In contrast to the harsh landscape of the Wicklow Mountains to the east, County Kildare is prosperous farming country, which was gladly seized and fortified by the English as part of the medieval Pale. Rich pasture for cattle and horses in the north of the county gives way to fertile ploughland in the south, the Bog of Allen in the northwest providing the only unproductive blot on the landscape. The county’s main attractions for visitors are neatly concentrated in two areas. Servicing the bloodstock farms on the Curragh’s lush heathland, Kildare town is generally a low-key affair, where you can explore the monastery and church founded by St Brigid in the fifth century, and see what all the equine fuss is about at the fascinating National Stud. To the north of town, you can trace the develop- ment of the Bog of Allen at the nature centre in Lullymore. Meanwhile up on the county’s northern edge lie the motley attractions of Larchill Arcadian Gardens, as well as one of Ireland’s finest stately homes, Castletown.

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