Explore – Kildare

What do thoroughbred horses, racing cars, Japanese Gardens, historic houses, and Arthur Guinness have in common? If you didn’t answer County Kildare, you should be ashamed of yourself, considering the title of this page.

Things to do

There’s a lot going on in Kildare.

Synonymous with horse racing, County Kildare is home to the National Stud and plays host to many regular horse-racing meets and yearly festivals at Punchestown, Naas and the Curragh. Right next door to the Stud is the Japanese Gardens. Europe’s finest example of a Japanese ‘sensory garden’, it attracts over 150,000 visitors a year and is the perfect place to sooth the soul, after torturing it at the races.

Apparently fascinated with the thrill of the race, Kildare also boasts Ireland’s only international motor sport track, Mondello Park, which hosts many national and international racing events.

Slowing things down a bit and strolling through Kildare’s historic houses is a thrill of a different kind. Castletown House is an architectural gem, with many unique features and a well documented story. It was built in 1722 for William Conolly, speaker of the Irish House of Commons and at the time the wealthiest man in Ireland. The house is ornamented with fascinating rococo stucco work by the master-craftsmen Lafrancinni brothers, contains Ireland’s only known remaining ‘print room’, and features a truly breathtaking cantilevered staircase made of Portland Stone. Eighteenth century life in this ‘great house’ was uniquely captured in correspondence between Lady Louisa, who lived in Castletown and her sister Emily who lived in nearby Carton house. Their letters formed the basis for the historical novel, ‘The Aristocrats’.

And what of Arthur Guinness? The man who gave the world ‘Guinness’ started his first brewery in Leixlip, and had such fond memories of his time in Kildare, that he decided to take his permanent rest in another Kildare town when he left this world. If it’s good enough for Guinness….

Places to Stay

Hidden Ireland Historic Country Guest Houses

Bed and Breakfast

Martinstown House
Martinstown House is one of the few Irish buildings by the renowned 19th century architect, Decimus Burton. Built in the 1830’s at the edge of The Curragh, this elegant gothic cottage is surrounded by its own miniature park, with delightful woodland and garden views. The interior has been beautifully furnished and decorated. It’s a sort of hybrid between a luxury hotel and a private home, embodying the best of both worlds, with all the simple luxuries and attention to detail that will ensure a comfortable stay. The fine walled garden is ablaze with flowers in summer and provides fresh fruit and vegetables for the table. Edward and Roisin Booth are hands-on owners and engaging hosts, much appreciated by their many guests. Nearby, The Curragh is internationally renowned as the home of Irish Racing and the Irish thoroughbred industry. In addition to The Curragh, the capital of Irish flat racing, other nearby race courses include Punchestown and Naas, and there are several challenging golf courses within easy reach, including the K Club. Kildare Cathedral and Round Tower, the National Stud and the Japanese Gardens and a must for all shoppers Kildare Outlet Village are just 5 miles away; Russborough House and the Wicklow Mountains are within easy reach, and both Dublin and Dublin airport are both within an hour’s drive of Martinstown House. Directions: From Dublin M7 south, then M9 to the Kilcullen exit. Turn right onto the N78 (towards Athy) for 1 mile until you reach a crossroads with a sign-post for Martinstown to the right. Then after about 1 mile turn left (signed), follow road for half a mile, we are the old wooded estate on your left. Please ring if lost. This is after all “Hidden Ireland”. Sat Nav: 53.06444, -6.49373