Kilkenny, an inland county of Leinster, bordering on Queen's County, Carlow, Wexford, Waterford, and Tipperary. Its area is 509,732 acres, or 796 sq. m. Vegetation is earlier here than in the rest of Ireland, and the soil along the Suir, Nore, and Barrow is very rich. In the northern part there are large tracts of moor devoted to sheep and cattle. S. and SE. the surface rises to a considerable elevation ; and in the north there is another hilly region forming part of the Castlecomer anthracite coalfield, whose output is about 80,000 tons per annum, or more than one-half that of all Ireland In the western district are the Walsh Mountains. The chief towns are Kilkenny, Callan, Thomas-town, Freshford, Urlingford, and Castlecomer. Pop. (1841) 202,420; (1901) 78,821, of whom 74,572 were Catholics. Prior to the Union Kilkenny returned sixteen members to the Irish parliament, but now the county returns two and the city one. Kilkenny, anciently part of the kingdom of Ossory, was formed into a county by King John in 1210. Its Norman remains are very numerous, and among other antiquities are circular groups of stones on Slieve Grian and the Hill of Cloghmanta, cromlechs and raths, forts and mounds, five round towers, and monastic ruins at Jerpoint, Rosbercon, Thomastown, Knocktopher, etc. The most notable castle is Graney, in Iverk, supposed to have been founded by the Earls of Ormonde in 1521. The cave of Dunmore, between Kilkenny and Castlecomer, which opens with a natural arch 50 feet high, is noted for its stalactite chambers and its subterranean stream. See J. G. Robertson's Antiquities and Scenery of Kilkenny (1851).
Kilkenny, the county town, is situated on the Nore, 81 miles SW. of Dublin by rail. Pop. (1851) 19,975 ; (1901) 10,493. At one time it was the seat of linen and woollen manufactures ; and it does some marble-polishing, and has a trade in provisions. The name is Celtic - Cil-Canice - the church of St Canice or Kenny, a building dating from 1052, and the largest ecclesiastical edifice in Ireland except St Patrick's at Dublin. It is in the Early English style, 226 feet long by 123 across the transepts. There are many old sepulchral monuments, and the remains of a round tower still 100 feet high. Other ecclesiastical remains are the preceptory of St John's (1211); the Dominican abbey (1225), still used as a Roman Catholic church; and the Franciscan abbey (1230). In 1857 was erected the Roman Catholic cathedral, at a cost of £30,000, with a massive central tower 186 feet high. On a precipitous rock above the Nore is Strong-bow's famous castle (1175), restored during the 19th century as a residence for the Marquis of Ormonde. The 16th-century grammar-school also stands by the river, fronting the castle; here Swift, Congreve, and Bishop Berkeley received their education. Near the city is the Roman Catholic college of St Kyran. Cromwell laid siege to the city in 1648, and in 1650 it capitulated on honourable terms. The fable of the ' Kilkenny cats,' which fought till only the tails were left, was a satire on the contentions of Kilkenny and Irishtown in the 17th century.