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What to see and do on a short break in Kildare
Sail down The Grand Canal with friends in Kildare
From ancient warriors to stud farm legends, County Kildare is steeped in history, horses and heroes. Yet there’s more to the Thoroughbred County than mythical warriors and racing royalty, its waterways, boglands and fertile pastures make it a land of eye-catching colourful contrasts.

Here are some of the best places to visit in Kildare if you’re planning to spend a few days there.

North Kildare and Maynooth

From 18th century fashion to enchanting woodland walks North Kildare is a great place to start your visit to Kildare.

Castletown House

Two people walking on the grounds of Castletown House
Explore the grounds of Castletown House.

Not only is Castletown House one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in Ireland, but it’s also one of the best places to get a look into life during the 1700s. The costumed tour guides show off the grandiose drawing room, wearing high-end 18th century fashion before you make your way down to the servant’s quarters to hear what life was really like.

If you plan to be here on a Saturday make sure to pack your running shoes and take part in the weekly park run. 

Maynooth Castle 

Make the short journey into Maynooth and visit the 13th century Maynooth Castle. This castle was once one of Ireland’s most imposing castles and the ancestral home of the Fitzgeralds, the Earls of Kildare. Their former seat of power now lies in ruins, but you can take a trip back in time and relive the family’s adventures and the castle’s history on one of the daily tours.  

Just a few minutes’ drive away, Connolly’s Folly is a unique famine relief project that’s well worth a visit when in the area. It’s made up of a series of stone archways, some 50-foot tall, stacked together with a towering pillar on top reaching 100-foot into the air, it’s quite a sight.

Maynooth College 

A guided tour of the historic Maynooth College campus takes in its ecclesiastical roots and brings the rich history of the college to life while showcasing its many memorable features. Stroll along the tree-lined path to the College Graveyard and gasp in awe at the stunning College Chapel before stepping into the ominous Ghost Room. There’s also a chance to see the 800-year-old Silken Thomas yew, believed to be Ireland’s oldest native tree.  

History buffs will love the Maynooth Ecclesiastical Museum in St Patrick’s College as it takes you through the history of the church in Ireland. The intriguing exhibitions include rare manuscripts, ecclesiastical artefacts, religious antiquities and the largest collection of scientific instruments in the country.

Cycle through Kildare 

Spend a day on a memorable cycle from Maynooth College through the grounds of Carton Estate, along the Grand Canal and into Celbridge. Journey through the estate at Castletown House and past the colourful barges and along the Grand Canal Way at Hazelhatch.   

Donadea Forest Park

If you prefer the great outdoors to hallowed halls of learning and mouth-watering meals, you’ll love the 243-hectare Donadea Forest Park and its three looped walking routes. The 5.7km Aylmer Walk is a dog-friendly, 90 minute trail that lets you experience the best of the park.

You can also see striking historical features like the castle remains, walled gardens, tower and the dramatic Lime Tree Avenue. Just outside the park is Connolly’s Pub, a fantastic traditional pub that’s a great place for a post-walk pint or some traditional music.

Kildare Town

Newbridge Silverware  

Stop by Newbridge Silver on your way to Kildare Town to visit one of Ireland’s most iconic design brands. Beginning as a cutlery company in 1934, Newbridge Silverware has since gone on to establish itself as a renowned jewellery and homeware designer. Fashion lovers and pop culture fans will enjoy the Museum of Style Icons collection at the visitor centre, which includes items worn by Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles and Princess Grace of Monaco.

Legends of Kildare VR Experience 

Strap on a VR headset to experience the latest technology and take an immersive trip into the county’s past at the Kildare Town Heritage Centre in the centre of town. Along the journey, you’ll meet iconic Kildare characters like Na Fianna, Brigid the Goddess and St Brigid - all the way up to the arrival of the Normans. Treat yourself to some food afterwards at Silken Thomas, a much-loved bar and restaurant.

Kildare Village

Only a ten minute walk from the town centre, Kildare Village has over 80 designer boutiques with reductions of up to 60 percent on luxury brands. This open air shopping outlet is a bargain hunter’s dream – just remember to tear yourself away from the deals to discover Kildare Town’s many other charms. While you’re there, savour the classic simplicity of a meal at Le Pain Quotidien or scoff some delicious crêpes on the go at Crêperie Angélie.

Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens

Horses in a field at The National Stud, Tully, Co. Kildare
Horses grazing at The National Stud in Co. Kildare.

Just a five minute drive from Kildare Town is The National Stud and Japanese Gardens, Ireland’s only stud farm that’s open to the public. You’ll learn all about Ireland’s racing icons, our most decorated horses and the moments that made them famous.  

There’s even the opportunity to get up close to some of these magnificent animals on the paddock or view the skeleton of Arkle, the greatest steeplechaser of all time, in the museum. You can then embrace a gentler atmosphere at the Japanese Gardens, where the kaleidoscope of colour, exotic plants and babbling streams will soothe the soul of any visitor.

The Curragh 

Find out why they call it the Sport of Kings with a day at The Curragh, the home of Irish flat racing. This is all about the thrill of the races, the atmosphere in the crowd, the excitement of a win and the unmistakable glamour of race day.  

If you have time in County Kildare…

Brilliant Boat Tours 

For an unforgettable outing on the water, take a trip with or Athy Boat Tours along the River Barrow and the Grand Canal. You’ll love the scenery, the sense of relaxation, and the experience of passing through the canal locks, just like earlier visitors in centuries gone by.

Start planning your short break in Kildare now

If you’re looking to take a break in Ireland that combines great activities and interesting places to visit, Kildare is a great place to go. Our Kildare destination page is your one stop guide to all the best places in the Thoroughbred County.

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