Part two of Gerry Breen’s tour of the historical and architectural gems which make up the Ireland’s Ancient East tourist trail, beginning in Co. Kildare, from where the country was once ruled.

Castletown House in Celbridge, Co. Kildare, is one of Ireland’s  most spectacular landed estates.Castletown contains 100 rooms and 229 windows, and is set in 120 acres of landscaped grounds stretching down to the River Liffey. As one eighteen-century commentator remarked: ‘This I believe  to be the only house in Ireland to which the term ‘palace’ can be applied.

For over fifty years in the late fifteenth to the middle of the sixteenth century, Ireland was not ruled from Dublin but from Kildare, by the powerful Fitzgerald dynasty, based in their castle in Maynooth. Today, the castle is an OPW heritage site and you can still enjoy the lovely grounds and a trip around the imposing medieval keep.

Kildare is steeped in history with origins that stretch into the distant past and there are many sites that are of interest to the historian and archaeologist, including St. Brigid’s Cathedral, Kildare Town; Old Kilcullen, Moone High Cross in the small village of Moone, and Castledermot, which takes its name from St. Dermot who founded a monastery there in 812.

Russborough House in Co. Wicklow is a superb example of Palladian architecture and it has remained virtually unaltered since it was built in the middle of the eighteenth century. Powerscourt House and Gardens are also located in Co. Wicklow, and the historic gardens of Powerscourt are world renowned and have been voted third best in the world by National Geographic magazine.

Glendalough monastery was founded by St. Kevin some  time in the later part of the 6th century. However, most of the structures you see now at Glendalough date to around the tenth to the twelfth centuries.

Baltinglass Abbey,  located on the outskirts of the modern town of Baltinglass, was founded by the King of Leinster, Diarmait MacMurchada, and Rathgall Hillfort is a hilltop settlement with origins in the bronze age.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5609)