County Kildare is a county of peat and agricultural land, forests, rivers and 75 miles of canal waterways. The Royal, Grand, and Barrow are the three major county canals, formerly used for industrial purposes. The county is also noted for its connections with horse breeding and racing. Kildare Attractions
Athy, on the river Barrow in southern Kildare, is the largest town in the county. In the Athy Heritage Centre is an exhibition on polar explorer Ernest Shackelton. A Georgian Market House sits in the town centre. 16th century Whiteís Castle (a National Monument but private) was built beside the Crom-a-Boo bridge to fortify the river crossing.
In the far south of the county, Moone is famous for its granite high cross (restored in the 19th century), considered one of the finest in Ireland. It stands in the grounds of a ruined 13th century church.
At Castledermot in St James church grounds are two 9th century high crosses and a 10th century round tower marking the site of a monastery. There are also the foundations of a 14th century Franciscan friary at the south end of the town. It was plundered by Scotlandís Robert the Bruce in 1317. The former Kilkea castle built in 1180 and now restored is a hotel and restaurant.
East of Athy is the town of Ballitore, founded by Yorkshire Quakers. In the town is an 18th century Quaker meeting house, now a library with a museum on the local Quaker history. Crookstown Mill, a restored 1840 cornmill has a museum with details on baking and milling, local history, a tearoom and craft shop. Also in the area is the Mullaghmast Rath, a complex of ring forts, barrows, earthworks, and a standing stone.
Heading north of Athy we come to Monasterevan, an historic town on the river Barrow and the Grand Canal. An aqueduct, a number of bridges, and a riverside park reinforce its watery location. 18th century Moore Abbey, a historic home south of the town, was built in the gothic style. It took the place of an original 1619 home and is now a hospital.
At Lullymore, Rathangan, the Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park has indoor exhibitions, replicas of ancient dwellings, woodland and bogland walkways, and theme gardens. The Peatland World Museum, in a 19th century building, gives information on the history and science of boglands. A craft shop and restaurant are added amenities.
Eastward is the cathedral town of Kildare. Saint Brigidís originated in the 13th century but was reconstructed in the 19th. Inside are stained glass windows, a medieval font, and ancient tombs. Climb the round tower in the market square for countryside views. A multi-media presentation is offered in the Kildare Town Heritage Centre in the market house.
Kildare is a horse breeding area, and this is reflected in the Curragh plains, 5000 acres of common land east of Kildare. The area has been a horse-racing centre for two millennium and is home to three racecourses: The Curragh, Punchestown, and Naas.
The Irish National Stud is located at Tully House in the village of Tully. The stud farm has a horse museum. In the grounds are the Japanese gardens, dating from 1910. Also in the grounds are the two-mile Tully Walk and the ruins of Black Abbey.
North of the town of Kildare is the village of Robertstown. The Robertstown Grand Canal Hotel, which was opened in 1801, was one of five hotels built along the canal to cater to the passing trade on the barges. It now houses a restaurant, the Canal Heritage Centre, and an Art Gallery. Other attractions are a falconry, barge tours on the canal, and walks on the canal towpaths. In August the village holds a Grand Canal festival.
At Celbridge, north-east of Robertstown, is a 13-bay Palladian country mansion, Castletown House, constructed in 1722. Guided tours are offered here as well as at Celbridge Abbey, constructed 1697. The Lyons Gardens at Hazelhatch, Celbridge, are part of an agricultural college and are open to view.
North-east of Kildare is Naas, the county town of Kildare, noted for its racecourse. Nearby, Coolcarrigan House and Gardens offers 14 acres of gardens. In the gardens are rhododendrons, spring bulbs, azaleas, camellias, dahlias, rockeries, shrubs, trees, and a greenhouse.
18th century Harristown House is north of Kilcullen on the river Liffey and Naas. Riverside walks are available. In the old graveyard at Kilcullen are the ruins of a round tower and a high cross. Kilteel Castle, eight km east of Naas, is a five storey vaulted tower with a circular stair turret. It was once part of a Knights Hospitallers property.
St Johnís churchyard in Ballymore Eustace, west of Kilcullen, has two monolithic granite crosses. Calverstown Castle, six km south-west of Kilcullen is a ruined three storey 17th century house with an earlier tower house incorporated into it.
The village of Kill, on the E20, is a tidy village award winner. Kill hill is home to an earthen enclosure and a mote. From Kill (ask for directions) drive to Georgian Furness House, built in the Palladian style in the late 18th century. Highlights are the plasterwork and woodcarvings. Just to the rear of the house is a church built c500, later extended in 1210. By the church is one of the largest yews in Ireland, dating from before 1200.
Between Kildare and Naas is Newbridge (Droichead Nua), with nearby Pollardstown Fen, an alkaline marsh on the northern margin of the Curragh. It spans 550 acres and has 35 streams. Formed at the end of the last ice age, itís an important plant habitat. The Grand Canal gets its water from the fen. Also nearby are the ruins of Grey Abbey, a Franciscan friary established around 1260.
Moving north of Naas to the border of county Kildare leads to Maynooth. The castle remains include a 13th century keep (shown by guided tour), a gatehouse, and a great hall. St Patrickís College houses the Maynooth Ecclesiastical Museum and gardens. There is a visitor centre that offers guided tours.
Carton House, on the Carton Demesne, Maynooth is an 18th century house, enlarged and remodelled in 19th century. Just beside Maynooth is Kilcock, on the banks of the Royal canal. Here are the Larchill Arcadian Gardens. The 18th century parkland contains a lake and a number of gothic and classical follies. Rare breeds can be viewed and food purchased at the farm shop.
