Naas (or Nás na Riogh in Irish) means ‘Assembly Place of the Kings’. For centuries, it was the seat of the Kings of Leinster, who governed from the North Motte (or manmade hill) in the town.
Naas was fortified under the Anglo Normans, who arrived in 1170, and was granted its first charter as a Corporation by King Henry IV in 1409.Today, the town enjoys several meandering heritage trails, all of which are colour-coded. They range from half-an-hour to two hours in length.
The core trail loops around the 19th-century town centre, including Naas town hall (originally built as a jail in 1792) and the site of the old town gates and the courthouse. This dates from 1807 and has been the setting for many films, due to its similarity to the Old Bailey in London.
St Patrick is said to have visited Naas in AD448 (baptising King Dunling's children at the well at Oldtown). The old parish church, however, originally dedicated to him, was rebuilt in 1620 and re-named for St. David. The Welsh patron saint was thought to have Irish connections and townspeople in Naas, customarily wore leeks on St. David’s Day until the late 1700s.
Elsewhere, a pink route along the canal takes in land associated with the De Burgh family; a red route passes an old workhouse and graveyard (remnants of the famine years) and south of the town, an orange heritage trail passes the unfinished Jigginstown House.
Building on Jigginstown, intended to have been a palace for Charles I, stopped in 1641. The ruins of its cellars and ground floor have survived to this day. It’s a real Kildare curiosity.
Today’s Naas is a bustling hub on the cusp of Ireland’s horse country, full of tempting shops and cafes and within easy distance of Punchestown, the National Stud and Mondello Park.