails.  There are a number of walking routes available in Kilkenny, through publicly owned and private lands – including long distance and looped walks and hiking routes[2].  Current trails (and rights of way) are depicted on Figure 7.1.  Kilkenny Local Authorities will continue to identify and promote a series of walking routes within the city and county and to link these to a strategic network of trails within the city, county and adjoining counties where feasible. 

Long distance walking routes in the county include the South Leinster Way stretching from Graiguenamanagh to Piltown and the Nore Valley Walk.  The walk is divided into three sections: Kilkenny to Bennettsbridge (completed), Bennettsbridge to Thomastown (under development), and Thomastown to Inistioge (completed).  Trail Kilkenny are the lead agency in the development of this walk. Along distance walking route also exists along the River Barrow.


The Council will continue to assist with and support the development of the Nore Valley Walk and protect its route from encroachment by unsympathetic development.

There are also a number of looped tracks and trails throughout the county that have been developed by various agencies.  Trail Kilkenny has developed nine ‘looped’ walking trails to Fáilte Ireland standards, with another eight in development.  There are also a number of walks developed through Coillte forestry lands and in nature conservation sites that are open to the public.  The Council recognises the value of looped walkways with public lighting in towns and villages such as those in Paulstown and Callan, and will facilitate further development of such walks where feasible.

Long distance cycling trails have been developed or are in various stages of development throughout the county through the work of a number of agencies.  Trail Kilkenny have developed the east (65km) and north (83km) cycle routes and are in the process of developing a long distance cycle route in the south of the county.  Under the National Cycle Network funding scheme a route will link Kilkenny City with Carlow town with a total length of 44.5km. 

The Council will investigate the potential of and opportunities for the funding of walking and cycling greenways and trails in the county, including off-road cycling routes; and for the development of linkages between existing trails and others in adjoining counties; and support national trail development in conjunction with other local authorities, agencies and organisations.  Kilkenny Local Authorities will continue to support and facilitate the on-going development of walking and cycling routes and trails in the city and county in conjunction with agencies such as Trail Kilkenny (see http://www.trailkilkenny.ie) and subject to resources will support the proposals as set out in the Trail Kilkenny Development & Business Plan[3].

Objective: To develop a walking and cycling strategy within the life of this plan.

Disused railways lines provide opportunities for off-road walking and cycling routes.  The Council in conjunction with Laois County Council, Trail Kilkenny and Abbeyleix Community Development are currently examining the feasibility of using the former Kilkenny to Portlaoise railway line as a trail; and the Suir, Nore and Barrow Railway Heritage Co. Ltd. with Trail Kilkenny and Kilkenny County Council are examining the feasibility of a walking, cycling and tourism narrow gauge rail service along the old New Ross to Waterford line.

The Council will explore the possibility of cycle-ways in parks and recreational areas in Kilkenny and along river banks subject to environmental, heritage and economic considerations.

Possibilities for improved signage and maps should be facilitated to ensure wider access to the county’s recreational assets.

Objective:      To protect the New Ross to Waterford railway line from encroachment by development and to retain its continuity.

To protect the Kilkenny to Portlaoise former railway line and spur line to Castlecomer from encroachment by development and support the development of a trail if feasible.


7.3.3   The Rivers Nore, Suir and Barrow

The Rivers Nore, Suir and Barrow (known as the “Three Sisters”) are the principal rivers flowing through County Kilkenny, and they form part of the Natura 2000 network (see Section 8.2).  These rivers, together with their tributaries offer significant opportunities for recreational opportunities both water and landside, including an interconnecting network of routes for walking and cycling which also provide access for water-sports such as swimming, angling, boating, kayaking and nature trails amongst others.  Routes along the river have the potential to connect to other trails and routes along the River Nore have been extended out of Kilkenny city to link with routes in the countryside.