East of Maynooth is the town of Leixlip. At Lexilip you can take a guided tour of the medieval castle (18th century gothic additions) and view the plasterwork and tapestry. Saint Maryís church, originally built in the 12th century was destroyed, except for its tower, by Robert the Bruce. It was reconstructed twice and is worth a visit. An aqueduct crosses the river Rye here.
Lodge Park Walled garden, at Straffan south of Maynooth, is in the grounds of an 18th century Palladian house. There are beech hedges, a herbaceous border, old roses, a kitchen garden, and apple trees to enjoy. Also on site is a steam engine museum with both model and full size engines. A butterfly farm is another local attraction.
Also south of Maynooth is Donadea Forest Park, the location of Donadea Castle. Itís an original tower house dating from c1624 at the rear of a c18-19th century house with four storeys. The forest park is mixed woodland and has a nature trail. Of special note is a grove of beech. Ruined 17th century Tudor mansion Carbury Castle, in the north-west of the county, sits on top of Carbury Hill. The hilltop location provides countryside views.
Athy Heritage Centre
Emily Square, Athy, in town hall
Ballitore Quaker Museum
Ballitore, in town library
Calverstown, 6 km south-west of Kilcullen
Canal Heritage Centre and Art Gallery
Near Carbury, Ballyhagan, Coolayna Haggard and Clonkeen cross roads
Tel. 0 1628 8252
Coolcarrigan House and Gardens
Coolcarrigan near Naas
Tel. 0 45 863512 or 0 45 863524
Tel. 0 59 862 3222
Tel. 0 45 441 205
Web: Curragh Racecourse
Donadea Forest Park
Donadea Forest Park
On R407 to Kilcock near Clane, south of Maynooth
Between Kilcullen and Naas on Dunlavin Rd
Tel. 0 45 483614
Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens
Tel. 0 45 521617 or 0 45 522963
Web: Irish National Stud
Kildare Town Heritage Centre
Market House, Kildare
Tel. 0 45 530672
Web: Kildare Town Heritage Centre
Eight km east of Naas
Kilcullen Round Tower and High Cross
Old Kilcullen, in old graveyard; signposted from the village
Larchill Arcadian Gardens
Kilcock, A26, west of Ballymoney
Tel. 0 1 628 7354
Main Street, Lexilip
Tel. 0 1 6244430
Lodge Park Walled Garden
Tel. 0 1 627 3155 or 0 1 628 8412
Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park
Tel. 0 45 870238
Web: Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park
Tel. 0 1 627 7000
Tel. 0 1 628 6744 (or Castletown 0 1 628 8252)
Maynooth College Visitor Centre and Ecclesiastical Museum
St Patrickís College, Maynooth
Tel. 0 1 708 3576; 0 1 628 5222
Web: Maynooth College
Moone High Cross
Signed from the village of Moone
Near Ballitore and Burtown crossroads
Off N7, 18 miles from Dublin
Tel. 0 45 897 391
Web: Naas Racecourse
Peatland World Museum
Tel. 0 45 860193
Tel. 0 1 647 6000 (Duchas Heritage Service in Dublin)
Tel. 0 45 865239
Saint Brigidís Cathedral and Round Tower
Market Square, Kildare
Tel. 0 45 521229 or 0 45 441654
Web: Russborough House
St Maryís Church
Main St, Leixlip
Tel. 624 0976 (parish office)
Tel. 0 1 627 3155 or 0 1 628 8412
Web: Steam Museum
Straffan Butterfly Farm
Web: Straffan Butterfly Farm
County Kildare Tourist Information Centres
Athy Visitor Information Point
Tel. 0 59 863 30754
Crookstown Visitor Information Point
Tel. 0 59 862 3208
Kildare Town Tourist Information Office
Market House, Market Square
Tel. 0 45 530672; 0 45 521240
Kildare Village Visitor Information Point
Kildare Village Outlet Shopping, Nurney Rd
Tel. 0 45 520 501
Official Kildare website: Kildare
County Kildare community website: Kildare
Kildare County Council: Kildare County Council
Naas town: Naas Town
Photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
Grand Canal Lock No. 18 in Landenstown, Grand Canal Barrow Line near Robertstown, Leixlip Royal Canal Cope Bridge by JP; Horses in Kildare, Crookstown church, Monasterevan, Pollardstown Fen and Hill of Allen by Sarah777; Athy Roman Catholic church of St Michael, Rathangan Market Square, Naas canal Abbey Bridge by Jonathan Billinger; Whiteís Castle, Calverstown Castle, Kilteel Castle, Maynooth Castle, Donadea Castle, Carbury Castle by Mike Searle; Moone High Cross by Kieran Campbell; Castledermot High Cross, Castledermot Friary by Liam Murphy; Canal at Monasterevan, Irish National Stud Farm Museum by Alan James; Peatland Conservation Council reserve at Lullymore by Brian Nelson; Kildare St Brigid cathedral by Vivienne Smith; Kildare round tower by Robin Mais; Curragh plains, Naas town centre by James Allan; Curragh racecourse, Grey Abbey near Newbridge by Harold Strong; Bridge of Life in Japanese Gardens by Joseph Mischyshyn; Castletown House by Ian Paterson; Kilcullen Bridge over river Liffey in winter by IrishFlyFisher; Ballymore Eustace St Johnís church by Hamish Bain; Carton House at Maynooth by emergingwriter; Straffan Steam Museum by Chris Allen
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