The Mayor of Kilkenny City has hailed the handing over of Kilkenny Castle almost 50 years ago as a seminal moment which led to the county “building its tourism industry” around the historic site.
At around this time five decades ago the Marquis of Ormonde handed over the Castle to the people of Kilkenny which was purchased for a nominal sum of £50.
At 5pm on Saturday, August 11, in 1967 the Castle was formally given to the Kilkenny Castle Reconstruction and Development Committee to “make history”.
At the time the Kilkenny People reported: “Five months ago the Castle, which has been associated with the Butlers for over five centuries, was sold by the Marquis to the committee.”
The Marquis of Ormonde also granted Kilkenny the castle grounds and he was determined the grounds would remain intact with no buildings on them and envisaged ten acres of woodland.
Speaking to the Kilkenny People this week, Mayor of Kilkenny City, Michael Doyle, said: “Without doubt Kilkenny has built its tourism industry around Kilkenny Castle.
“The restoration and guardianship of Kilkenny Castle by the Office of Public Works has put Kilkenny on the international tourism map. The value of tourism annually to Kilkenny is in the region of €76 million per annum, and the vast majority of our international visitors visit Kilkenny Castle.
“Our entire industry, from hotels to restaurants from pubs to cafes, all benefit from Kilkenny Castle.
“The parkland adjacent to the Castle has a fantastic free children’s playground, and the 50 acres is a fantastic amenity for the entire county. It hosts a range of events including athletics, Arts Festival events, Yulefest events etc.
“The Parade Tower Conference centre is a huge addition to the Castle, capable of hosting significant events with state of the art facilities. The management and staff of Kilkenny Castle are to be commended for the care and professionalism with which they manage the Castle.
"There is no doubt that Kilkenny would be a different place today without the handing over of Kilkenny Castle to the people of Kilkenny and also the OPW who had the funding and expertise to restore the castle to it’s present state of magnificence.
“The people of Kilkenny certainly do appreciate the value of having such a fantastic attraction at their door step.”
Kilkenny is a popular tourist destination, and the town and environs include historic buildings such as the Castle, St Canice’s Cathedral and St John’s Priory.
It is also known for its craft and design workshops, the Watergate Theatre, public gardens and museums.
Annual events include Kilkenny Arts Festival, the Cat Laughs comedy festival and music at the Kilkenny Roots Festival, Kilkenomics.
Visitor numbers to Kilkenny Castle have gone up 100,000 year-on-year according to the latest OPW Heritage site figures for 2016.
The report shows 384,918 people went to Kilkenny Castle and grounds in 2016 – a record increase from 2015.
Mayor Doyle added: “The buildings have been in the care of the Office of Public Works since 1969, and many important programmes of archaeological excavation, conservation, and restoration have been carried out there.
“The Castle itself draws in thousands of visitors to Kilkenny. The renowned Butler Gallery on the grounds of the Castle is also a must see and I would encourage everyone to drop in.”
The original Anglo-Norman stone castle was built for William Marshal, 4th Earl of Pembroke (c.1146-1219) during the first decade of the thirteenth century.
Kilkenny Castle later became the principal Irish residence of the powerful Butler family for almost 600 years.
The Butler ownership began when James (c.1360-1405), 3rd Earl of Ormonde, purchased the castle in c.1391, and lasted until 1967 when Arthur, 6th Marquess of Ormonde (1893-1971), presented it to the people of Kilkenny.