The Council will promote the natural amenity potential of the Rivers Nore, Suir and Barrow in order to facilitate the development of amenity, recreational, biodiversity and tourism benefits for the city and county generally, and will work with adjoining local authorities agencies and communities to improve access and facilities along the river in appropriate locations subject to the availability of resources.   Development Management Standard:

  • Require that development along rivers set aside land for recreation routes that could be linked to the wider network of green infrastructure and any established settlements in their vicinity, subject to environmental considerations and compliance with the Habitats Directive.   River Nore

The setting of Kilkenny city in the Nore River Valley provides an opportunity for establishing open spaces and networks of open spaces of strategic value and importance within the city.  During the formulation of the Kilkenny Heritage Plan, the River Nore was identified as one of the county’s most important heritage resources. The river encompasses built, natural and cultural heritage; is strongly identified with, and has had a very significant influence on, the life and development of the county.  The River Nore Heritage Audit[4] has been undertaken as an action of the Heritage Plan.  The study provides a comprehensive mapped dataset of the built, natural and cultural heritage of the study area, and the resulting report (which is in the final stages of completion) and database is a very significant resource for community, heritage and tidy towns groups; it has the potential to inform planning and management of the area; and is a baseline against which change can be assessed[5].  

Kilkenny County Council and Trail Kilkenny are working together using the findings of this study on the ‘Explore the Nore’ project to further develop, promote and protect the recreational, tourism, heritage and educational potential of the river and associated heritage.   River Barrow

The River Barrow flows along the eastern boundary of the county from north of Goresbridge to just north of Belview Port where it joins the River Suir to flow into Waterford Harbour.  The River Barrow towpath is a significant amenity resource which runs along the riverbank on the County Carlow side of the river.  An outdoor tourism hub is being developed in Graiguenamanagh to enhance the tourism potential of the area.

An inter-agency project has been carried out involving Kilkenny County Council and lead by Waterways Ireland The Barrow Corridor – Recreational, Tourism and Commercial Product Identification Study 2011[6].  The study incorporates an Action Plan to increase the tourism and recreation potential of the river under the seven programme groups – Navigation Infrastructure Development, Activity Hubs and Tourism Trails, Boating and Cruising Development, Raising the Tourism Profile of the Barrow, Nature and Wildlife Sites, Barrow Way and South Leinster Way Trail Enhancement and Coarse Angling Centre of Excellence.  The Council will support proposals to enhance the tourism and recreation potential of the area subject to environmental, economic and heritage considerations.

Further to the findings of the study an interagency project involving Kilkenny Leader Partnership Unlocking the Barrow Strategic Plan 2013[7] focuses on the navigation potential and problems of the River Barrow and the report sets out proposals to address the areas limiting the full navigation potential of the river.   River Suir

The Suir River Valley also offers significant opportunities for the development of tourism and recreation in the south of the county. 

7.3.4   Riverside Development

Factors that will be taken into account when considering proposals affecting the rivers include:

  • Any landscape or nature, built heritage or archaeological designation for the area,
  • Any proposals to increase the extent of public access,
  • The extent of any environmental improvements to the water environment and its surroundings,
  • The nature of any recreation use proposed; and
  • Any conflict or compliance with proposals for walking or cycling routes.   Development associated with Water Sports

The Council will normally only permit proposals for development associated with water sports adjacent to waterways and inland lakes where all the following criteria are met. 

  • The proposed facilities are compatible with any existing use of the water, including non-recreational uses;
  • It will not have adverse impacts on any Natura 2000 site, will not result in damage to sites of nature conservation importance or features of the archaeological and built heritage;
  • The development can be satisfactorily integrated into its landscape or townscape surroundings;
  • The development will not have an unacceptable impact on visual amenity, having regard to the landscape character assessment; and
  • The development will not result in over intensification of use leading to pollution, excessive noise and nuisance.


Water sports cover a wide range of activities from tranquil uses such as angling, sailing, canoeing, rowing and sail boarding to powered activities such as water-skiing and powerboat uses.  The Council may require management plans for particular water areas to address the compatibility of such varying demands.

Most development associated with water sports such as slipways, boathouses, toilet and changing facilities, parking areas and access will require planning permission, and all will require screening for Appropriate Assessment.  The Council will require a high quality of design in terms of layout, buildings and other structures and in the treatment of boundaries either adjacent to the road or the actual waterway.  The Council will normally require details of landscaping and surface treatments to accompany all planning applications.

