Athy is a fine example of an Anglo Norman linear type settlement. Founded in the 12th century on a river crossing, Athy takes its name from a 2nd century battle fought there which resulted in the death of Ae, son of a Munster Chieftain. Thereafter the river crossing was known in Gaelic as Ath Ae (meaning the Ford of Ae) a name subsequently anglicised as Athy.
The Fitzgeralds, Earls of Kildare, were landlords of the town for centuries and most of the street names commemorate their family members, one example being “Emily Square”.
Today, Athy is a busy town with character. Narrow, busy streets crowded with little shops make this the very essence of the Irish country market town. It is dominated by the well preserved 16th century White’s Castle, a rectangular turreted tower that sits imposingly by the bridge over the river Barrow in the heart of the town, built to protect the inhabitants.
The Grand Canal linking Athy with Dublin was extended to Athy in 1791. With the opening of the railway to Athy in 1846 the Canal fell into disuse. It is now used by pleasure boats and the Canal towpaths now form pleasant walks from Emily Square to Ardreigh and from William Street to Lennon’s Bridge. The woods of Mullragh and Blackwood are all nearby, about 6km from Athy on the third class road to Kildare Town with attractive forest walks and picnic areas.
Burtown House and Gardens
Burtown House an early Georgian villa is surrounded by lush flower vegetable and woodland gardens, beautiful park and farmland walks.
The gardens at Burtown are made up of several areas including large herbaceous borders shrubberies, a rock garden, a yew walk divided by a pergola, a sundial garden, an old orchard, a more formal stable yard garden, a walled organic vegetable garden and a large woodland garden surrounded on all sides by water.
There are wildflower meadows with large sculpture surrounding the gardens which lead into farm walks with 20 acre fields of wildflowers, pigs, donkeys and cattle.
The Green Barn at Burtown House and Gardens serves only the freshest possible seasonal produce that has almost always come straight from their organic kitchen garden that very morning.
The Artisan shop sells a range of products such as Nettle Pestos, Kale Dips, Infused Oils and Salts, Acorn fed Iberian Ham’s, Irish Cheeses, much Irish and Italian produce and seriously good breads.
Moat of Ardscull
About 3 miles outside of Athy on the Kilcullen road is one of the largest Norman mottes in the country, Ardscull Motte. The 35ft high mound with its surrounding ditch and bank and previously incorporated an enclosed yard is believed to be created in the 12th century. Close by is the battle site where Edward Bruce and his Scottish supporters defeated a strong English army in 1316.