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Castlecomer is the largest town in north County Kilkenny in southeast Ireland, with a population in 2016 of 1502. In Irish Caisleán an Chomair is "castle of the confluence", meaning the Norman castle at the confluence of the Dinin, Brocagh and Cloghogue small rivers. The town was industrial through coal mining from medieval times. Coal and castle are gone, but the former colliery has been landscaped into the Discovery Park which is nowadays Castlecomer's main attraction.


Bustling downtown Castlecomer

The castle of the town's name was built by the Normans in 1171. In the medieval period the town was in the hands of the Brennan dynasty, and became industrial even at that stage through mining for iron ore and then coal from the "Castlecomer Plateau" strata. This upland area was poor for farming but good for forestry, which provided timber for pit props and charcoal for foundries. During the 17th century Plantations the Brennans were ousted and the land passed to Sir Christopher Wandesford (1592-1640). He ramped up production of coal and timber, brought over 600 workers from Yorkshire, laid out a new town to accommodate them, and built a fortified mansion in which to count his profits. He was promoted to Lord Deputy of Ireland shortly before his early death from a fever: his chances of survival were not improved by the treatment of applying split pigeons to the soles of his feet.

His widow and family had to flee the rebellion of 1641 but the Wandesfords remained in control here for 300 years. The rebellion of 1798 flopped almost everywhere except in nearby County Wexford, close enough for Castlecomer town and mansion to be destroyed in the fighting. They were all rebuilt in the early 19th century, so what you see now is mostly from that era, creating a harmony of style. The mines however continued to disfigure the landscape until they closed in 1969. The replacement mansion also fell derelict then and was demolished. The brownfield colliery site was made over into the Discovery Park, opened in 2007.

Get in[edit]

JJ Kavanagh Bus 717 runs daily every two hours from Dublin Airport, Eden Quay and Heuston station to Kilkenny, Callan and Clonmel. One overnight and two daytime buses also stop at Naas, Athy and Castlecomer.

Slieve Bloom Coach 838 runs twice M-Sa from Portlaoise to Castlecomer, Ballyragget and Kilkenny.

Buggy's Coach[dead link] 890 runs twice M-F between Kilkenny and Castlecomer. Coach 891 from Kilkenny to Ballyragget sometimes runs a triangular route through Castlecomer.

Castlecomer is 16 km north of Kilkenny, the nearest railway station, with six trains a day on the Dublin Heuston to Waterford line.

By road from Dublin follow M7 and M9 to junction 4 near Carlow, then head southwest via R448, N80 and R430 onto N78.

Get around[edit]

You can easily walk between the town and Discovery Park.


  • 1 The Square is Castlecomer's broad tree-lined main street, ending to the east at the bridge over River Dinin. The buildings are 19th century low-rise, pleasant enough, but it's the main road N78 so there's always traffic. The Norman castle is long gone.
  • Church of the Immaculate Conception, Kilkenny St. This is the RC parish church, built in Gothic style 1844-1852 during the Great Famine. Features include the matching altar, ambo and chair, the painted ceiling, stained glass windows, Stations of the Cross and the ornate sanctuary lamp.
  • St Mary's Church, Dublin Rd (by entrance to Park). This is C of I. A church has stood on this site at least since 1374, whereupon an enterprising vicar usurped the position until ousted under threat of excommunication. An early modern church was built in the 17th century by the Wandesfordes along with Castlecomer House and the town itself, all to be destroyed in the rebellion of 1798. The present church was erected in the 19th century.
  • 2 Castlecomer Discovery Park, The Estate Yard R95 HY7X, +353 56 444 0707. Daily 10:00-17:00. This park has 80 acres of forest, 6 km of walking trails and activities such as climbing walls, kayaking and archery. These are separately ticketed, there isn't a day-pass. Parking €4 for 3 hours, €5 all day.
  • Coal Mining Museum commemorates the local industry. This followed the typical colliery timeline, from early open-cast to deep mining, colossal profits for the owners and abject conditions for the workforce, workings scarring the countryside, mechanisation, unionisation and sometimes murderous labour unrest. The twist here was that its later phase was the most lucrative, with the discovery of the Skenaha seam of anthracite - very high grade coal. It was even ground up and mixed by foot with mud to make fuel brickettes, and "Dancing the Churm" was to Castlecomer what grape-treading was to Sicily. Deerpark Mines were sunk to exploit the seam in 1924 and operated to 1969, with its final years again open-cast. The museum is within the Park (don't head for the mine site up R426) and has the same hours, last entry one hour before closing. Adult €5, conc €4, child €3.
  • Two versions of Castlecomer House stood across the road from the entrance to Discovery Park, but all that remains is a derelict gate lodge.
  • Dunmore Cave is 6 km south of Castlecomer, off N78 towards Kilkenny.
  • Heywood Gardens are in Ballinakill off R432 towards Abbeyleix.
  • 3 Ballyragget is a village 10 km west of Castlecomer. It has an attractive central square and 19th century church, and the 15th century turret of Ormond Castle.


St Mary's Church
  • Castlecomer Golf Club, Dromgoole R95 PY6N (500 m south of town), +353 56 444 1139. Parkland course, 6254 yards, par 72. Visitor round €30.
  • Powley Vale Wellie Race is a 5 km race held on New Year's Day. It's a charity fundraiser, wear fancy dress, drag, starkers, whatever but you must wear wellies. The 2021 race was a virtual event, people anywhere could participate any time over the holiday season. Arrangements for 2022 are TBA.


  • The main village store is Eurospar (daily 08:00-22:00). There's also a Londis open M-Sa.


  • Restaurant Lady Anne in town centre is open Th-Sa 18:00-22:00, Su 14:00-17:00.
  • Lil's is within Avalon House Hotel, see Sleep. It's open Th-Sa 17:00-20:30, Su 12:30-15:00, 17:00-20:00.


  • Shortalls, The Square, +353 56 444 1331. Trad village pub, lively atmosphere.
  • Bollard's Pub, Barrack St, +353 56 444 1265. Town pub since 1840.
  • The Vaults, 89 Kilkenny St R95 CH21, +353 56 444 0965. Friendly pub.
  • Balleyragget pubs include Fitzpatrick's Bar, Corner House and The Hogan Stand, all in village centre.


Ormond Castle in Ballyragget


As of March 2021, Castlecomer has a mobile signal from Eir, and 4G from Three and Vodafone. 5G has not reached this area.

Go next[edit]

  • Kilkenny the county town is a lively small city with many features of its medieval history.
  • Thomastown has Jerpoint Abbey and the upmarket Mount Juliet resort.
  • Carlow has several prehistoric, Georgian and Victorian buildings.

This city travel guide to Castlecomer is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.