7.3.5   Woodlands

Woodlands provide recreational opportunities in addition to their heritage and economic benefits, they are important as links in the county’s green infrastructure network.  Coillte have provided access to many of their forests and support the use of the forests for recreational uses.  Coillte’s Recreation Policy – Healthy Forest, Healthy Nation[8] states that Coillte recognises that forests provide an excellent landscape for a wide range of recreational activities, and Coillte will continue to provide recreation that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable

7.3.6   Public Rights of Way

A public right of way is a person’s right of passage along a road or path, even if the road or path is not in public ownership.  They can be created by use from time immemorial, by statute or by dedication by the full owner of the land.  The Council recognises the legal rights of all landowners and that rights of access to their lands may only be obtained with their permission where an existing right of way does not exist.   A list of existing known rights of way in the county are included as on Appendix D to this plan and are shown on Figure 7.1.  Known existing rights of way at the time of writing this Plan are listed, however this is not a comprehensive list, and further work will be carried out during the life of this plan to provide a more extensive listing.

The Council will use its powers under the Planning Acts to preserve and protect existing rights of way, to determine where public rights exist and where public rights of way should be created, and to promote their greater use in amenity areas – including access points to the Rivers Nore, Suir and Barrow and other amenity areas of the County. 

In addition the Council may seek to incorporate the provision of pedestrian ways as a condition of planning permission to link amenities, facilities and points of interest.  The Council will also encourage the provision of access routes to amenity areas in co-operation with landowners and protect amenity areas from infringement by inappropriate development, and will seek to improve the provision of local parks and play spaces and extend those spaces and pathways that can usefully form green links, footways and cycle ways to connect residential areas with parks and open spaces and with each other.

Development Management Standard:

  • The Council will ensure that development does not impinge on public walking routes or on public rights of way. 


  • The Council shall preserve and protect existing public rights of way which give access to seashore, uplands, riverbank or other places of natural beauty or recreational use.
  • To undertake a survey of existing public rights of way in the county and establish a register within the life of the Plan.


7.4   Urban Recreation – Parks

7.4.1   Regional Parks

Recreational space is provided in parks of various sizes throughout the county – such as the Castle Park and through privately owned estate lands such as Castlecomer Demesne and the Woodstock Estate in Council ownership.  

Following on from the Kilkenny Open Space, Sports and Recreation Study a park building strategy was commenced.  To date a number of parks have been completed or are at various stages of planning or construction, including the Nore Linear Park in the city and a proposal for urban enhancement of the areas between John’s Bridge and Green’s Bridge as part of the Medieval Mile project.  There are also public parks in Thomastown, Castlecomer and Callan; and ‘tone zones’ comprising areas of exercise equipment have been incorporated into these parks to improve their recreational value.   Nore Linear Park

The Nore Linear Park project provides a network of footpaths and cycleways along the river in the City and Environs combined with a sequence of high quality public spaces, which is a significant recreational asset to the city.  Within the City, a walk between Talbotsinch and Ossory Bridge has been developed and upgraded to make it accessible to all users, including cyclists, people with disabilities and people using buggies.  It is also proposed to develop the walk as a loop which will require potentially three pedestrian bridges: one at Talbotsinch, one along Bateman quay and also at Ossory Bridge.  Other features will be examined such as the reinstatement of the Bandstand at Dukesmeadows and the second Tea House near the Smithwick’s site. Due to the size of the project and level of expense, it will be completed in phases over a number of years; however, it is envisaged that it will be complete within the lifetime of this Plan.  The Nore Linear Park also connects with countryside riverside trails to the south, and this is the starting point of the Nore Valley Walk.

The Council shall ensure that parks in public ownership continue to be appropriately managed.  

Kilkenny Local Authorities are investigating the location of outdoor recreational facilities to enhance the existing public space within a central urban area in Kilkenny City, such as The Mayor’s Walk, in conjunction with the Older People’s Forum, Comhairle na nÓg and the Kilkenny Access Group.


Complete the development of the River Nore Linear Park within the lifetime of the Plan.


7.4.2   Neighbourhood Parks

The Regional and City wide parks as outlined above will provide the major concentrations of amenity within the city, however, the day to day recreational provision to local communities will be provided by a series of neighbourhood parks.


In the larger county towns a town park may be appropriate and these ‘town parks’ are generally in a very central location and easily accessible – such as those in Castlecomer, Thomastown, Callan and Graiguenamanagh. They should provide facilities for both formal and informal recreation in a parkland environment.  Works are on-going for the development of an outdoor tourism hub in Graiguenamanagh as part of a multi-agency initiative on lands owned by the Council to be ceded to the Barrow Valley Community Development Ltd. 

