Our Kilkenny: The majestic village of Kells needs a playing field

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Sean Keane


Sean Keane



Kells ekes character. From the moment you reach the top of the hill coming from Kilkenny city, you are looking down at medieval magic.

The mills, the bridge, the pubs, the people and the place on which Kells is based, The Priory are picture-perfect.

In this series we examine each village in Kilkenny, how it is doing and what it needs.

There are great things being done in Kells, a new walk is being developed which will allow you to walk through all the major visitor attractions in the village.

A second walk from Kells to Ennisnag by the King's river is also in the offing.

More importantly, the new CEO of Kilkenny County Council, Colette Byrne has recognised the potential of Kells and has visited there on a number of occasions.

We await her input and we know she had a major role in having daily tours of The Priory last summer and these we are told these will be renewed this summer.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) continues to carry out fabulous work on restoring the priory and the village has retrained two pubs, a village shop, a cafe open seasonally at Mullin's Mill.

Tidy Towns

The Tidy towns committee are really committed and even commissioned sculptures around the place and are hugely active while there is a much used Scout's hall, squash court, handball alley and a playground.

Three things stand out - The enormous effort that a great group of volunteers have put into making Kells what it is today and the need for a new wave of local residents to help them and to knit into the community

Secondly, Kells Priory is one of the country's most outstanding archaeological, ecclesiastical and historical sites, yet there are ongoing problems with access, car parking and having the site opened.

Thirdly, as local publican, Sean Delaney said in the kitchen of Dr Pat Crowley's house last week, when asked what was the one thing that Kells needed, he answered without having to think about it: "We need a field for the young lads and girls to pay hurling, soccer, camogie, whatever they like."

He said it is a matter of identity and he pointed to playing pitches in Stoneyford, Kilmoganny and Dunnamaggin. He disclosed that rival hurling clubs, Dunnamaggin and Danesfort (which begins on the far side the bridge over the King's River in the village) are pulling the young lads every which way.

"If they had their own field in the village it would do a lot for the place,"

And while Kells may look prosperous, over the last forty years, it has lost its post office, doctor's dispensary, butcher shop, one pub, two petrol pumps and one separate diesel pump.

However, Kells has the potential to thrive but it needs help.


Everyone sitting around Dr Pat Crowley's kitchen table agreed.

The one other thing, all agreed that is the need in the village is a public toilet for the growing number of visitors coming to see the priory, mills and other features.


However, there is one issue that stands out more than anything else when you think of Kells - It is utterly unbelievable that no major strategy has been implemented to squeeze the potential out of magnificent Kells Priory.

It is a goldmine waiting to be exploited.

There are problems with access, bus parking, opening hours and loads of other things but the bottom line is that The Priory is a most wonderful resource and it is under-utilised.

A proper plan needs to be drawn up for the village with the Priory at its centre. It needs to be opened up for the benefit of everyone.

The OPW have spent a lot of money here on a painstaking restoration to the highest standard and have been wrongly criticised for not doing more. The truth is that it is a political issue and shame on our politicians for not championing the cause of Kells.

More visitors, would mean more people around and that creates business .

An interpretive centre would be ideal and a huge boost for the city as well because it would give visitors another reason to stay an extra day in Kilkenny.


Jerpoint Abbey has a wonderful exhibition space with artefacts from the abbey. Something similar in Kells would be very welcome.

Another resource which has the possibility of bringing more people is picturesque Mullins' Mill which is owned by the community and looked after by Kells Regional Economic Enterprise (KREE) and tellingly, there is a plaque on the wall to the late John Sheridan, the man who drove much of the change in Kells and who sadly passed away much too young and Matt White said that he was an awful loss to KREE and to the village.


Here are some little nuggets of information that you might not have known about Kells:

The Rector's House was designed by James Hoban who designed the White House.

RTE's most successful "soap" ever, The Riordans was based in Kells - and Susan Shirley formerly of the pub) remembers all the stars coming down to film on location in the pub and the huge buzz it created around the village.

Plans are afoot for a new walk with signage from Kells to Ennisnag, by the river.

The King's river is one of the healthiest in the country, bursting with fish life, a strong otter population and kingfishers dotted along its banks.

Luckily, 200 new houses planned for the village during the Celtic Tiger never went ahead.

Bob Moore runs the local shop and according to local woman, Siobhan Tulloch, he gives a great service with supermarket prices.

She encouraged everyone in the village to give him their business.

Kells was once famous for its brass band

Lastly - the dispensary has been closed for a number of years and it would be the ideal site for a resource centre for the village in the same way as the community centre in nearly Stoneyford works.