Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens - Kildare
Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens are located in in the middle of horse racing country, in County Kildare, in the south east of Ireland. They are set amongst 958 acres of pastureland. The two attractions offer a unique experience combing horses and horticulture.
The National Stud is a stallion breeding stud farm, it was established in 1946 and is owned by the Irish Government. It has a strong record in producing champion thoroughbreds. In fact it is the third largest breeder of thoroughbreds in the world and home to equine royalty. It is also the only stud in Ireland to be open to the public. There are guided tours where visitors are told the behind the scenes story, with insider tips and tales about the horses, it is incredibly interesting. The real highlight here of course are the stallions who command enormous fees to cover mares. Visitors can see them up close along with mares, frolicking foals and athletic yearlings, and can admire their grace and splendour. Most new foals are born in February and March, and there is access to the intensive-care unit for newborn foals. Visitors passing through the yards and paddocks will see a number of retired equine legends enjoying their retirement. Colonel William Hall Walker was the inventor of the stud farm and the most successful racehorse breeder of his time, he drew up a horoscope for each foal which, he used to determine if he would keep or sell. During Queen Elizabeth's visit in 2011, she unveiled a sculpture featuring zodiac signs. There is also a memorial statue of the Colonel here.
The Horse Museum further reflects Ireland's love affair with horses, through history, folklore, and sporting life. A rather unusual exhibit is the skeleton of Arkle, the greatest steeplechaser of all time. In the Sun Chariot Yard, the history of the horse in ireland is narrated through artifacts, illustrations and texts. There is also a video presentation of a foal being born. Visitors can watch re-runs of the many famous horse races that hailed winners from here. Also see the luxurious stables of these equine princes.
The Japanese Gardens are formal Eastern style gardens. These delightful gardens were initially laid out by Japanese craftsman Tassa Elda and his family, under the watchful eye of Hall Walker between 1906 and 1910. These richly coloured Japanese Gardens are home to a wonderful collection of exotic and unusual plants, shrubs and trees, and are the best of their kind in Europe. The natural elements play an important role in the architecture of Japanese Gardens and water and stones play an integral part in the design of these gardens. Visitors follow paths that symbolise the passage of the soul from birth to death and beyond, through twenty landmarks. Whilst offering a meeting place for the cultures of East and West. Enjoy the vibrant colours, fragrant smells and the sound of trickling streams. Main features of the garden are the lovely Bridge of Life, Tunnel of Ignorance, Chair of Old Age, Hill of Ambition and Tea House. The gardens are peaceful and beautiful and provide a relaxing, meditative and reflective atmosphere.
St Fiachra's Garden is a reclaimed bog garden and was created to celebrate the millenium, it honours the patron saint of gardens St Fiachra. They allow visitors to step back in time to capture the elements that inspired the monks in the 6th and 7th century, featuring Monastic cells of fissured limestone. There is also a Waterford Crystal Garden. Rock and water are the major features here but, the gardens embrace the natural beauty of the woodlands, waterfalls and streams all aspects of Ireland's natural beauty.
The experience can be enjoyed at the visitors own pace or they can take a guided tour which, demonstrates the nature and wildlife of Ireland at its best. The tour lasts about forty five minutes.
There is a restaurant that serves, lunches and light refreshments, morning coffe and delicious home baked goods.
The National Stud and Japanese Gardens are open daily March through to October from 9.00am.