Development Management Standard:

  • New open space must be well integrated to any proposed development and should have good pedestrian and cyclist linkages and access for persons with disabilities.

7.5   Play Policy

The Kilkenny Interagency Play Forum Play Plan 2007 to 2012[9] was developed based on the National Play Policy Ready, Steady, Play! A National Play Policy[10].  The policy advocates a child-centered approach to the development of play facilities.  The Council will seek to maintain the quality and safety of playgrounds and play areas and create a child-friendly and safe environment where the importance of play is recognised for a child’s development. 

A number of playgrounds have been developed in various locations throughout the city and county as follows (see Figure 7.2):

Kilkenny City:     Assumption Place, Fr. McGrath Centre, Garringreen, Newpark Close, St.

                Catherine’s Halting Site, Talbot’s Court.

County:                Ballyhale, Bennettsbridge, Callan, Castlecomer Demesne, Coon, Ferrybank – Blackthorn Hills, Fiddown, Graiguenamanagh, Kilmacow, Mooncoin, Mullinavat, Thomastown, Woodstock, Inistioge

Under Construction: Ballyragget

At advanced planning stage: Paulstown, Stoneyford, Clough.


The Council has undertaken a mapping exercise that identifies existing play services, facilities and amenities and highlights gaps in these areas across the county; refer to Figure 7.2 for further detail.

The Council in conjunction with Kilkenny Leader Partnership will investigate the development of playgrounds in the county, as resources permit and will assist communities in the development of the playgrounds.  The Council will also require provision for children’s play or developer contributions towards providing children’s play facilities in association with new residential developments.  Within new residential developments where there is a significant family residential component the whole environment should be designed so as to permit children to play in safety.

7.6   Active Recreational Facilities

There are a large number of built recreation and sporting facilities provided throughout the county through a mix of public, private, schools, community facilities and voluntary organisations – both indoor and outdoor facilities.  Hurling and equestrian pursuits are of considerable importance to the county.  Outdoor facilities include playing pitches, golf courses, pitch and putt courses, and athletic running tracks.  Some of these facilities also combine other uses – such as the walking tracks developed around playing pitches and some facilities also combine locations with indoor facilities including swimming pools, gyms and community and sports halls catering for indoor sports – such as at the Watershed in Kilkenny City.

The Council will co-operate with local development organisations, community groups, sporting organisations and other stake holders in the development of active recreational facilities throughout the county and to enter into joint venture arrangements where appropriate for the provision of such facilities.

7.6.1   Protocol for the Development of Facilities

The provision of new facilities may not always be preferred as it may be more appropriate to upgrade, refurbish and improve existing facilities, particularly in established settlements. The following protocol will be used to ensure that development occurs in an orderly, sustainable manner, and should be considered as a sequential approach to developing or improving facilities (where existing).

  1. Bring into use a redundant or infrequently used facility.
  2. Make better / more frequent use of existing sports facilities.
  3. Improve management procedures within existing facilities.
  4. Refurbish facilities within the existing footprint.
  5. Extend existing facilities.
  6. Provide a new stand-alone facility, to be considered as a last option once options (a) to (e) have been explored.

The final option (f) should be chosen after all other options have explored and ruled out.

7.7   Development Management and Recreation

7.7.1   Intensive and Major Sports Facilities

Intensive sports facilities include stadia, leisure centres, sports halls, swimming pools and other indoor and outdoor sports facilities that provide a wide range of activities attracting significant numbers of spectators, that may have long opening hours. The location of intensive sports facilities can often be contentious.

The Council will normally permit development proposals for intensive sports facilities where all of the following criteria are met.

  • The proposal is compatible with development plan zonings.
  • There will be no detrimental impact on residential amenity.
  • It is located so as to be accessible to its catchment population and gives priority to walking, cycling and public transport and does not generate unacceptable levels of traffic.
  • It is designed so as to minimise the impact of noise and light pollution.
  • There is no significant detrimental impact on the natural environment or features of the archaeological or built heritage.
  • The proposal is of high quality design and respects and contributes to the character of its location and townscape.
  • Public access is provided.
  • Ancillary facilities are provided such as childcare facilities.

