County Kildare can be found just southwest of Dublin, located on the edge of Ireland’s historic Pale. Its name in Irish, Chill dara (pronounced "kill dara"), means “Church of the Oaks”.
Naas is Kildare’s County Town and administrative centre. Other important County Kildare towns include Newbridge, Maynooth, and Cellbridge.
Kildare has experienced major economic growth in recent decades, as major international firms Hewlett Packard and Intel have chosen the region as their European headquarters. Previously small rural communities throughout Kildare have been reinvented as thriving commuter towns, as the capital city continues to attract workers and sprawl outwards.
County Kildare is also well recognized as a centre for horse breeding and racing, and its population ranks as among the wealthiest in all the counties of Ireland.
The National Stud Horse Farm at Kildare Town is the nexus of horse breeding for the beloved country wide Irish sport of horse racing. Exquisite thoroughbred racehorses are born, bred and trained here at the farm and stables, and the nearby steam museum provides exhibits that help visitors to delve into the sport and those that made it famous even more deeply.
The history of early Christianity in County Kildare can be experienced by a visit to Castledermot Round Towers and Church, where crosses, the church, and ruins of an ancient friary keep the religious relics of the ninth century well preserved.
Stately historic buildings can be found across County Kildare, among them: Castletown House, St. Patrick’s College and St. Brigid’s Cathedral, a 1500 year old place of worship dedicated to the figure that evolved over the pagan Celtic and Viking periods into the vastly popular Irish saint.
Saint Brigid of Kildare, one of the National Saints of Ireland, has many associations with the county. The ancient Irish had long worshipped the Celtic goddess Brigid, an earth-mother deity called upon to protect the harvest, and worshipped during the Imobolc (Spring) festival. With the spread of Chrisitianity, the goddess Brigid was reinvented as a Christian saint, and ancient Imbolic remains a Church holiday in Ireland -- St. Brigid's Day (1st February).
The History of County Kildare is linked throughout the years to the initially pagan, then Christian, monastic settlement known as Knockaulin and later, Cill Dara, from which Kildare takes its name. St Brigid was said to have founded a monastery here, where it went on to survive multiple attacks by the Vikings in the ninth century.
The religious community here expanded during later centuries, when a Cistercian Abbey was added in 1189 and an Augustinian establishment in 1200 at Naas. These settlements functioned as centres for learning during the medieval years, fostering the growth of literature and language among residents and the surrounding communities.
During the 1640s, Kildare was the scene of various rebellions and skirmishes. The town was nearly levelled in 1642 by James Butler, Earl of Ormond and the English forces he commanded. The people of the region enjoyed peace until 1646, when rebellions again broke out and were quashed along with others taking place across Ireland by Cromwell and his invading forces.
Afterward, land was redistributed and the parcel given to William Conolly of Donegal became the site of Castletown House in the 1740s.
The Georgian period was prosperous for County Kildare, and many manor houses were built. The formal horse races began at the Curragh Race Track, on the former site of St Brigid’s monastic settlement and the fields where many a military regiment formed to prepare for battle.
The Industrial Revolution brought economic change to County Kildare in the form of
- a cotton mill
- a distillery
- factories producing farm equipment
- the advent of the railroad
- the construction of the Grand Canal, linking Kildare to Dublin
Arthur Guinness, a native of Kildare, began the family brewing business, which later moved to Dublin, in 1755.
Kildare SurnamesPopular surnames in Kildare include: