County Kildare

Grand houses, stunning gardens and the heart of Ireland's horseracing community, Kildare is a true thoroughbred and a star of Ireland's Ancient East

Kildare has always had a sense of style. After all, this is where you’ll find the fascinating story of William Conolly’s extravagant Castletown House, Ireland’s first and largest Palladian manor. It’s also where you’ll find Marilyn Monroe’s polka dot umbrella, plus the hot pink cocktail dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – amongst other celebrity memorabilia at the Museum of Style Icons in Newbridge.

It’s the county that welcomed some of the world’s greatest golfers when it hosted the Ryder Cup at the K Club, as well as no less than 13 European Opens. And Kildare's got status as an official Irish Heritage Town. But when the word Kildare is uttered amongst equestrian circles, there’s some serious style in store…

The Thoroughbred County

Amongst the lush landscape of the Thoroughbred County many of Ireland's top studs, stables and racecourses are to be found. Think the Curragh, Punchestown and Naas racecourses. And when racing festivals come around, it’s time to be wowed by slick suits, beautiful dresses and some rather head-turning hats!

The real thoroughbred journey starts at the Irish National Stud. Visit in foaling season and you'll spot these new-born beauties tottering around on legs that seem just about to fold underneath them. But there's much more besides these charming scenes. Within the Irish Horse Museum, you'll find the skeleton of Arkle, three-time winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Meanwhile, in the Japanese Gardens, there are 200-year-old bonsai trees, lava rocks from Mount Vesuvius and a trail tracing man’s journey through life. For a garden of a different sort, wander through St Fiachra’s Garden. Named for the patron saint of Irish gardeners, here the focus in on rock and water – the Irish landscape in its rawest form.

Heritage and honking horns

Sitting right on Dublin’s doorstep, Kildare’s peppering of luxury hotels, spas and guesthouses makes the ideal base for a dash into the city. But with so much of the good life right here at the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East, Kildare is worthy of far more than just a day trip.

There is outlet shopping at Kildare Village, gourmet fare in gastropubs; and verdant hedgerows line the route to Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park. And when in sight of the Grand Canal, take time to imagine how the fast ‘fly boat’ service would have glided these waters between 1834 and 1852. With two horses towing boats at speeds of around 7mph, it was what we’d call 21st century slow travel. The barge trips go slightly quicker these days, but it’s exactly how we’d recommend you enjoy the glorious county of Kildare.

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