7.7.2   Noise Generating Sports

The impact of noise is an important issue in assessing proposals for activities such as motor sports.  Appropriate sites for the regular use of these sports are not easy to identify and will depend on the type of activity, the tone, level and duration of any noise generated, local topography and the amount of existing and proposed screening.  Proposals for noisy sports will only be acceptable where the likely impact can be contained and minimised by landform or woodland. Other suitable sites may include degraded land, former mineral workings or land adjacent to an existing source of noise.  In certain cases it may be considered appropriate to only grant a temporary permission to allow the impact of noise levels and any potential disturbance or nuisance to be more fully assessed.

The Council will not normally permit development proposals for sport or recreational uses generating high levels of noise unless the following criteria are met.

  • There will be no unacceptable disturbance to local residents.
  • There will be no unacceptable disturbance to farm livestock and wildlife.
  • There will be no conflict with the enjoyment of areas used for informal recreation.
  • The ambient noise level in the area is already high and the noise likely to be produced by the new activity will not be dominant.


7.7.3   Floodlighting of Recreational Facilities

The Council will normally only permit proposals for the floodlighting of recreational facilities where the amenities of adjacent residents will not be significantly impaired and the visual amenity and character of the locality will not be adversely affected.

7.8   Open Space in new residential development

Applicants will be required to make provision for sports and recreational infrastructure commensurate with the needs generated by any development and the capacity of existing facilities in the area to cater for existing and future needs.

For details of the requirements for the provision of open space within residential developments refer to Section


7.9   Tourism

County Kilkenny has much to offer as a tourist destination, in particular its rich natural, physical and cultural heritage and vibrant city.  County Kilkenny offers visitors a wide range of recreational activities including walking, golf, angling, cycling, equestrian activities, bird watching and canoeing. In addition, there are annual festivals of national and international standards.

As with other areas of the economy, the tourism sector has experienced significant challenges in recent years. Fáilte Ireland statistics show that the numbers of visitors to Ireland has declined significantly since 2007, with the total number of overseas tourists visiting Ireland dropping from 7.7 million in 2007 to 5.9 million in 2010; however there was an increase to 6.3 million overseas visitors in 2011[11].  The South-East welcomed an estimated 685,000 overseas visitors in 2010 providing revenue of €175 million, of which 206,000 visited Kilkenny providing revenue of €30 million[12].   

Domestic tourism (that is, residents of Ireland visiting sites or going on holiday in Ireland) resulted in expenditure of over €1,822 million; in 2011 the South-East attracted approximately 14% of domestic tourism[13].  Kilkenny has traditionally benefited from the domestic tourism market, particularly for short visits and this market is likely to become increasingly important[14].

The Council will support the development of sustainable tourism as an essential element in Kilkenny. This will be achieved through co-operation between Fáilte Ireland, Kilkenny Local Authorities, Kilkenny Tourism, Kilkenny Leader Partnership and neighbouring counties in the South East Region. 


7.9.1   Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable tourism provides a high quality product based on and in harmony with a high quality built and natural environment.  Adverse impacts upon local communities built heritage, landscapes, habitats and species are minimised while the economic benefits accruing to local communities are maximised. 

Strategies for tourism cannot be developed in isolation from an overall framework for management of the built and natural environment. Unmanaged tourism has the potential to become a significant threat to the character of the landscape and local environment.

The term Green Infrastructure is increasingly being used to describe the interconnected networks of land and water all around us that sustain environmental quality and enrich our quality of life.  This includes the nature conservation areas, parks, open space, rivers, floodplains, wetlands, woodlands and farmland which surround and are threaded through our villages, towns and urban areas.  These are elements that Kilkenny’s tourism is built upon and enrich the experience of the tourist to the county, which in turn has economic benefits.  Protection of the county’s natural resources is necessary to sustain economic growth.

Fáilte Ireland’s Historic Towns in Ireland[15] publication states that sustainable tourism development should not only increase revenue for the town’s businesses but should also deliver on conservation, environmental and social goals.

The Council will facilitate measures to sustainably increase the volume of visitors, revenue per visitor, their average length of stay and seasonal spread; whilst protecting the built heritage and green infrastructure that form the resources on which the County’s tourist industry is based.   Kilkenny Local Authorities will support the implementation of the Strategic Marketing Plan for Kilkenny Tourism 2012 and the Fáilte Ireland Destination South East [16]and Destination Kilkenny [17]Development Strategies.


