Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens
The Irish National Stud thoroughbred breeding farm at Tully, near Kildare town, is one of a number of successful stud farms in County Kildare. Clients pay to mate their mares with top racing stallions. It also runs interesting tours for visitors. The farm was established on the Tully River by a Scottish Colonel, William Hall-Walker in 1900, partly because the calcium rich water was very good for the horses’ bone development. Each horsebox still has a drinking fountain tapped straight from the freshwater spring.
Bog of Allen
The Bog of Allen was once Ireland’s largest raised peat bog, covering much of the midlands. A large part of the northwest of County Kildare is still taken up by the bog, which is home to many indigenous plants and insects including carnivorous sundew plants, orchids and bog cotton. The bog is being gradually depleted for turf-burning electricity generation stations. The Peatland World interpretative centre in Lullymore has displays about the flora and fauna of the Bog and organises walks into the Bog.
Castletown House in the town of Celbridge is a huge Palladian Mansion with extremely lavish interiors built between 1722-32 for the land agent and Speaker of the Irish parliament William Connolly. Connolly commissioned the Florentine architect Alessandro Galiliei to build the house and Lady Louisa Lennox, wife of William Connolly’s great nephew Tom was responsible for commissioning most of the interior design which remains frozen in the 18th century. Two elaborate follies in the garden, one of which is a memorial to Connolly were commissioned by his wife Katherine to provide local employment in hard times. The house remained in the hands of the family until 1965 and is now run by the Irish heritage service.
Seventeenth century Celbridge Abbey has attractive grounds with river walks, a model railway, a picnic area and a caf?.
Horse racing and breeding is one of Ireland’s most prestigious industries, and the Curragh Racecourse has always been Ireland’s premier racecourse for classic racing. There is racing almost every other weekend between March and November but even on non-racing days you can see sleek thoroughbreds practising and getting exercise on the different stretches of Europe’s longest racecourse which sits on 6000 acres of grassland on the edge of the Bog of Allen. Stretches of the two and a half miles long track, which runs alongside the N7 to Kildare, are called things like the Old Vic Gallop and the Straight Mile. The clubhouse and stands are on a grand scale. The complex has around 40 hospitality suites, two parade rings, private and public bars, function rooms and tote counters and attracts a 35,000 crowd on classic race days. The five big classics at the Curragh are The Derby in June, The Oaks in July, St Leger in September, and the 1,000 Guineas and 2000 Guineas both in May. The Naas and Punchestown racecourses in Naas are also two of the most important horse racing centres in Ireland.
Grand Canal Boating
Narrowboats for cruising the Grand Canal, which runs through County Kildare, can be hired on a weekly basis in Robertstown, from where trips on the canal also leave. The Canal, which stretches from Dublin to the Shannon in County Offaly and to the River Barrow which runs as far as County Waterford, was used as a major passenger and goods transportation route from 1779 until 1960. The Canal’s’ importance diminished as Ireland’s railway network was established, but it has recently been renovated as a tourism amenity. Walking along the canal towpaths from Robertstown is also popular. The Royal Canal, which also runs through the County Kildare is also being renovated.
Hill of Allen
The Hill of Allen near Newbridge, which has remains of an Iron Age fort and a modern folly on top, was said to be the stronghold of the legendary Celtic warrior Finn McCool.
The ruined 13th century Maynooth Castle was the stronghold of the Anglo-Norman Fitzgeralds who were the ruling family in Kildare. It was held under siege by the English after Silken Thomas Fitzgerald led the 1536 rebellion. He and his men were slaughtered when they surrendered. The castle was sacked by Cromwell’s forces when the Fitzgeralds moved to Kilkea castle.
Moone High Cross
The 9th century Moone High Cross in the graveyard of the remains of Moone Abbey, in the village of Moone near Timolin, is six feet tall and has well preserved carvings of biblical scenes of the Twelve Apostles and the multiplying of the loaves and fish. There are also two high crosses on the site of a monastery founded by Saint Diarmuid in 812AD in Castledermot. There is also another high cross in Old Kilcullen.
Saint Brigid’s Cathedral
The large 13th century Saint Brigid’s Protestant Church and a 10th century round tower are on the site of a rare combined monastery and convent founded by Saint Brigid in the 490AD century. A fire pit which contained a perpetually burning holy fire tended by the nuns is also on the grounds.
Saint Patrick’s College and Seminary
Saint Patrick’s College and Seminary in Maynooth is the main training centre for priests in Ireland. It was founded by the English in 1795 to stop Catholic priests going to France to train where it was feared they would pick up revolutionary and republican ideas.
Straffan Butterfly Farm
Visitors to Straffan Butterfly Farm in the town of Straffan can wander through free flight tropical houses filled with exotic butterflies and other insects. The farm also has a small reptile zoo.
Straffan Steam Museum
Straffan Steam Museum has vintage steam trains, model steam trains and exhibitions on the history of steam travel.