Irish National Stud

Ah! I had been waiting for this since we signed on for the Road Scholar tour! County Kildare, the heartbeat of Ireland’s thoroughbred industry brought us to this incredible place owned by the Irish government and visited by tourists from all over the world.

A Scotsman, Colonel William Hall Walker, established the farm in 1900. The Colonel perhaps believed that great horses were born, not made. When a foal was born, he had an astological chart drawn up, and if the stars and signs were not in correct alignment, the foal was sold. If the horse’s birthdate promised great ability, the foal was kept to be raised and raced. Although this sounds a bit crazy, horses born here have won some of the greatest races.

Retirement has been provided for great racehorses here. Five champions, Moscow Fkyer, Hardy Eustace, Kicking King, Beef or Salmon, and Rite of Passage reside here. They won races like the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Royal Ascot Gold Cup.

Over 100 foals are born at the stud farm each year. When horsemen come to choose a stud for breeding purposes, they watch the horse move in dront of the stables on a ruberized walk. Our guide told us they look for three things in a stud: the face of a model, the “bum” of a cook, and the walk of a lady of the night!20160617_061901

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Desmond Castle

20160616_102953One of the last remaining examples of a  Norman castle in Europe, in 1227 this fortress on the Maigue River belonged to Geoffrey de Marisco. By 1228, the Fitzgeralds possessed the majestic castle.

In 1536 it was granted to the Earls of Desmond who gave the castle the name it is still called today.

The castle was originally surrounded by a moat. The front door is massive and reinforced with oak cut in horizontal fashion. If you did manage to break in, guards above would drop anything and everything in you from the hole above the entranceway, but not burning oil. Our guide told us they never would have wasted oil that way. The castle was constructed to have an inner most, too, another drawbridge and fortified door into the part of the castle where the earl lived with his family, and ‘stumbling steps” – steps purposely built unevenly and that rose in different heights to cause invaders to perhaps fall if they tried to run up them.

There was a keeping cell where prisoners or people who committed a crime were placed for a few days before they were taken to be beheaded. They would have had to stand in a foot or two of water since the cell floor was lower than the ground level of the castle. In those days, if you were caught stealing bread, you would be put to death. Times were hardh back then may be an understatement!

The castle walls were made of limestone, and mud, horse hair, horse blood, and later, blood from oxen to hold the stone in place.

The castle has a wide, grassy area in the middle where wooden huts made from oak would have stood. Everyone except royalty lived there. The castle had a separate kitchen area, and a grand dining hall with a stunning view of the river.. The servants stayed in the same area as the livestock.

From the castle site you can see the ruins of the Franciscan Friary, sometimes called the “Poor Monastery” and now located within the grounds of the Adare Manor Golf Club where Tiger Woods and many top golfers have played. Many architectural structures of the monastery have been preserved including the tower, nave, cloisters, and living quarters.

We also visited the Holy Trinity Church on Main Street inAdare, on the site of what was once the Trinitarian Abbey, nearly eight centuries old. It was originally founded around 1230. In the 19th century it underwent major restoration with money donated by the townspeople of Adare.