Located just over an hour’s drive from Dublin city center are Ireland’s finest Japanese Gardens and the center of the country’s horse industry.
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.
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.
Taking you on a journey through birth, childhood, marriage, parenthood, old age, death and the afterlife, the gardens explore Eastern and Western culture, tracing the journey of a soul through each stage in life and beyond.
With trickling streams and vivid colors, highlights in the gardens include the Bridge of Life before you take a moment of contemplation over a snack in the tea rooms.
The National Stud itself is a treat for any animal lover but 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 frolick in the fields.
This is the place where racehorses are conceived, born and raised on and it has a long history of breeding champions. Nine stallions are currently living it up in retirement on the farm after many successful years of racing.
Originally purchased by Colonel William Hall Walker at the turn of the 20th century, and later presented to the Crown, the Stud Farm is now owned by the Irish people but is run as a commercial entity. The history of the farm and Irish horse-racing is told in the Horse museum, where the skeleton of one of Ireland’s most mighty horses, Arkle, holds pride of place.
Accompanying the stud and its Japanese Gardens is yet another magnificent garden feature, St. Fiachra's Garden, a tribute the the patron saint of gardeners.
Using an abundance of rocks and water, the garden honors the beautiful woodland, wetland, waterfalls, lakes and streams of Ireland, as well as invoking the spirit of Ireland's monastic movement in the 6th and 7th centuries through monastic cells of fissured limestone. Each cell is surrounded by water while an inner subterranean garden is home to magnificent Waterford Crystal-shaped rocks, ferns and orchids.
Often bypassed by tourists traveling from Dublin to the likes of Clonmacnoise in the next county over, the National Stud Farm is the perfect excuse to take a pitstop in Kildare.
More information can be found at http://www.irishnationalstud.ie/home.