Approximate Distance 86 MILES/ 138 KM
“Racing fans who have never been to Ireland are like food lovers who have never visited France, or artists who restrict their painting to a coat of emulsion on the bathroom ceiling.”
So said the great Racing Post writer, Alastair Down.
Don’t worry, Mr. Down isn’t talking about motor racing. He’s got horses in mind. And this touring route, looping leisurely around Maynooth, the Blessington Lakes and the great pastoral expanse of the Curragh, takes drivers right to the heart of Irish horse country including the racecourses at Naas and Punchestown and the Curragh.
The Curragh – a 5,000-acre plain whose name means “place of the running horse”– lies at the centre of Kildare. From state-of-the-art racecourses to top-notch training yards, this is the core of Ireland’s bloodstock industry, and a fascinating place to visit.
Take the Irish National Stud, one of the stops on Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Ireland in 2011. It’s home to Ireland’s premium horses and foals, to the Irish Horse Museum and surprisingly, to Japanese Gardens complete with 200-year-old bonsai trees.
Not everything about the Curragh is equestrian, of course. It’s also home to the Irish Defence Forces, and the British Army trained men here to fight in the Boer and First World Wars.
Newbridge, Kildare and Maynooth are three warm and welcoming towns along the route – places you can stop into for a slap-up meal, a heritage fix, or an overnight stay.