ByRoute 9.1 Co. Kildare & Co. Laois

Newbridge (Co. Kildare / Central)

Newbridge /Droichead Nua (pop. 19,000) on the River Liffey is nowadays mainly a commuter satellite community of DUBLIN, but has an industrial tradition of its own. The town, officially labelled in Irish but more popularly known by its English name, has a pretty riverside park, several amiable pubs and a couple of good restaurants.

Newbridge riverside walk(Photo –

The local Roman Catholic parish is named for Saint Conleth (Conlaed), a hermit who lived at Old Connell and at the urging of Saint Brigid became the first Bishop of Kildare c.490 AD. He set out on a pilgrimage to Rome in 519 AD, but was killed and eaten by wolves in the forests of Leinster.

Connell Abbey


Great Connell Abbey was founded in 1202 by Augustinian Canons from Llanathony Prima in Monmouth­shire at the invitation of Meiler FitzHenry, Seneschal of Leinster and twice Viceroy of Ireland, whose tomb at Connell carried the following inscription: Entombed are the bones of him they noble Meyler call / Who was the tameless tamer of the irish nation all.



A 1380 Act of King Richard II lists Great Connell as one of the Abbeys forbidden to admit any Irishmen. In 1395 the King personally accepted the submission of local chieftain Murlagh O’Connor Daly in the Abbey’s Great Hall (now vanished).



In 1406 the Prior of Connell “vanquished two hundred of the Irish that were well armed, slaying some of them, and chasing others; and the Prior had not with him but twenty Englishmen.” Fifty two years later the abbey was virtually destroyed in a raid.


Connell Abbey owned considerable property, extending from Kilcullen in the south to Kildare town in the west and to Kilmeague in the north.  The establishment also vielded political power, with the abot acting as mediator between factions at meetings


King Henry VIII‘s Dissolution of the Monasteries saw portions of the confiscated lands at Tully and Rosberry pass to Sir William Sarsfield, Knt., Mayor of Dublin, in 1566. The abbey building were left to decay, with stones taken to build edifices in the vicinity, including the CoI building nearby.


The Connell Abbey estate is now owned by international racehorse magnate HH Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum of Saudi Arabia.

Newbridge takes its name from a River Liffey crossing constructed c.1750, destroyed in the 1798 Rebellion and rebuilt two years later.

In 1816 the British Army established a large Cavalry Barracks locally, with stabling for over 500 horses. Used by the Free State government as an internment camp during the Civil War, the military buildings were subsequently demolished or converted into industrial premises. Some old walls and gateways still stand, as does the church, which became a library, then the Town Hall, and was until recently a FÁS training facility.

Newbridge Silverware produces attractive jewellery and gift items, on display in their local showroom.

Newbridge College, an imposing riverside pile, founded as a boarding school for boys in 1852 by the Dominican Fathers, is now run as a co-educational day school for about 800 pupils, and has a strong rugby tradition.

The Riverbank Arts Centre is an excellent modern venue for concerts, theatre and dance, and hosts exhibitions and workshops in fields varying from painting and photography to hip-hop. It also has a nice café. (Photo by Mark Phillips)

The Whitewater Shopping Mall is another impressive modern development.

Newbridge has three Roman Catholic churches, one Church of Ireland edifice, A Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall, an Open Arms Community Church and an African faith group called The Kingdom of Heavenly Water, Fire and Mountains.

Newbridge is best known in some circles for its greyhound-racing track.

Newbridge is not far from Pollardstown Fen on ByRoute 10.

The Curragh Racecourse has been the best known venue for horseracing in Ireland since the first formal race took place in 1741, and the headquarters of the Irish Turf Club since its foundation in 1790. The course hosts flat racing from March to October every year, including the prestigious and very valuable Irish Classics (the Irish 1000 and 2000 Guineas, the Irish Oaks, the Irish St Leger and the Irish Derby).

The Curragh Racecourse is linked by a scenic road to Kildare Town on ByRoute 10.

The Curragh Camp (Co. Kildare / Central)

The Curragh Camp was the first permanent military installation on the Curragh plain, built to train soldiers for the Crimean War (1855-1856). Crowds of people came by rail and road to visit, and a journalist wrote “approaching the Curragh the visitor will perceive in the distance a long line of low habitations, which bear a resemblance to what might be supposed to be the city, or principle abode, of some king or chief of an uncivilised race, such as we have seen described by Mungo Park and other African travellers“. A soldier said the camp was “a goodish place sort of in dry weather, very healthy, but after 24 hours rain, why then, it was ankle deep in mud, like Sebastopol“.

Queen Victoria visited the camp in 1861 to see her son the Prince of Wales and to inspect troops. She was unlikely to have been told anything about the Curragh Wrens, woman camp followers who lived in appalling conditions on the nearby open plain.

Postcard c.1900 (Image – ofarrl)

The present redbrick camp of seven barracks was begun in 1879 and fully completed in 1901, by which time it was the British Army’s premiere base in Ireland.

