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Athy

Athy

Mix it up in a town that boasts fascinating history, great trad music pubs and leafy riverside walks.

​Few places can boast the kind of equestrian prowess as County Kildare. Famed around the world for its sleek-coated thoroughbreds, the county is packed with horse-breeding facilities, stables, race tracks and tack shops. But there’s another side to this equine-obsessed county of rolling green pastures: the waterways.

A short distance from the sweeping fields of the Curragh, with its exquisitely shorn grasslands, is the pretty town of Athy, which sits at the junction of the River Barrow and the Barrow Line of the Grand Canal. The towpaths and riverside walkways here feel delightfully isolated with a breezy escapism that allows you to imagine you’re a million miles from the modern world.

Historic bridges arch gracefully over flowing waters, elder and willow line the banks, and scenic locks and pretty towns punctuate stretches of water that seem to go on for miles. At times, history inches its way into the landscape in ways that cause surprise – there’s the abandoned chunky stone mill at Levitstown, which harks back to an era of industry. There’s the 18th century Fisherstown Bridge at Monasterevin, which follows a road that’s said to be one of Ireland’s most ancient routes. And there are the canal towpaths – designed to facilitate horse-drawn barges, today these paths are some of the most beautiful places to take a leisurely walk.

But it’s in the town of Athy itself where the area’s history feels at its most tangible. The past infuses every corner of this ancient Norman settlement, from Crom a Boo Bridge, named after the war cry of the Fitzeralds, earls of Kildare; to Preston’s Gate, which got its name from Thomas Preston who seized the gate in 1648. Elegant and relaxed, this town is a delightful place to linger, with the tree-lined banks of the water providing a beautifully languid counterpoint to the thick stone tower of White’s Castle.

Take your time and stroll along canalbanks and riverside trails, jump on a boat trip into the heart of nature, and finish the day with a session in one of the town’s great music pubs.

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