The main river that flows through the city of Kilkenny is the Nore, one of the three sister rivers. The other two sister rivers are the Barrow and the Suir and they act as natural county borders to the east and south of Co. Kilkenny.

The Barrow, Nore and the lower River Suir are all classified as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). Both the Barrow and the Nore host a number of important habitats and species that are listed on the EU Habitats Directive. The alluvial wet woodlands, which are in decline in Europe due to drainage and land reclamation, and petrifying springs that the rivers support are classified as priority habitats on the same directive. Further habitats supported include Mediterranean salt meadows, old oak woodlands, tidal mudflats and more.


A number of different species of lamprey inhabit these river areas, including River Lamprey, Sea Lamprey and Brook Lamprey. The endangered Freshwater Pearl Mussel occurs in a limited 10km stretch of the River Nore, while the lower River Suir is one of the few known spawning grounds in Ireland for Twaite Shad. Atlantic Salmon, otter and crayfish are among some of the other species in the sister rivers.

One of the best examples of alluvial wet woodlands is a stretch of woodland within the Abbeyleix Estate. This is one of the few surviving ancient woodlands of Ireland and is sustained by the River Nore. Records show that Park Hill woodland within the estate has been been continuously wooded since the 16th century. In total, the woodland supports 22 native trees, 44 bryophytes and the rare Nettel-leaved Bellflower which is listed in the Red Data Book.

Part of the valley to the south of the Woodstock Estate and Arboretum, where the River Nore flows, is also covered with old oak woodland. Holly, beech, ash and hazel are just a few examples of tree varieties that occur.


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