3 Days, 362 km, 225 miles
Route: Tipperary, Kildare, Meath
Features: Irish National Stud & Japanese Gardens, The Curragh
Passionate about horses? You’re in the right place. From 3rd century kings racing their chariots, to a colonel who used the stars to determine the fate of his foals. The stories are all here, you just need to know where to look.
Day 1: 2hrs 20 mins, 170 km, 106 miles
Route: Tipperary and Kildare
Points Of Interest: Cahir Equestrian Centre, Tipperary Racecourse, Swiss Cottage, Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens, Berney Brothers Saddlery
Where better to start your journey into the equestrian heartland of Ireland than at Cahir Equestrian Centre in County Tipperary.
Here, in this scenic spot just outside the heritage town of Cahir, you can embark on a trek by the banks of the River Suir and to the famous Swiss Cottage, nestled in the woodlands. Moving west, the Tipperary Racecourse is the perfect place for a racing day out with both national Hunt and Flat racing.
Make a date for lunch at Inch House Country House and Restaurant in nearby Thurles, where the Inch House Black Pudding salad with sweet potato wedges is one to savour. It’s off to the Irish National Stud in Kildare next where you’ll hear a true tale of stallions and stars. Its founder, Colonel William Hall Walker, was fascinated with astrology and would meticulously record a foal’s time of birth and draw up a chart. If he didn’t like the stars, the foal would be sold off immediately. Asian horticulture was another obsession for Walker, so finish your day in the serenity of the Japanese Gardens, where amidst the rich colours, there are paths following the journey of the soul from birth to death and beyond.
If you have more time:
Visit Berney Bros Saddlery in Kilcullen. Founded in 1880, this place showcases unique craftsmanship, expertise and a wealth of equestrian knowledge.
Day 2: 1 hrs 29 mins, 82 km, 51 miles
Points Of Interest: The Curragh Racecourse, Curragh Military Museum, Solas Bhride, Bargetrip.ie
Reach the famous Curragh Racecourse early in the morning and witness the spectacle of long lines of thoroughbreds training across miles of flat green plains.
A visit to the Curragh Military Museum proposes a different atmosphere. The museum focuses on the area’s military history, revealing how, in their time, these grounds have been used by the Jacobites and their war horses in 1686, as well as by British soldiers during WWI.
In nearby Solas Bhríde, hear about St Brigid. According to legend, the King of Leinster allowed Brigid a plot of land the size of her cloak on which to start a convent – imagine his surprise when the cloak grew to cover the entire Curragh.
Refresh your senses with a light lunch at nearby Ballymore Inn, because the tempo will rise as you tackle the 291m-high Hill of Allen. It’s said the legendary Fionn MacCumhaill based his fortress at the summit, and his giant bones might actually be resting beneath your feet.
Continue along the Grand Canal where Ger Loughlin from Bargetrip.ie in Sallins, County Kildare, can give you the true immersive experience on the waterway itself, along with tales of the fast “fly boat” services that operated between 1834 and 1852, when vessels were towed by horses before the railway eventually took over.
If you have more time:
Pop by Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park in Rathangan which offers a fascinating look into the development of the Irish people over 9,500 years, from early settler’s right up to the times of rebellion and famine.
Day 3: 1 hr 54 mins, 110 km, 68 miles
Points Of Interest: Navan Racecourse, Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, Bellewstown Racecourse and Laytown Strand
If you fancy a flutter, start your day at a meet in Navan Racecourse. They’ve been running horses across these plains for over a century, and this is National Hunt gold for those who adore the sound of thundering hooves amid voices reaching fever pitch as the pack fly by.
Feeling peckish? In nearby Slane, the Brabazon Restaurant offers mouth-watering delicacies, including smoked salmon, spiced loin of pork and lemon posset. Head back in time at the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, where you can learn about the Baroque horses, the training of a Cavalry Trooper and the Musketeers who fought in the historic battle in 1690. A key moment in both Irish and British history, don’t miss the opportunity to walk amidst the original battle site and latter-day gardens.
Place a bet at the Bellewstown Racecourse, which has a history stretching back to at least 1726, and where King George III was persuaded to sponsor a race in the year 1780. Valued at £100, the race was named His Majesty’s Plate. Finish your day with an evening stroll on Laytown Beach, where the world famous horse racing has been taking place for over 150 years on the shores of the Irish Sea.
If you have more time:
Take a trip to the Brú na Boinne Visitor Centre where you can learn about the passage tomb at Newgrange, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in addition to its lesser-known but no less spectacular sister at Knowth. Visit GoRacing.ie to find out about all the Race Courses located in Ireland’s Ancient East.