The Curragh Mutiny 1914


The Curragh Mutiny / Incident” of 20 March 1914 involved 57 out of the 70 British Army Officers based there, many of them Irish Unionists like their leader General Herbert Gough, who accepted an option to resign their commissions rather than enforce the Home Rule Act 1914 in Ulster, where the paramilitary Ulster Volunteers were threatening violence with arms acquired from Germany under the ominous slogan  “Mausers or Kaiser, Any King Will Do“.


Prime Minister Herbert Asquith‘s Liberal government backed down, claiming an “honest misunderstanding“, and the officers were reinstated.


The event contributed to Unionist confidence and helped convince nationalists that they could not expect impartiality from the British army in Ireland.

The Camp was transferred to the new Irish Free State army in 1922. Tradition has it that as the Tricolour was hoisted, the Irish officers had to manually support the flagstaff, which had been sabotaged with a saw.

The Rath Internment Camp was established by the British government in 1921 to incarcerate 1,200-1,500 IRA activists and sympathisers. During the Civil War it was used by the Free State government to intern republicans, and was resurrected for the same purpose in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s as required.

K-Lines (No.2 Internment Camp) was built in 1939. During WWII it was used to intern German and Allied combatants and spies, who enjoyed a very benign regime, with access to the army’s modern sports facilities. During the day the two sides spent a lot of time marching and singing patriotic songs, but in the evening internees were only required to sign a parol to visit the local pub; some were even allowed to spend weekends away or attend courses in Dublin. British airmen who made a run for Northern Ireland were admonished and sent back by the UK authorities. Shortly after the USA entered the war, an American airman was interned, whereupon an irate phone call from President Roosevelt to Eamonn DeValera ensured his release; no other Americans were ever detained.

The Curragh Camp is not far from Athgarvan and Ballysax on ByRoute 8.

The Curragh Plain (Photo by kitedub)

Suncroft & Kilrush (Co. Kildare / Central)

Suncroft is nowadays a tranquil district, but according to the History of the Roman Catholic Parish of SUNCROFT by Rev. Comerford, from Collections relating to the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin, published in 1883, the Battle of Ucha / Uchba / Uchbagh took place locally in 733 or 735 AD. He reproduces an account from the Annals of Clonmacnoise: “The battle …. was cruelly and bloodily fought upon the O’Neales and Lynstermen, where the two kings, head of the two armies, did so roughly approach one another, as King Hugh Allan, King of Ireland, and Hugh MacColgan, King of Lynster, whereof the one was sore hurt, and lived after; the other, by a deadly blow, lost his head from the shoulders. The O’Neales with their king, behaved themselves so valiantly in the pursuit of their enemies, and killed them so fast in such manner, as they made great heapes in the fields of their carcasses, so as none or very few of the Lynstermen escaped to bring tydings to their friends at home….. This was the greatest slaughter for a long time seen in Ireland.”

Kilrush was the site of a C5th church associated with Saint Briga / Brigitta and her six sisters.

Kilrush Abbey was an Augustinian monastery founded in the early C13th by William Marshall, Seneschal of Leinster.

The Battle of Kilrush was fought in 1642, between a Royalist army led by James Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde, and rebel forces under his great uncle Richard Butler, 3rd Viscount Mountgarrett; the latter “broke, fled, and were pursued with great slaughter, across the grounds they had marched over the day before. This victory was considered of such consequence that Ormond was presented by the Irish Government with a jewel, value £50.”

Suncroft is close to Ballyshannon on ByRoute 8.

Nurney (Co. Kildare / Central)

Nurney (An Urnaí) (pop. 500) is a scenically situated bogside community with a pub, a shop, a school, a church (RC) and two graveyards, one containing vestigial church ruins.

Nurney Castle / House, long a Geraldine stronghold, was forfeited after the 1641 Rebellion by the Sarsfield family. It was modernised and extended by the Bagot family before returning to FitzGerald ownership c.1830. It once had a huge estate.

Nurney is the home of Liz Bowes, artisan of beautiful scented marbled Derrynine Candles.

Nurney is not far from Kilmead on ByRoute 8.

Kildangan (Co. Kildare / South)

Kildangan (Cill Daingin) (pop. 570), close to the flood plane of the River Barrow, is nowadays primarily a commuter satellite of DUBLIN.

Kildangan Castle, a large and ancient Geraldine stronghold built when the FitzGeralds were mere Lords of Ophaly (the local Barony), was destroyed during fighting between the Fitzgeralds and the O’Dempseys, Viscounts of Clanmalire; it was rebuilt on a smaller scale, but was accidentally burnt down soon afterwards. The estate was forfeited for participation in the 1641 Irish Rebellion by Maurice Fitzgerald of Allen, and was subsequently acquired by the O’Reilly family.

Our Lady of Victories church (RC), a handsome edifice with a pretty tower, was built in 1792 and extended in 1834.


Kildangan Stud, founded by the More O’Ferrells, has belonged since 1986 to HH Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, who has invested large amounts of money to make it one the leading stud farms in Europe. The land contains a wide variety of rare ornamental trees and shrubs, and extensive woodland.

Kildangan is on the R417 between Monasterevin on ByRoute 10 and Athy on ByRoute 8.


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