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Trip Ideas at Athy

Trip Ideas

Mix the beautiful waters of the Barrow Line of the Grand with the grassy plains of County Kildare and you have a destination that oozes relaxation and intrigue... welcome to Athy.

Day 1
The town of Athy exudes the kind of charm that instantly captivates. Here, as the Barrow flows gracefully through its centre, historic bridges arch over the water, a vast castle tower dominates and elder and willow sway in the breeze along the scenic banks. It’s the perfect place to while away lazy afternoons lingering over long lunches, drifting along the water or walking by the silky waters of the canal. 

A good place to start getting a sense of Athy’s fascinating past is with the Athy Medieval Walls Guided Walk. Organised by the Athy Heritage Centre, the walk sweeps back to the beginning of the town’s history and its origins as the “ford of Ae”. Pop into the Heritage Centre afterwards to enjoy more of Athy’s history, as well as the Shackleton Museum, which celebrates local polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and his Antarctic expeditions.

Drop into 29 Urban Corner for a casual lunch of contemporary carvery-style food, before taking the very short stroll down to the river. Here you can jump aboard Athy Boat Tours, which brings you into the heart of the River Barrow. Relaxing, informative and very scenic, it’s a beautiful way to relax and enjoy the natural wonderland of the river. Tours last up to two hours.

Enjoy dinner just a short distance from Athy in the rustic surrounds of The Green Barn at Burtown House. High ceilings, big wooden tables and ingredients that are sourced from a lovely kitchen garden that the restaurant overlooks make this a delightful spot for a relaxed evening.

Day 2
The morning, with soft mists rising from the emerald green plains of the Curragh, is an amazing time to experience this beautiful part of the island. Take a walk around the sheep-strewn pastures and you’ll discover an amazing amount of history, as well as catching glimpses of the famous racetrack.

Fancy a bit of shopping? Head over to Kildare Village, an outlet shopping extravaganza. You could easily spend all day here and with tons of shops, as well as great places to eat, it’s very tempting. If you can, tear yourself away and make the short distance into Kildare itself. Delve into the history of one of Ireland’s patron saints, Saint Brigid, at Kildare Cathedral, which is thought to have started life as Brigid’s original abbey church in the 5th century. The current building dates back to 1223 and is noted for its early Gothic style, as well as the huge round tower next to it, which serves up amazing views of the surrounding countryside.

The award-winning gastropub of Hartes is an ideal place for a lunch, with light options, vegetarian choices and old-school favourites like chicken pie and burgers.

A mix of horses and horticulture is up next at the Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens. Take a tour through the stud and you’ll see lots of sleek-coated stallions grazing the green paddocks, as well as finding out lots about the thoroughbred breeding programme the studs runs. Next door at the Japanese Gardens, you’ll be transported to Kyoto with a garden of delightful little humpbacked bridges, Japanese flowers and cute pagodas.

Back in Athy, enjoy a night of music and food in one of the town’s oldest pubs, Clancy’s. Head here on a Thursday night, and you’ll find fiddles, bodhráns and flutes all raising the roof. On other nights, the atmosphere is relaxed, welcoming and very friendly.

Day 3
The towns and villages that line the River Barrow live and breathe life on the water, and visiting them gives a great flavour of the cultural life of the river. Head to Vicarstown, a tiny little riverside hamlet and you can walk south to Athy (a distance of around 10km) or north to Monasterevin (around 12km) along the Barrow Way. Grassy towpaths, quaint farmhouses, little bridges and idyllic waters define the route both north and south. As these are linear routes, you can walk shorter distances before looping back if you’re not looking for a morning-long hike.

The Vicarstown Inn offers great pub grub for after your walk, and has a lovely location just off the canal.

It’s just over a 30-minute drive from here to Lullymore Heritage Centre Park. Here, you can envelope yourself in the history of the peatlands and the lives that revolved around them, as well as appreciating the ecology of the area. There’s a reconstructed Neolithic, a huge outdoor play area, a pet farm and a toy train to enjoy too.

Head back to Athy for a dinner in Bailey’s Bar and Bistro at the Clanard Court Hotel.

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