7.9.2   The Tourism Product

County Kilkenny has a diverse range of tourist attractions which can be capitalised on to develop a strong, year-round, high quality sustainable tourism industry.

Fáilte Ireland research in 2008 found that over €2.2 billion was generated by visitors to sites of historical/ cultural interest in Ireland[18].  Cultural /heritage tourism contribute 54% to total overseas tourism revenue, whilst those based on the county’s green infrastructure contribute a combined 18% of overseas revenue including hiking and walking, golf, cycling, angling and equestrian[19].  Also culture and heritage tourists tend to stay in Ireland for longer and spend more[20].  Therefore the heritage of the county has direct economic benefits for the county and care must be taken to manage development of these assets whilst ensuring that they are also protected and conserved. 

The Arts is also an integral part of the cultural, tourism and economic development of the county and is discussed in more detail later in this chapter.

Visitor surveys by Fáilte Ireland in 2010 found that Kilkenny Castle (192,777 visitors) and Nicholas Mosse Pottery (95,000 visitors) were amongst the top 10 attractions in the South-East Region[21].  Tourist attractions in the county outside the City include Mount Juliet Estate, Castlecomer Demesne and Interpretative Centre, Brandon Hill, Dunmore Caves, Jerpoint Abbey, Rice House in Callan, Duiske Abbey in Graiguenamanagh, Kells Priory, Woodstock Estate and the river valleys. Kilkenny’s international reputation as a centre of design and high quality craft production is a proven asset.


Events such as festivals, fairs and concerts present enormous opportunities for retailers and consideration should be given to this in encouraging the development of new events and developing a countywide programme of activities for visitors. Festivals such as Kilkenny Arts Festival, The Cat Laughs Comedy Festival, Rhythm and Roots Festival, Savour Food Festival, Celtic Festival and Kilkenomics have raised the profile of Kilkenny City as a tourism destination.

Festivals such as Éigse, Slieverue and the Iverk Show are long-running shows that contribute to tourism in the county. 

The Council will support the development of existing festivals and support the establishment of new festivals in appropriate locations where there is a demonstrable demand and market for them, to promote increased retail tourism throughout the County.   Flagship Projects

The development of flagship projects will assist in the diversification of the tourism product – including varied projects such as the Medieval Mile (as discussed in Chapter 4), the River Nore Walking Route and Rothe House.  Mount Juliet Estate is discussed in further detail in section 7.9.5.   The Councils will support the development of flagship tourism products, in the city and county.   Trails in Kilkenny

A series of trails focusing on different themes have been developed by Trail Kilkenny throughout the county.  These include trails focusing on Craft, visiting craftspeople in their workshop throughout the county, a food trail and activity trails including walking and cycling trails.  Walking and cycling trails can make a significant contribution to sustainable tourism development.  The council will encourage and promote walking and cycling-based tourism in the city and county through its policies and its role in development management.

7.9.3   Integrated Rural Tourism

While seeking to ensure that most tourism development locates in or close to towns and villages, the Council recognises that by its nature, some tourism development may require alternative locations. Such development may be acceptable if it accords with Landscape Character policies and provides a range of facilities which would also be made available to the local community.

Integrated Rural Tourism is directly and positively linked to the economic, social, cultural and natural resource in rural areas.  It is an approach to tourism development, which is sensitive to the nature of local resources, traditions and opportunities and endeavours to optimise the use of resources and shares the benefits throughout the area.

In order to promote balanced regional development, while also preserving the rural character and amenity of the open countryside and boosting rural tourism, an area needs to be self sufficient with a full range of services. This may include for example accommodation, farmer’s markets, organic produce, activity holidays, walking/cycling facilities, golf, fishing, boating and swimming facilities.

There is an existing range of special interest and other attractions that can be further developed for tourists while also preserving the rural character and amenity of the open countryside, these include on-farm tourist accommodation, fishing, equestrian pursuits and other secondary activities such as health spas, cooking schools and adventure centres.  Although rural tourism remains a relatively small niche in the overall tourism industry it can play a vital role for local communities including a supplementary role for the farming community. These activities all serve to encourage visitors to stay longer in the County.

