Kilkenny Castle is a castle in Kilkenny, Ireland built in 1195 by William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke to control a fording-point of the River Nore and the junction of several routeways. It was a symbol of Norman occupation and in its original thirteenth-century condition it would have formed an important element of the defences of the town with four large circular corner towers and a massive ditch, part of which can still be seen today on the Parade.
The property was transferred to the people of Kilkenny in 1967 for £50 and the castle and grounds are now managed by the Office of Public Works. The gardens and parkland adjoining the castle are open to the public. The Parade Tower is a conference venue. Awards and conferring ceremonies of the graduates of "Kilkenny Campus" of National University Of Ireland, Maynooth have been held there since 2002.
Richard de Clare (also known as Strongbow) and other Norman knights came to Kilkenny in 1172, the high ground beside the River Nore was as an ideal site on which to build a wooden tower. He built a wooden castle of the type known as motte-and-bailey. This strategic site was where the local kings of Ossory, the Mac Giolla Phádraigs, (later anglicized to Fitzpatrick), had their chief residence before the Norman invasion.
Twenty years later, de Clare's son-in-law, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, built the first stone castle on the site, of which three towers still remain. The castle was owned by the seneschal of Kilkenny Sir Gilbert De Bohun who inherited the county of Kilkenny and castle from his mother in 1270, in 1300 he was outlawed by Edward I but was reinstated in 1303, he held the castle until his death in 1381. It was not granted to his heir Joan, but seized by the crown and sold to the Butler family.
The rest of the 20th century saw a large amount of restoration and maintenance take place, as well as the castle being opened to visitors. The Butler Gallery, in the castle basement, holds rotating exhibitions put on by the Kilkenny Art Gallery Society in a venue named for Peggy and Hubert Butler. There are ornamental gardens on the city side of the castle, and extensive land and gardens to the front. It has become one of the most visited tourist sites in Ireland. Now a property in state care. Part of the National Art Gallery is on display in the castle.
Excavations and building surveys by Ben Murtagh in the 1990s revealed traces of an earlier earthwork castle, exposed a postern gate (side entrance) and section of the castle ditch facing on to the Parade (now visible), and also partly uncovered the lost south-east side of the castle. The entrance was through the (now missing) east wall. Various other features of the original castle have also been excavated, including original stone buttressing and a garderobe. Parts of this castle survive to the present day but the castle has changed over centuries. The south curtain wall is long gone, the elaborate entrance gate is a 17th century addition, and in much of what can be seen from the castle park side is a 19th century reconstruction.