Hi Everyone. I can’t believe we’ve only got three stops left before the Virtual Tour of Ireland comes to an end! The first of those three stops is this weeks’ trip to the beautiful County Kildare. The county is famed for its horseracing and is home to the famous Curragh Racecourse and the National Stud which is our first stop.
County Kildare Highlights
1. National Stud
This horse lovers idyll is home to the finest thoroughbreds and the horse museum is truly fascinating where the center piece is the skeleton of legendary racehorse, Arkle. The gardens are just stunning. St. Fiachra’s garden was designed in 1999 and pays tribute to the Patron Saint of Horticulture.
2. Castletown House
So next up we’re off to Celbridge and the very impressive Castletown House. The house dates back to 1729 and was built for the then speaker of The House of Commons, William Connolly. It is the largest Palladian style country house in Ireland. The grandeur of the place is undeniable, with its imposing colonnaded front connecting the two pavilions to the central building. The surrounding parkland is the perfect place for a country stroll.
3. Clane Abbey
Our next stop takes us to the ruins of Clane Abbey. Religious life began here in the 6th century when a monastery was founded by Saint Ailbe. The Vikings plundered the monastery around 1035. It was taken over by Gerald FitzMaurice FitzGerald, son of the 2nd Lord of Offaly in 1258. The ruins consist mostly of the remains of the buildings at this time as well as some 15th century additions.
4. Lullymore Heritage Park
Lullymore Heritage Park is an educational wonderland for all the family. It is set in the heart of The Bog of Allen, Ireland’s largest bogland. There’s a fun pet farm pet farm and a crazy golf course as well as a wealth of informative exhibitions charting 9000 years of Irish history.
5. Japanese Gardens
As is the custom, we end our journey in the peace and tranquility of a beautiful garden. For me,the Japanese Gardens are the jewel in County Kildare’s crown.
Colonel William Hall Walker bought the Tully Estate in 1900. In 1915 he presented the estate to the Irish State. It was he who established the stud farm and created the magnificent Japanese Gardens.
The Colonel had visited Japan and shared the enthusiasm for all things Japanese which was spreading throughout Europe at that time. The swampy conditions at Tully as well as natural springs make it the perfect site for a Japanese garden. The Colonel set about enlisting the services of Tassa Eida and the original gardens were set out between 1906 and 1910. Plants, bonsai, stone lanterns and a tea house were all shipped from Japan to give a truly authentic feel to the gardens.
Thanks so much for your company. Do join me next week as we reach our penultimate destination- County Meath!
Take care of yourselves and each other,
Slán go fóill!