A unique experience in Kildare
The Irish National Stud is the beating heart of the Irish horse racing industry and the only stud farm in Ireland open to the public. For a place that has consistently produced equine royalty, it seems only fitting that its former visitors have included queens and presidents.
Guided tours last 45 minutes and include a visit to the foaling unit, where you might be lucky enough to see the first steps of a future champion. The best time to see a foal being born is between February and April.
You can also get up close to the spectacular stallions at the paddock, spot lively yearlings or watch the protective mares with their frolicking foals. Even if you’re not a racing aficionado, you’ll be able to appreciate the historical success that has built this place and the passion that has sustained it.
Visit the Horse Museum
At the Horse Museum, you can discover the story behind the Irish love affair with horses, Ireland’s champion horses and the history of horse racing. The Horse Museum’s most famous fixture is the skeleton of Arkle, an Irish thoroughbred and racing legend who was simply known as “Himself.”
The Japanese Gardens at the Irish National Stud
Created between the years 1906 and 1910, the Japanese Gardens were designed by craftsman Tassa Eida and his son Minoru. These gardens combine art, philosophy and nature in perfect balance to create a tranquil and contemplative environment.
Beautiful structures like the Bridge of Life and the Tea House combine with the vivid foliage and babbling streams in a perfect balance of sights, sounds and colour. These gardens are considered the best of their kind in Europe and you’ll know why when you see them.
A more recent addition to the Irish National Stud and Gardens is St Fiachra’s Garden, named after the patron saint of gardening. This was created to commemorate the millennium and designed by the award-winning landscape architect, Professor Martin Hallinan.
Inspired by the Irish monastic tradition, St Fiachra’s Garden celebrates the rawness of the Irish landscape and it’s been designed to create the feeling of natural space. It’s every bit as inspiring as its Eastern predecessor and a trip to the gardens is a chance to escape the noise and bustle of everyday life for a few precious minutes.
There’s also an enchanting fairy trail that the kids will love. There are plenty of things to keep children amused but there is also a play area beside St Fiachra’s garden, with swings, slides and climbing frames to let them burn off any excess energy.
Grab a tea, coffee or light snack while they play and there are ice creams for the little ones (and the big ones).
An on-site restaurant run by Ballymaloe-trained Natalie Collins serves up a simple, wholesome menu focused on fresh, flavoursome food. Using local ingredients, the menu features perennial favourites like the beef hot pot or the platter of smoked salmon and freshly baked brown bread. There are vegetarian and gluten-free options.
There are also picnic benches in the car park if you want to bring a packed lunch. The Irish National Stud and Gardens is the perfect place to spend an afternoon, whether you are a fan of horse racing or not.
The spectacular surroundings alone make it a must-see. But, it’s also an opportunity to find out why this place in Kildare remains at the top of its game and to witness the passion and pride that goes into everything that they do.