6 incredible outdoor experiences in Kildare you need to do this summer
Brought to you by Discover Ireland
Heading to Kildare this summer? You NEED to visit these spots...
Bracing wilderness walks. Blooming, gorgeous gardens. Brilliant heritage houses. Welcome to the great outdoors of Kildare in Ireland’s Ancient East, where raw landscapes, cultural treasures and surprising experiences await.
Looking for some destination inspiration? Here are five outdoor experiences to explore Kildare's wild side.
Castletown House and Parkland
Did you know that the building that inspired the design of The White House is in Celbridge in Kildare?
Castletown House was built in 1729 and was the muse for Irish architect James Hoban, who built the White House in Washington. It is Ireland's largest and oldest Palladian house, meaning it is based on the designs of the 16th-century Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, who was inspired by the classical temple architecture of the Ancient Greeks and Romans.
Admire the elegance and symmetry of the building before stepping into the grand entrance hall and taking a self-guided tour of the magnificent mansion with its authentic interiors, filled with period furniture and incredible artwork. Of course, what is a stately home without extensive grounds filled with all manner of things to do? Castletown House and Parklands delivers on this front too with a biodiversity garden, meadows, waterways and woodlands to wander as well as parkland filled with curiosities like the Wonderful Barn and Conolly’s Folly.
With so much to see and do, for all ages, it is a perfect place for a fun-filled family day out. When you’ve worked up an appetite, find the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic and the beautiful space. You can also grab a delicious bite to eat in The Courtyard Café, which is surrounded by nature and history.
Speaking of history, from Castletown House you can follow in the footsteps of Arthur Guinness along the Arthur’s Way heritage trail. This picturesque walking and cycling route passes through the estate and takes you on a journey to many of the historic sites associated with Ireland’s most famous brewers – the Guinness family.
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Burtown House and Gardens
Burtown House and Gardens, near the town of Athy, is an 18th-century villa surrounded by beautiful flower, vegetable and woodland gardens. This is the only original Quaker house in Ireland that you can visit that is still lived in by the family that built it. What's even more special is that you can take guided tours given by family members. What a treat for history lovers!
Another treat is dining at Burtown’s Green Barn Restaurant, which serves only the freshest seasonal produce. And guess where most of it comes from? Straight from the gardens that surround the house. You can literally see your food growing right in front of you. You can't get much fresher or more sustainable than that.
Medieval Walls Walking Tour
Whilst you are in Athy, dig deeper into its rich history on an award-winning walking tour with the Athy Heritage Centre - Shackleton Museum. With each step, you'll step back in time as you visit medieval walls and ruins, Norman towers and castles, museums and monuments that tell the story of this picturesque town. You’ll also learn all about Athy’s links to Sir Ernest Shackleton, the great polar explorer.
Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park
Fancy going on holiday to the bog? No, really. This year, the peatland is the new Disneyland, and the Disneyland of all Irish bogs is the Bog of Allen in Kildare.
Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park is located in the heart of the Bog of Allen. Surrounded by breathtaking views, you'll learn about the biodiversity, heritage and archaeology of the bog as well as feel the sea of peat squelch beneath your feet. Enjoy a ride on the Peatland Heritage Railway, explore the Biodiversity Boardwalk and play a game of crazy golf on the bog. Then, take to the tracks and trails and outdoor areas and run wild and free.
Prepare to spend the day here, there's just so much to do. Once you've worked up an appetite, and you will, unwind in the sheltered picnic area with delicious food and drink from The Purple Heather Café.
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The Curragh Plains
The Curragh Plains has been in existence for over 2,000 years and is one is of the oldest semi-natural grasslands in Europe. It is a beautiful sweeping expanse of green fields with an exceptional diversity of flora and fauna. It is a wonderful place to enjoy a long walk where you can mingle with the free-roaming sheep.
But the area is much more closely connected to another animal, the horse. Legend has it that Fionn MacCumhaill and the Fianna raced their horses along the plains. Nowadays, it’s the Thoroughbreds from The Curragh Racecourse that you’ll see being exercised here. Living up to its nickname as the Thoroughbred County, across from the plains is the Irish National Stud and Gardens.
This is the only stud farm in Ireland open to the public and on a tour, you can admire the frolicking foals, magnificent mares and spectacular stallions. You can also journey through the history of horseracing, which is brought to life at the Irish Racehorse Experience. As you interact with the immersive exhibitions, you’ll discover what it is like to train and race a thoroughbred from foal to finish line. Prepare to giddy up as you run your horse in a ‘race’ simulator. Will you take home the glory of a big win? This immersive and innovative experience is the the first of its kind in Ireland, and really gets your heart rate going!
To lower your pulse after the race, stroll around the tranquil Japanese Gardens where art, philosophy and nature combine to create a contemplative haven. It’s a little piece of the Far East in Ireland’s Ancient East.
Donadea Forest Park
Donadea Castle was home to the Anglo-Norman Aylmer family from 1550 to 1935. Today, the ruins of the castle and walled gardens have been reclaimed by nature and are surrounded by tranquil parkland. You can explore Donadea Forest Park by following three leafy woodland trails. The 5km Aylmer Walk is the longest and takes you across streams and along the lovely Lime Tree Avenue.
On The Nature Trail, you’ll see scurrying squirrels and nesting birds, plus lots more flora and fauna. For those with restricted mobility, The Lake Walk is fully accessible and you can watch ducks playing on the water which is adorned with pretty lily pads during the summer.
A wonderful feature of the park is the 9/11 Memorial, which is a scaled replica of the Twin Towers inscribed with the names of the New York Fire Department, Police Officers and Port Authority officials who died in the Twin Towers. Set in an area of native oak trees, this part of the park is scenic and serene and a great place to relax and reflect.
As you can see, Kildare has a unique blend of old and new, wild landscapes and formal gardens. Whether you are into leisure or learning, heritage, houses or horticulture, there is something here for everyone. Being so compact, Kildare is a great day trip destination, however, planning a longer stay really gives you a chance to dig a little deeper and discover the hidden charms of this historic, horsey county.
Capacity restrictions may be in place at visitor attractions, sites and restaurants so you are encouraged to book ahead to avoid disappointment. The Leave No Trace principles help us make as little an impact as possible on the incredible Irish landscape as we explore the outdoors this summer and beyond. Keep outdoor areas safe, clean and free from waste/hazards, and help protect the natural environment. Love this place, leave no trace.
Brought to you by Discover Ireland