Visiting County Kildare? This glorious part of the Irish Province of Leinster has a number of attractions you will not want to miss. Plus some interesting sights that are slightly off the beaten path. So why not take your time and spend a day or two in Kildare when visiting Ireland (... you may even spend those in Kildare Town alone ...)? Here are some ideas to make it worth your while ...
County Kildare in a Nutshell
Here are some facts on County Kildare you might not know:
- The Irish name for County Kildare is Contae Cill Dara, with the literal translation being "Church of the Oak".
- Cars registered here are issued with numberplates bearing the letters KE.
- The county town is Naas, other important towns in County Kildare include Athy, Celbridge, Clane, Kildare Town, Leixlip, Maynooth, Monasterevin and Newbridge.
- County Kildare covers 1,694 square kilometres.
- The population of County Kildare, according to the 2011 census, is 210,312.
- Nicknames for Kildare are "Short Grass County" (mainly due to horses grazing all the time) and, on a related note, "Thoroughbred County".
- Within the GAA, players from Kildare are known as the "Lilywhites" - the county colours (or absence thereof) explain all. And yes, the flag of Kildare is pure white indeed.
Visit Saint Brigid's Well
is one of the lesser-known attractions connected to the Irish saints - even visitors to Kildare Town or the nearby Irish National Stud seldom spare a second thought. Which is unfortunate, the well being a very spiritual place with ancient connections. Despite the modern make-over of the site one can still sense that the area has been "special" for ages.
See Historic Kildare Town
Kildare Town is, by and large, still an original Irish market town. Dominated by the cathedral and the round tower, defined by its central square with its market hall (now a tourist information centre). Kildare presents itself as a thriving community. With history to boot. New commercial developments have thankfully avoided the town centre generally.
All the Pretty Horses (and the Japanese Garden)
If you are at all interested in horses, be it breeding or racing, make a point to visit the Irish National Stud. On roughly 1,000 acres some of Ireland's best horses are conceived and cared for. Kildare is horse country ... But also head for the extensive gardens - created in 1906 by Tassa Eida and his son son Minoru, a genuine Japanese garden laid out according to philosophical principles awaits you on one side. Best enjoyed very early or outside the season as too many other visitors will detract from the spiritual aspects. St. Fiachra's Garden on the other side encompasses four acres of woodland ... you will find an Irish garden with native plants and beautiful walks.
Saint Patrick's College in Maynooth
Set up by an act of the Irish Parliament at the close of the 18th century, Saint Patrick's College was a counterpart to Trinity College in Dublin. While the latter was founded as a "seat of Protestant learning", the new facility at rural Maynooth was "a place of higher education for those of the Catholic or Popish religion". Its first role was the training of priests - this has changed and today's college is no longer dedicated to the education of Catholic clergy alone.
See Style Icons and Shop for Silverware
Just why Newbridge Silverware, after all a modern factory that churns out mass-produced metal cutlery, should be on the tourist trail in Ireland might be an enigma at first. But taking into account the Museum of Style Icons, some jewellery and a very good restaurant, one might be tempted. And the silverware itself is not too bad either ... and may double as a very durable souvenir. Also on display are memorabilia from Audrey Hepburn to Grace Kelly, including some fine threads that you will remember. If you have seen all the classics (and some not-so-classic efforts). Oh, and the restaurant is quite good, too.
Horse Racing on the Curragh
Some of the most exciting horse racing events in Ireland are held on the Curragh, just outside Kildare Town. Go, have a flutter on the geegees ... the Derby Festival in summer is one of Ireland's top sporting and social events of the calendar, complete with glamour, family fun, and also a bit of racing from some of Europe's top horses. After all they are after the biggest prize in Irish racing!
Splendour and Wonders in Celbridge and Leixlip
Castletown House, just outside the village of Celbridge, was built in 1722 for Irish politician William Connolly and may be the largest palladian house in Ireland. Dediegned by the Florentine architect Allessandro Galilei and Irishman Edward Pearce (who also built the Irish parliament), it has been restored through the efforts of the Irish Georgian Society. From here, drive to Leixlip and look left when crossing the motorway near the sprawling HP factory ... the unique building with the outside staircase is the "Wonderful Barn", a puzzling architectural oddity.
Outlet Shopping at Kildare Village
is Ireland's take on the outlet "bargain" mall - a grouping of brand-name stores designed to convey a "village setting". Which comes across about as clinical as Disney's Main Street USA, despite attempts to recreate horse barns.
Traditional Music in County Kildare
- Athy - "Clancy's" - Thursday
- Kilcock - "Aidan Byrne's Pub" - Thursday
- Kildare - "Goaban Saor" - Wednesday
More Information on County Kildare and the Province of Leinster
Moving On ... Beyond Kildare's Borders
Enough time spent in County Kildare? Then carry on in the neighbouring counties: