These beautiful places in Kildare are an unmissable part of any trip through one of the most heritage-rich counties in Ireland’s Ancient East.
Kildare might not be your first thought when choosing a place to visit in Ireland, but with its proximity to Dublin and wide selection of accommodation from B&Bs to boutique hotels, Kildare is an ideal destination for a day trip or a break away.
The number-one reason to visit, however, is the phenomenal array of intriguing and beautiful places in County Kildare, which will capture your heart and your imagination. Here are our top five.
5. Castletown House – Georgian grandeur
Built between 1722 and 1727 by William Connolly, then the richest commoner in Ireland, Castletown is the largest Palladian mansion in Ireland. With a pretty strong claim to being the greatest example of Georgian architecture in the country, we think it’s safe to say this is one of the most beautiful places in Kildare.
The house’s stunning interiors can be experienced by guided tour from April to October. Our highlights are the grand Entrance Hall, the breathtaking neoclassical Long Gallery with its Murano glass chandeliers, and Ireland’s only surviving complete Print Room, a labour of love for Lady Louisa Connolly in the 1760s.
Meanwhile, the extensive parklands provide amazing walks for visitors of all ages (whether two-legged or four)! The Connollys of Castletown certainly left their mark on the Kildare landscape; the close-by Obelisk (Connolly’s Folly) in Maynooth and the incredibly unique Wonderful Barn in Leixlip, once part of the Castletown estate, are also not to be missed!
Location: Castletown, Celbridge, Co. Kildare
4. Donadea Forest Park – a magical woodland and castle
Donadea Forest Park incorporates a whopping 243 acres of forest and includes many historic structures and a man-made lake. Bursting with flora and fauna, the park is a fantastic place to visit all year round. This is one place in Kildare where you can’t help but feel at one with nature.
At the centre of the park are the dramatic ruins of Donadea Castle. The Gothic castle complete with fairy-tale towers was once home to the Aylmer family. While its present-day appearance dates to 1827, the oldest surviving part of the castle was constructed between 1581 and 1624.
Close by, the newly established Wallaby Woods adventure centre and petting zoo, home to a host of adorable animals including emus, wallabies, and African pygmy hedgehogs, is another perfect pitstop for families.
Location: Donadea, Co. Kildare
3. The Grand Canal – waterside walks
The Grand Canal runs all the way through Kildare and provides some impressive views for cyclists and pedestrians. When it comes to beautiful places in Kildare, this one can be accessed from many points and is easily incorporated into a daytrip with many of the county’s other attractions.
Before the advent of the railway, canals provided the fastest way to transport goods across the country and remained a hive of activity into the 20th century. Today however, the canal is a haven of tranquillity populated by swans, herons, and dragonflies, as well as picturesque houseboats harkening back to the waterway’s heritage.
The magnificence of the canal and surrounding countryside can also be explored via boat tour, available from the historic towns of Sallins and Athy.
Location: throughout Kildare
2. The Japanese Gardens and Saint Fiachra’s Gardens – world-famous serenity
Located within the grounds of the Irish National Stud, the world-renowned Japanese Gardens are undisputedly one of the most beautiful places to visit in County Kildare.
The gardens were laid out between 1906 and 1910 by acclaimed Japanese gardener Tassa Eida and his son Minoru. Colonel Walker, who commissioned the gardens, named one of his prize racehorses after Minoru.
The landscape Tassa Eida created is deeply rooted in philosophy, following the journey of a human soul from birth to death. The tranquil gardens, filled with rare plants, burst with colour and provide an unexpected Eastern voyage in the Irish midlands.
On the same site is the more recent Saint Fiachra’s Gardens, named after the patron saint of gardening, designed to evoke a sense of Ireland’s ancient monastic past.
Location: Brallistown Little, Tully, Co. Kildare
1. Oughterard Cemetery – a hidden gem
Topping our list of the most beautiful places in Kildare, this hidden treasure is the perfect place for contemplation with breathtaking vistas over the surrounding valley and towards the Dublin and Wicklow mountains. The complex of medieval buildings includes a church with an intact vaulted ceiling and bell tower, as well as a round tower that pre-dates the church by several hundred years.
The area is steeped in history! You would never guess today that this idyllic valley was once the site of one of the most important conflicts with the Vikings before the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. Famously, Oughterard is also the burial place of Arthur Guinness (founder of the Guinness brewery business) and an unmissable stop along the Arthur’s Way Heritage Trail.
Our top tip for hikers is to reach Oughterard along the grand canal; it’s a bit of a trek but worth every step.
Location: 7CGP+V3 Oughterard, County Kildare