Sitting just outside the capital county of Dublin is Kildare, with its strong horsey and golfing ties. However there’s more to the lily white county than just magnificent stud farms (deemed worth a visit by the Queen of England, no less) and award-winning links courses…
I’m talking awe-inspiring landscapes, beautiful stately homes and a very important pub – all of which can be enjoyed at a wallet-friendly price.
Celbridge’s hidden gem, the Palladian style , has been lovingly restored so that us civilians may marvel at its grandeur. The Guinness family rescued it from ruin in the 1960s and restoration work has been carried out ever since. The guided tours and café reopen in mid-March, until then you can wander about the demesne, follow the walks by the River Liffey, and admire the beautiful exteriors of the house and the temple specially commissioned by Lady Louisa in the 1760s. All for free!
If coming by Dublin Bus, you can access the house from the Celbridge main street by strolling down the tree-lined avenue. And if you’re really impressed with the place, the at the entrance gate is now a guesthouse!
Cost: Free to wander the demesne and grounds of the house, €4.50 for a guided tour.
The great landscape
The Curragh is where all the action is in Kildare. There’s the for some nail-biting, equestrian fun, and the that traces Ireland’s military activity from the 1640s up to now. In fact, the Curragh is still an Irish Army base and military training centre, which will explain all the fellows walking around in camouflage and the distant echoing bangs from the shooting ranges. was built on sacred land; so much so that the Dalai Lama visited it last year. Kildare is famous for its flat landscape, and the seemingly never-ending Curragh Plains starred as the backdrop for the movie Braveheart, doubling up as Scotland in the ‘Battle of the Stirling Bridge’ scene.
Cost: all free, unless you want to place some bets on a fine Kildare filly.
means simple, elegant jewellery and homeware all in polished, dazzling silver. Kildare is the home of shiny stuff HQ, but even if you’re not in the market for new bling, you can still visit the flagship store and its fabulous Museum of Style Icons.
This collection of memorabilia is one of the best in the world, while the icons and fashion muses in the title are the real deal. We’re talking Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Michael Jackson, Judy Garland, Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe. Admire Audrey’s adorable pink dress she wore as Holly Golightly, Grace’s gorgeous Givenchy gown, that corset from Madonna’s 1985 Pepsi ad and my personal favourite, Tippi Hendren’s green suit from The Birds. She looked terrified throughout the film, but always so chic!
Cost: free (unless you get tempted by the spiffy silverware!).
A lovely lunch
Get yourself to for lunchtime at The Bay Tree. The bargainous lunch menu for €5 promises to fill you up nicely, ranging from pasta dishes to pitta breads.
And did you know Arthur Guinness was a Kildare man? He was born in Celbridge town, in fact. The site of the Guinness family’s first brewery (Arthur would eventually leave his brother in charge when he bought )is in Leixlip, in what is now . Where better to have a sip of the black stuff than their Arthur’s Bar, the original site of Guinness?
Cost: €5 lunch and €5 pint, not bad.
Clancy’s pub in Athy is a little bar with a massive musical heart. Every Thursday the place is swarmed with musicians and punters all set for a session. The performances have been running for 45 years so that kind of guarantees they’re musical maestros at this point. Their reputation for traditional music nights has grown so much that they now host a trad music weekend in May. It’s completely free so the price of a pint or two should get you through the night.
Cost: Free admission and prices of drinks should start from €4.
Other Kildare-tastic places : serious bargain hunters need to get to the where designer goods are sold at discounted prices, explore the gorgeous woodlands of , learn about our winged friends at the in Straffan and have tea at Eric Clapton’s former castle – .