Today we set off for the Irish National Stud and Gardens in County Kildare, south of Dublin. I was pleasantly surprised by the visit to the stud. It was an informative explanation of the breeding of racehorses. Horses born and bred here have won some of the world’s greatest races. We saw some of the stallions that are resident at the stud. The premier stallion is Invincible Spirit (photo). He was not too great at winning races but he makes millions of euros every year in stud fees. He is a grandson of Northern Dancer, a famous Canadian bred horse.
The stud was originally started by Colonel William Hall Walker who also liked horticulture. He had lived in Japan and had a Japanese gardener who set up a Japanese Garden on the site. One follows a journey of life through the rocks, trees and water as you progress through the garden. As the brochure states: “After entering through the Gate of Oblivion and on through the Cave of Birth, The pilgrim Soul journeys on via a series of features including the Island of Joy and Wonder, the Well of Wisdom, The Bridge of Life and finally The Gateway to Eternity.” I have been in many Japanese gardens but none quite like this. However, it was fun to walk through and also very beautiful.
On the occasion of the Millennium a further garden was set up called St. Fiachra’s Garden. It was named for St Fiachra, the patron saint of gardening. It is said to aim to capture Ireland’s monastic movement of the 6th and 7th centuries by representing Ireland at its most raw and rugged state – their words not mine. Monastic cells of fissured limestone are set along the water and a statue of a contemplating monk is found sitting on a rock.
We then went on to Kildare where we had a very spirited presentation on the Irish sport of Hurling which apparently is a national passion. At its highest levels it is a professional game but the players only play for the love of the game and not for money. Apparently they don’t want the sport to be corrupted by commercial interests. Also, the players would never play for a team other than that of their hometown – trades would not be accepted. Kildare also boasts a castle which I did not visit and St. Canice’s Cathedral which I did. The Cathedral dates from the 12th century and contains many interesting things which are explained in an excellent guide provided for a small entry fee. The most interesting thing to me was the tomb of one John, Bishop Kearney, Provost of Trinity College in 1799. He was the great, great grand uncle (6th generation) of President Barack Obama!
Lastly we had a short stop at Cahir later in the day. I walked around the town and took a few photos of the well preserved castle.