National Stud and Japanese Gardens
To the National Stud and Japanese Gardens via Portlaoise, Ballybrittas and Monasterevin.
Portlaoise was established by Queen Mary in 1555 as a walled fort to protect the southern end of the pale (the area south of Dublin under English control) The first English court and jail in Ireland were set up in Portlaoise (then named "Maryborough"). The Great Heath of Maryborough, under the shadow of the Rock of Dunamaise, retains features of the Celtic environment - ring barrows, ring forts and plough ridges - which lasted into the 1600's.while the English militia did its military exercises there too. Driving on from here the English influence increases in evidence. Emo Court along with Coolbanagher Church was designed by James Gandon for the Duke of Arlington.
James Gandon also designed the Four Courts and the customhouse in Dublin. Emo Court Gardens (75ac.) consist of sweeping formal lawns, statuary and tree lined walks. Capability Brown designed the formal gardens. The informal are by William Robinson. Winston Churchill spent summers in Emo Court, and the Duke of Wellington went to school in Portarlington. famed for its French Schools. Monasterevin has remnants of former grandeur. It is the gateway to Laois. Road, rail and canal here cross the River Barrow.
There is a fine terrace of three storey Georgian houses along the riverfront with their gardens running down to the river. Count John McCormac lived in Moore Abbey. Kildare is a historic town from pagan Celtic times, to St Bridget ("Mary of the Gaels") and her famed monastery. The Silken Thomas Restaurant is named after one of the Earls of Kildare.
Now visit the National Stud, home of the Irish Bloodstock industry. Horses have been bred here since The Middle Ages when the Knights of Malta bred horses for the crusades. Modem development took off when William Hall Walker, of Scottish descent, bought a farm at Tullv and then commissioned the designing of the Japanese Gardens, one of the ten most visited sites in Ireland and the finest example of such gardens in Europe. Return to your accommodation and have an evening out to dinner or go to the theatre, to the cinema or to a traditional musical evening.
"Brilliant! May I buy the bed?"
Vincent McEvoy, Ballygawley