The south plains of Co. Kildare. Sarah777 / Wikimedia Commons

Just west of Dublin sits the beautiful County Kildare. All too often, tourists make the mistake of simply passing through Kildare on their way to the west of Ireland. But if you do that, you’ll miss out on the beauty of its pastureland, its stunning gardens, its architectural wonders, or an unforgettable day at the races.

Here are the top five spots in Co. Kildare that you just can’t miss.

Irish National Stud & Gardens

The Lilywhites have long been known for their horse-racing and stud farms, and nowhere better captures the essence of the county than the National Stud Farm located in Tully, Co. Kildare, the beating heart of Ireland's thoroughbred industry. It is a dream come true for horse-lovers, especially if you visit in time for foaling season when future champions will be finding their feet through a frolic in the fields. Home to several of Ireland’s finest thoroughbreds, the stud also features some of the most sumptuous gardens to be found anywhere in the world in the Japanese Gardens and St. Fiachra’s Garden.

Created between 1906 and 1910, the Japanese gardens were laid out by Japanese master horticulturist Tassa Eida and his son Minoru at the request of Colonel William Hall Walker, a wealthy Scotsman from a famous brewing family. The aim of the garden was to symbolize the “Life of Man” through trees, plants, flowers, lawns, rocks and water. St. Fiachra's Garden is a fitting  tribute to the patron saint of gardeners.

More information: irishnationalstud.ie.

Newbridge Silverware Visitor Center & Museum of Style Icons

Newbridge Silver Visitor Center

Newbridge Silver Visitor Center

Newbridge Silverware is synonymous with modern Irish glamor, design and jewelry. The Kildare family company, which dates to the 1930s, has a long heritage, from its early days as a cutlery company to its struggle to make it through World War II to its online store and international success as an Irish brand. The Visitor Center tells that history, in addition to housing the company’s full range of products. The on-site restaurant, Silver, is also a delight.

During the 2000s the chance acquisition of an iconic dress belonging to Audrey Hepburn sparked an idea, which led to the creation of Newbridge's Museum of Style Icons, now one of the most popular attractions in Ireland. The museum’s collection now includes items from Marilyn Monroe, Princess Grace, Judy Garland, Michael Jackson, Greta Garbo and the Beatles.

For more information: newbridgesilverware.com

Castletown Estate & The Wonderful Barn

Castletown Estate, Celbridge, Co. Kildare

Castletown Estate, Celbridge, Co. Kildare

It’s a sight that seems straight out of a fairytale – a corkscrew tower, spiraling up into the sky, flipped inside out, with stairs curling around the outside instead of the inside. The Wonderful Barn sits on the Castletown estate near Celbridge, Co. Kildare. Castletown was built for William Conolly, then Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. After Conolly’s death in 1729, his wife, Katherine (née Conyngham), remained at Castletown and implemented a number of building ventures, including the Wonderful Barn.

The barn was built immediately after the famine years of 1740 – 41, with the dual purpose of both storing grain in case of future blights, and of creating employment for the local people devastated by the famine. The barn was completed in 1743.

Castletown is currently divided between private and state ownership. The estate is open to visitors May through August, and admission is free. Guided tours are available for the summer months for a low price, and you can also tour the estate via guided tour in March, April and September. The luxurious Celbridge Manor Hotel is also on the estate, if you want to make a full trip out of it.

For more information, visit the Castletown website.

The Curragh Racecourse

Irish Derby Day at the Curragh Racecourse

Irish Derby Day at the Curragh Racecourse

From Punchestown to The Curragh, Kildare is home to some of Ireland’s most famous and exciting racecourses. The Curragh is Ireland's premier international horse racing venue staging 19 meetings from March to October including all 5 Irish classic races, of which the jewel in the crown is the Irish Derby Festival, which takes place every June.

Come for a full day of excitement, equine athleticism and glamor, in addition to food and drink. There’s also an activity area for the kids.

For more information: curragh.ie

The Bog of Allen Nature Center

Bog of Allen Visitor Center

Bog of Allen Visitor Center

The Bog of Allen Nature Center is a national center of excellence for peat land education, research and conservation. Facilities include a peat land museum, exhibitions about the Bog of Allen, a research library, habitats and gardens including the largest garden of carnivorous plants in Ireland and the U.K. Activities include pond dipping, nature crafts, frog hunt, bog walk, insect eating plants, a creepy crawly search, and a museum  and garden tour. The Center is run by the Irish Peatland Conservation Council (IPCC). Their aim is to conserve a representative portion of Irish peatlands for future generations to enjoy.

For more information: ipcc.ie

Did we miss one of your favorite places to visit in County Kildare? Let us know in the comment section!