What’s rare about Kildare?
The beauty of Kildare is that huge swathes of the countryside are just verdant grassland, yet it has all the advantages of being near to Dublin
Thomas Berney of Berney Bros Saddlery & Riding Wear Kilcullen Co Kildare. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
The by-pass has brought life back to Leixlip Village. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
Listen to those radio ads for Kildare Village outlet centre, in which all roads lead to exit 13 off the M7, and you could be forgiven for thinking Kildare is the epicentre of Ireland. While obviously exaggerated, there is some truth to it, as rail and the upgraded motorway links make the county that rare thing: a happy marriage between commuter belt, and rural beauty, though it has had its share of ghost estates.
More than 100 years ago, people started to see how horses born and reared on the particularly lime-rich land had stronger bones and could therefore run faster. The world’s leading owners and trainers took note, and now have their bases in the county, keeping huge swathes of land under grass. Add to that the people who come from all over the world to Goffs, Punchestown, the Curragh, Newbridge and Naas to buy and sell racehorses, and to watch them run, and you have a uniquely exciting atmosphere.
Alongside all the horses and the shopping, Kildare also has an active cultural life. NUI Maynooth is a centre, and Paddy Jordan, of Jordan’s Auctioneers, notes that the county is more or less divided into two halves, when it comes to property, and property prices. “The beauty of living in Kildare,” he says, “is that the infrastructure and amenities are so good.” Jordan lives in the Curragh, near the racecourse. “I can get to the airport in 45 minutes, off peak, or to the city centre.”
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You could draw a line running from Kilcock to Maynooth to Naas to Newbridge, and find property prices strong in the north of the county, with a particularly good market for first-time buyers with two incomes, as they can now afford detached homes, instead of the three-bedroom semis that were once a staple of this market level. Farther south, and down to Athy, the market is softer and prices lower. Jordan says the delay in upgrading Osberstown wastewater treatment plant means that new developments have not been greenlighted in recent years, so there is a relative shortage of supply in north Kildare.
Meanwhile, at a different scale, and for anyone wanting to have space to indulge a horsey passion, REA Brophy Farrell has two properties of particular interest. With a guide price of €650,000, Gilltown, is a 42-acre farm near Kilcullen, located opposite the renowned Gilltown Stud, which is owned by the Aga Khan, and which was visited by Queen Elizabeth II, when she came to Ireland. Alternatively, and also with Brophy Farrell, Eagle Lodge in Kilcullen (guide €320,000) is a three-bedroom bungalow, with 11 stables, and outbuildings, on seven acres, laid out in stud railed paddocks, with a cross country course, and an all-weather sand arena.
Brophy Farrell’s Brian Farrell highlights other of Kildare’s sporting amenities and clubs, covering rugby and GAA, with golf courses at Carton House and the K Club, plus more at The Curragh, Kilkea Castle and Highfield. After that, he recommends the Hanged Man’s in Milltown, the Pepper Tree in Naas and The Elms, Punchestown for your post-sport meal.