When Lief and I decided to relocate from the United States to Ireland nearly two decades ago, we were early...Read more
Kilkenny Town itself could be a great retirement choice, but the best retirement spot in all the Emerald Isle would be just outside that city, where you can embrace quintessential Irish country life while remaining in easy reach of the shopping, entertainment, festivals, and town amenities of Kilkenny proper. This is a region of Ireland wholly undressed for tourists, where, for every freshly painted cottage, you also find a dusty, downtrodden building that, on first glance, makes you wonder if it’s shut forever… or just for lunch.
This southeastern region of the Emerald Isle is rich with old estates, gardens, castles, and period homes to satisfy the history aficionado. Kilkenny Castle and its gardens are a main attraction, but Rothe House, also in Kilkenny Town, is a lesser-known treasure. It’s the only surviving merchant’s townhouse from the 17th century, today a museum with recently reopened gardens.
Completely off the rest of the world’s radar, Graiguenamanagh is one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets. Most who make it here do so by boat or by foot along the towpath and feel lucky and special to have stumbled onto a place of such natural beauty and tranquility. Life here, again, revolves around the river, but there’s plenty to do out of the water, too.
The tranquil village of St. Mullins is the counterpart. Without the quayside facilities and mooring of Graiguenamanagh, from the eastern banks of the Barrow here, river life is dominated more by fishermen and the occasional kayaker than by rows of pleasure boats.
Graiguenamanagh is in County Kilkenny and St. Mullins in County Carlow. The two are separated by the Barrow River, the life and soul of the area. Choosing between these two outposts of Irish country living, you may be torn. Each has its assets. The good news is that, living in one of these villages, you’d have easy access to the other by foot or bicycle along the 4-mile-long riverside towpath that joins both. Both towns have held on to their unspoiled natural beauty. Life in this region feels more like the 1950s than the 21st century. Go a little beyond either village, and you could imagine yourself in any past century. This is the lost Ireland so many retirees dream of.
Ireland is not a super-affordable retirement choice; however, property values today are down from their pre-2008 boom-time highs. Markets elsewhere in Ireland, especially in Dublin, are moving up again. This remote region of Ireland, though, remains seriously undervalued. A monthly budget for cost of living in the area is 1,830 euros.
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This “Medieval city” (now officially a town) is the arts and artisanal center of Ireland. From April to October, its streets buzz with local and tourist shoppers in search of unique clothing, gifts, and homewares. They come in the winter months, too, though in lesser numbers. The big event in town is the annual Cat Laughs Comedy Festival in June that attracts comedy fans from around the world, while November’s Kilkenomics Festival—a quirky marriage of economists and comedians from around the world—is growing in popularity. And, any time boredom strikes, you can reach Dublin in 70 minutes by direct motorway.
The whole county of Kilkenny deserves to be explored, particularly those towns and villages along the Nore and Barrow rivers. Dotted between patchwork fields representing every shade of green, you’ll find potters, glassmakers, and jewelry designers, all inspired by the natural beauty surrounding them.
While Graiguenamanagh has all the appearances of a sleepy Irish village, the river is a hub of activity. Visitors here don’t come for the nightlife. They come to swim, jump from the diving boards, kayak, barge, fish, and eat some of the tastiest home baking from local tearooms and cafes.
Golfers have great options. Just 2 kilometers outside Graiguenamanagh, on the Carlow side of the river, is 18-hole Carrigleade Golf Course. Other notable courses in the county are Kilkenny Golf Club, Callan Golf Club, and the prestigious Jack-Nicklaus-designed Mount Juliet Golf Course that has twice hosted the WGC-American Express Championship. If you’re not a golfer, the Mount Juliet resort is ideal for a leisurely stroll and a treat of afternoon tea.
I began my own adventures overseas in Ireland. Early one autumn morning what today seems like a lifetime ago, I packed my 8-year-old daughter Kaitlin, my laptop, and eight very oversized suitcases into an SUV. Then Kaitlin, my husband of one month Lief Simon, and I boarded a plane bound for Dublin. From there, we three found our way south to Waterford, where we made our home for the next seven years. When I undertook this move from Baltimore to...Read more