Probably second only to Galway as the party capital of Ireland, it's for this reason that I always have to reacquaint myself with the layout of Kilkenny's city centre on arrival.

The names remain the same - the Pumphouse, Lanigan's, the Playwright, Biddy Early's - but ask me how to get to any of them and I'm at a loss.

So on this visit to the Marble City, the plan was to get a real feel for the home of the Cats and experience more than just the inside of a public house.

One of the main attractions of this medieval city is its location. Less than two hours' drive from Dublin, Cork, Limerick or Waterford, you can avoid the madness of Friday afternoon traffic and still get down in plenty of time to enjoy a good night out to kickstart the weekend.

Checked in, showered and fed at the newly renovated Newpark Hotel, we strolled into the city centre to meet up with some friends in Kyteler's Inn to see a gig.

I tried to take it all in as I walked the short distance from the hotel. The memories started coming back; Langton's on the left, down to the bridge past Matt The Miller's, across the river and spot Tynan's there on the right, barely even noticing the magnificent Kilkenny Castle as I head up Rose Inn Street into the centre of town.

It was familiar but blurred. Kyteler's was definitely somewhere on my right. I recalled an alley from a previous trip but, unsure, we marched on and took another right. It was a guessing game and we stumbled across the venue by chance after a few minutes roaming the side streets and laneways.

We ventured upstairs in plenty of time for the gig with the bizarrely named Moses Moorhouse & the Dinosaur Palace playing a blinder as support.

The main event was an instrumental acoustic guitar duo called Túcan. It was an amazing display of guitar playing which brought you on a journey through Spanish carnivals, on to a traditional Irish music session before finishing you off in the mosh pit at a Metallica concert. An amazing performance, although a few trumpets and some vocals wouldn't have gone amiss.

A great re-introduction to the city and some post-concert drinks on the cosy roof garden was the perfect way to end the night. Well, it would have been if we didn't end up at a house party until the early hours of Saturday morning. Welcome back to Kilkenny.

Saturday started slowly. I was beginning to accept that Kilkenny was just for the nightlife, but there had to be more to it. I had to at least get out in the daylight and make an effort.

Kilkenny CastleKilkenny Castle is the obvious place to start. The castle sits in the heart of the city and is surrounded by beautiful gardens on one side and the Nore River on the other. It dates back to the 12th century and was the principle residence of the Butler Family for over 600 years. Entrance is a must and for the price of a pint you'll more than enjoy the ramble around one of the finest castles in Ireland.

Butler House is another place that is well worth a visit. A mere stone's throw from the castle, this former residence of the Earls of Ormonde was restored in the 1970s and now acts as both a guesthouse and conference centre.

The Butler House Walled Garden was redesigned in 1999 and surrounds the old dower house. Sit down by the garden pond and you'll literally be immersed in Irish history as the seating is made from the base stones of Nelson's Pillar - the bombed monument that once resided on O'Connell Street in Dublin. No sign of old Horatio about the place, though.

St Canice's Cathedral The city is a joy to walk, from St Canice's Cathedral to Rothe House, stopping off for a bit of pub grub in any of the town's many fine taverns.

And if there is a game of hurling going on up in Nowlan Park, it will be a couple of hours well spent as - no matter what you might be told in Cork, Tipperary or Limerick - Kilkenny is the true home of hurling and it doesn’t look like it is going to forego that honour any time soon.

Saturday night in Kilkenny is party night with many tourists from around Ireland and beyond filling the pubs and streets of the city centre.

After our heavy Friday, Saturday evening was a much more civilised affair. Zuni restaurant is one of the best in the city and that's where we resided for the majority of the night. The food was superb as was the service, with a special mention for the complimentary breads and pesto butter.

We just about had the energy to check out the new Left Bank super-pub across the road for a few swift ales before calling it a night. I'm sure I heard Langton's calling my name as we passed but the temptation was resisted... this time.

Ed Leahy

About Kilkenny
Kilkenny is celebrating its 400th birthday this year and as a result, there are a host of things to do throughout the summer and autumn. For more, visit: www.kilkenny400.ie.

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