Foulksrath Castle – Ireland's oldest hostel

Foulksrath Castle, near Kilkenny, Ireland Follow Me on Pinterest
Foulksrath Castle, near Kilkenny, Ireland

From the travel diary:

Dec 16 (some years ago) – Monday: Kilkenny, Ireland
After a big breakfast I walk down to the railway station and take the train to Thomastown, named centuries ago after Anthony Fitz Thomas. I grew up in Thomastown, Victoria, Australia so I was interested to compare the two places. I alight at the small station with its quaint office. Since the stationmaster is about to drive the ¼ mile distance into town, I manage to get a lift with him.
Spending around 40 minutes walking around gives me a feeling for the place.  It’s quietly rural, with a tiny shopping centre. I take a couple of photos.
Back to Kilkenny City. Kilkenny, a county steeped in tradition and history offers many attractions. Kilkenny City itself is the former medieval capital of Ireland and offers visitors the opportunity to explore its historic castle and quaint streets.
I walk along the main street to The Parade, near Kilkenny Castle and take the 12.30 bus to a stop four miles from Foulksrath Castle Youth Hostel. Since the next bus is due at 5.30pm, I decide to walk there. That’s the way it is sometimes, a ¼ mile lift followed by a 4 mile walk! It’s handy to take a pedometer with you when you travel – you’ll probably be surprised at the walking distances you cover in a day’s travel.
I arrive at the imposing castle – a huge single tower surrounded by high walls. This is great. After booking in, I find that the men’s dormitory is right at the top of a broad stone spiral staircase – OK once you get used to it. The women’s dormitory is on the first floor and the amenities block is across the courtyard.
Foulksrath Castle, a striking 16th Century Norman House Tower has been successfully  transformed into a hostel. It was built by the Purcell clan, who also constructed several others nearby. After over three centuries as owners, the family was reduced to living as peasants in the castle’s stables after it was confiscated by Oliver Cromwell and given to his officers after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. The castle was slated for demolition in 1946 but was saved by community support. It was renovated and opened as a hostel in 1948, making it the oldest hostel in Ireland. Its medieval features include a magnificent dining room with enormous fireplaces and a spiral staircase to the upper floors. It celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1998.
Later that afternoon, two Australian girls arrived in a car. Barbara, Lorell and I then drove into town for dinner and drinks. Back to Foulksrath for coffee and chats with other late arrivals. All in a fabulous old castle.
Unfortunately for all of us walkers and youth hostellers, the hostel is now closed. Ireland has some fabulous places to stay in – have a look at their youth hostel web site.
Any other ideas?


  1. avatarDan says

    I’m saddened to hear this hostel has closed. I stayed there in May of 2009. It is a very relaxing and tranquil place. I was planning on returning, but came across this post informing me it is closed. Does anyone know why it closed?

  2. avatar says

    Hi Dan,

    from the website Castle Stories, “Until the end of October 2009 Foulksrath Castle was one of the oldest Youth Hostels in Ireland. The hostel is now closed and the property up for sale by its owners. The property was able to accommodate 52 visitors.” That’s the latest on it.

    cheers.. Almis.

    • avatarcarolyn pursell says

      it caught on fire in january can google it on utube under foulksrath castle. i am very sad over this.i wanted to stay there when i great that would have been to be in a home stead that my ancestors actually lived.and now i cant.

  3. avatarjeske says

    I stayed there in 1998. That time the where renovating it.
    A think 3 nights. There was just one other girl staying there and later a dutch man.And ofcourse the manager. I think his name was Partick.
    We had nice conversations by the fire place.
    I always wanted to return. :(
    sad it’s closed

  4. avatar says

    Hi Jeske,

    yes it was one of those rare opportunities. I think we finally realise when they come around to take them. There was another great YH castle on the shores of Loch Lomond in Scotland… Almis

  5. avatarDebbi says

    I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to stay here on April night in 2008 while visiting my daughter in Ireland. We were on a 5 day drive through the country. We arrived at 10 at night, and were met by a very nice young woman and her dog. We followed them upstairs to register, got our supplies, and wrapped in our sleeping blankets for the night. It was chilly, but it felt like sleeping in the tower in its heyday! If its walls could have spoken, I imagine that I would have heard at least 1,000 stories! We heated up our food in the microwave and drove off to the next adventure. Of all the hostels were stayed at in Ireland, this one was the most intriguing! Sorry to see it close!

  6. avatar says

    Hi Everyone

    Foulksrath Castle actually closed after the caretaker Jack died. The fire happened after it was closed.

    It is currently still closed and is unlikely to operate as a Youth Hostel again. This is mainly due to the fact that current regulations on fire, safety and ratios of Toilets etc coupled with restrictions on what can be done to an old protected building make it virtually impossible to operate as a youth Hostel. However, it is possible that it will open it’s doors as a small Bed and Breakfast. If planning permission is given to rebuild/restore the old stables/coach-house at the back it may resume a backpacker/hostel role….time will tell.

    If anyone has any interesting stories then please either post them here or go to the Facebook page for Foulksrath Castle and add them there.

    Have fun and be happy.


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