Development Management Standards:

  • The Council will support the development of niche activities, such as those relating to food (particularly value-added products), forestry (such as wood products), crafts, eco-tourism and agri-tourism, for example farmhouse accommodation, open farms, farm holidays, health farms, equestrian activities including bridle paths, bird-watching holidays; painting/photography tuition, angling tourism, field studies and hill-walking (with the co-operation of the landowners).
  • To facilitate the development of agri-tourism, consideration will be given to tourist facilities and tourism accommodation on agricultural holdings where the proposed units involve the reuse and refurbishment of under-utilised agricultural buildings which will remain an integral part of the landholding. 


7.9.4  Tourist Facilities and Infrastructure

High quality, safe and well located facilities and infrastructure are essential in creating a good experience for visitors. This includes infrastructure such as walking and cycling trails, river based infrastructure for angling and river amenities, transport and signage. 

The councils will encourage and assist development and tourist bodies in the provision of adequate recreational and tourism infrastructure and to further develop tourist orientated facilities in the County.  The councils will improve tourism infrastructure throughout the County such as signage, public realm upgrading, parking facilities, traffic management, and amenities and service/rest facilities as resources permit.   Tourism Accommodation

The County offers high quality hotel accommodation and guesthouse accommodation which, together with tourist attractions, will encourage people to visit the County and encourage these visitors to stay longer.

Key towns and villages act as tourist centres and the facilities and the services they provide are crucial to the development of the tourist potential of the County. Appropriate tourist accommodation and facilities must be provided throughout the county for this purpose.

7.9.5   Mount Juliet Estate

Mount Juliet Estate and the adjoining Ballylinch Stud are situated in the Nore Valley to the west of Thomastown. Mount Juliet is generally recognised as a high quality tourism and sporting resource of significant local, national and international importance.  It is also a significant built, natural and cultural heritage resource.  The golf course and stud are recognised on an international scale, with the stud in operation since 1914 and the golf course has played host to international competitions.  The estate and stud are a significant source of direct and indirect employment in the county.  An action plan was developed for the estate in 2000 to set out the guiding principles and overall future direction for the development of the estate.  The objectives of the action plan have been largely delivered over the intervening period.  The provisions of the action plan have been incorporated into this plan which now aims to facilitate appropriate development in a manner which respects the sensitive nature of the landscape, heritage and environmental attributes of the estate and seeks to ensure their protection and enhancement,   see Figure 7.3.   

Mount Juliet Development Management Standards

  • To protect and enhance the Protected Structure, its curtilage and attendant grounds and woodlands.  To protect and enhance existing landscape, ecological, water quality and other environmental amenities and in particular to provide for the protection of the River Nore (designated cSAC and SPA).
  • To provide for the maintenance and enhancement of tourism, sporting, leisure and related uses, and of existing agricultural and equestrian lands and buildings in an area of sensitive landscape. 
  • To protect the residential amenity of existing dwellings.

Permissible uses/ developments:

  • Equestrian, sport and leisure facilities.
  • Stores, machinery storage/repair & office uses related to maintenance of estate lands.


Uses open for consideration:

  • Temporary tented or other temporary enclosures.


Table 7.1: Mount Juliet Protected views




From Mount Juliet House to Ballylinch Stud


Approach from Thomastown gate towards Mount Juliet House and the Inch


River valley from White bridge


River valley from Ballylinch bridge



Table 7.2: Mount Juliet Site-specific Development Management Standards

Map Ref. 



To protect and enhance Mount Juliet House (protected structure), its curtilage and attendant grounds and allow for its extension as appropriate.


To protect and enhance existing archaeological features:

2a Ecclesiastical Remains

2b Castle and Mansion

2c Enclosure

2d Enclosure


To protect and enhance the existing south western entrance to the estate, gate lodges, boundary walls and road frontage.


To protect and enhance the existing Thomastown entrance to the estate, gate lodges, boundary walls and road frontage.


To provide for the enhancement of the cricket pavilion facilities.

6 & 7

To provide for the enhancement and development of tourism, leisure and recreational facilities and related activities at appropriate locations within the estate, including the Hunters Yard and the Walled Garden, without detracting from the estate’s built and natural heritage.


