From wild boglands to colonial estates, to horse racing empires and Antarctic explorers, prepare to be surprised by all you can do in Kildare.
Ireland is a world superpower when it comes to thoroughbred horse breeding and a trip to the Irish National Stud is a chance to peek behind the curtain and see what goes into rearing these magnificent animals. This is the only stud farm in Ireland that’s open to the public and you can get up close and personal with future champion horses.
You can also explore its Japanese Gardens, which draw on aesthetics, philosophy and natural beauty to create a tranquil space that offers a peaceful sanctuary from the outside world.
The former meeting place of ancient kings and chieftains, The Curragh needs no introduction. This is the home of flat racing, the scene of amazing highs and lows, and the setting for many a good yarn. Embrace the roar of the crowd, the thrill of the race and that unmistakable atmosphere with a day at The Curragh.
Style icons like Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles and Princess Grace of Monaco may not have visited Kildare, but you can see iconic pieces they once wore in Kildare at the Newbridge Silverware Museum of Style Icons. At the Newbridge Silverware factory, you can also go behind the scenes to see the craftsmanship that goes into their famous jewellery, homeware and giftware.
Who doesn’t love a bargain? There are over 80 designer boutiques at Kildare Village with reductions of up to 60 percent on luxury goods throughout the year. Make a day of it and grab some authentic Italian food at L’Officina restaurant or sample the Asian flavours at Alchemy Juice.
Ireland’s largest and earliest Palladian-style estate, Castletown House in Celbridge is a striking building that is well worth a visit. The spectacular gardens are perfect for a stroll and the tour will take you through the estate’s rich 300-year history. The magnificent Portland stone staircase is worth the price of admission alone. Make sure you walk down to the river to get a perfect view of the house.
Kildare man Ernest Shackleton led three expeditions to the Antarctic, became a survival legend on the Discovery expedition and is one of the greatest adventurers of all time. The permanent Shackleton exhibition in Athy Heritage Centre relives his exploits, features artefacts from his expeditions and takes you to the ends of the Earth and back in his footsteps.
The award-winning Lullymore Heritage Park in Rathangan charts 9000 years of Irish history and heritage, covering everything from rebellion to our relationship with the natural environment. The Biodiversity Boardwalk takes you through lakes, peatland and gardens while there are plenty of family-friendly distractions like its forest-themed play centre, the pet farm or train trips.
This 800-year old cathedral in Kildare Town is believed to be where St Brigid formed a nunnery and you can sense the history in every stone. Restored in the 19th century, St Brigid’s Cathedral contains older vaults with early Christian and Norman carvings. Its 12th century round tower is the second tallest in Ireland and the views from the top are every bit as impressive as you’d imagine.
With 243 hectares of mixed woodland, Donadea Forest Park is a perfect natural playground for all ages. Amazing views, incredible natural beauty and historical relics like the castle remains, walled gardens and Lime Tree Avenue make it a magical place to explore. There is even a 9/11 memorial, dedicated to a young New York firefighter called Sean Tallon, whose family emigrated from these parts.
The Bog of Allen Nature Reserve nature reserve in Rathangan is preserving a portion of Ireland’s boglands for the future while also revealing their importance to previous generations. You can relive a piece of the past with a visit to its traditional cottage from the 1960s. The self-guided tour will show you the vital part that boglands played in Irish life and the rich ecosystem they have supported for thousands of years.
This early Georgian villa outside Ballitore is surrounded by beautiful parklands, vegetable gardens and farmland walks. Take in the explosion of colour in the flower gardens, soak up the wild beauty of its walks and see if you can find its secret gardens. Just inside the gates, the Green Barn is a popular restaurant that serves up organic, seasonal produce straight from the gardens. While you’re in the area wander through the streets of Ballitore, Ireland’s first planned Quaker village.
No matter what you’re looking for on your short break to Kildare, you’ll find that the Thoroughbred County has something to suit everyone - start planning your trip now.