To provide for the development of additional lodges adjacent to the existing Rose Garden lodges associated with the estate’s tourism, leisure and recreational functions without detracting from the estate’s landscape character and built and natural heritage.


Provide for an extension to the existing golf maintenance facility to include changing area and other associated staff uses. 


Provide for the development of 3 no. detached houses associated with the estate’s sporting and recreational functions. 


Provide for a house at the maintenance facility building associated with the estate’s sporting and recreational facilities.



Provide for estate maintenance/administration area at an appropriate location to replace existing maintenance facility building for the on-going management of the estate.


Provide for the development of 9 no. houses at the Kennels site similar to those at the Gallops subject to the capacity of the estate to absorb development without detracting from the estate’s landscape character and built and natural heritage context.



7.10   Arts and Cultural Development

Kilkenny City and County has an extensive, illustrious and spirited tradition within the arts. The arts continue to be a significant ingredient largely contributing to the progression of the social, cultural, creative, economic, and political future of Kilkenny.

Cultural development is seen as an integral part of the overall development of the county. The culture of a county, city or town is one of the crucial aspects which distinguish it from other counties or cities and the capacity to regenerate communities and a claim to the world’s attention and investment is very much based on the county’s cultural offerings. Cultural development creates cultural heritage.

Kilkenny County Council’s Arts Office works to develop, co-ordinate, motivate, inspire and empower artistic activity throughout the city and county.  The office promotes the arts as a worthwhile activity for all, providing advice and support for groups and individuals, and works to strengthen Kilkenny’s position as a centre of excellence for the arts and ensure a successful and prosperous arts environment. The Council works to ensure that there is continued support in this sector, not simply for its intrinsic value, but as a driver of major economic development.


7.10.1   Arts Organisations

Kilkenny’s cultural and arts organisations span a diverse breadth of disciplines and activity including Barnstorm Theatre Company, the Butler Gallery, Kilkenny Arts Festival, the National Craft Gallery, the Cat Laughs Comedy Festival, Savour Food Festival, Kilkenomics, Kilkenny Collective for Arts Talent (KCAT) inclusive Arts Centre, Young Irish Filmmakers, Devious Theatre Company and Cartoon Saloon.  All of these fulfil important roles within the arts and cultural development of the county and have raised its profile nationally and internationally.  The Council are cognisant of the reality of the location market and that cities and regions are competing to attract businesses, direct investments and creative talents. In order to succeed it is necessary to offer diversified cultural offerings and quality of life and lifestyle. Both of these are extremely important to society today. The support of existing organisations and creative industries is crucial and successful business and cultural activity attracts further business and complementary industry to locate and relocate to specific regions. Essentially our culture strengthens the position of the county and acts as an inspirational, enriching and enticing ambassador.

7.10.2   Arts Infrastructure

Kilkenny is served by a selection of general venue, performance and exhibition spaces, including the internationally-recognised Butler Gallery, the National Craft Gallery (Crafts Council of Ireland), the Watergate Theatre, Rothe House, St. Canice’s Cathedral city, pop up spaces and the libraries.  The Arts Strategy[22]has identified a need for a small, flexible venue in the county to fulfil a multiplicity of roles ranging from space for community groups, dance, band rehearsal, theatre rehearsal, performance and storage facilities. 


  • To develop an arts venue within the county to fulfil a multiplicity artistic uses.
  • To implement the  Kilkenny Local Authorities Arts Strategy


[2] A list of existing walking and cycling routes is included in Appendix C to this plan and shown on Figure 7.1.

[4] Kilkenny Heritage Forum, River Nore Heritage Audit, 2009

[7] Kilkenny Leader Partnership, Unlocking the Barrow A Strategic Plan, 2013

[10] Department of Children & Youth Affairs, Ready, Steady, Play! A National Play Policy

[11] Failte Ireland, Tourism Facts 2008, July 2009

   Failte Ireland, Tourism Facts 2011, December 2012

[13] Failte Ireland, Tourism Facts 2011, December 2012

[14] Failte Ireland, Destination Kilkenny A Strategic Plan and Work Programme 2011/2013


[16] Failte Ireland, Destination South East A Strategic Plan and Work Programme 2011-2013

[17] Failte Ireland, Destination Kilkenny A Strategic Plan and Work Programme 2011/2013

[22] Kilkenny County Council, Arts Strategy 2005-2009


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