Kildare: a Saint, a Stud and the Japanese

The night was shorter than Mr. Cruise, yawn, and the relentless cawing of the crows right next to our window forced us to get up. So cranking our bones into some form of mobility, and with the sound of beautiful Irish music still ringing in our ears, we washed, dressed and went to breakfast. We were greeted by our cheery host and some very noisy black birds screaming…sorry…cawing at us from a patch of lawn in front of the kitchen. They seemed to be quite at home, not even fluttering when a spontaneous a-a-aatishoo was shot in their direction. Okay, the sneeze was on purpose. There’s something creepy about nibbling on your fried sausage with so many eyes staring at you. It is a well known fact that each and every one of those very eyes have extreme binocular vision. Oh, and they would also kill for some meat scraps. Or do they just poke your eyes out?!? Note to self: next time leave the room when hubby-bunch watches his horror movies. Oh well, at least our host was quite proud that they come to him every single day. Hmmm…seeing him throwing leftovers on the lawn it’s very understandable as to why   😱

Kildare, a lovely vibrant little town not far from Dublin (about an hour’s drive) is one of the oldest towns in Ireland, some say it is the oldest. Kildare was made famous by Brigid, who started the first female christian monastery under an oak tree on the edge of the now famous Curragh, called the Church of the Oak. She is one of the patron saints of Ireland. She performed many miracles in her lifetime, and was also a good friend of St. Patrick. It is also said that St. Brigid was a Celtic Goddess before becoming a saint, though opinions differ, depending on where you do your research.

St. Brigid’s Well

St. Brigid’s Well is in a little park found down a narrow lane with limited parking space. It was almost around the corner from where we were staying, so we could walk. What a place!! My oh my!! This was really one of the most calming and spiritual places we have ever visited. Standing on the soft grass in the middle of the park with your eyes closed, a serene quietness envelops you, augmented by the gentle splashing of a little stream flowing next to a statue erected in honour of St. Brigid. Then you hear the leaves rustling in the wind, sounding like fairies whispering messages to each other from tree to tree. Or the fluttering of many pieces of ribbons, bows, rags or “clotties” tied to the lower branches of a “wishing tree” situated right next to the well. Then suddenly a bird starts to sing, making your heart simply just tingle with joy  Some people who visit the holy well dip their “clotties”, as it is commonly known, into the well, wipe certain areas on their body in need of healing, then tie them to the tree. Others hang their “clotties” as a symbol of prayer, make wishes or ask for blessings. Some take a bit of water from the stream home, like we did. Oh, and under the archway, seen on photos three and four above, are two u-shaped stones said to be St. Brigid’s slippers. Wow! We highly recommend visiting this very phenominal place. A little something for you spiritual romantics out there: A girl from Germany walked all the way from the centre of Kildare town to visit the well. She was sitting on the bench, deep in thought, when an Irishman entered the park. He too had come a long way. Both had a lot on their minds this day. On his way out, he stopped to ask if she was okay. Yes, thank you, she said. As he exited the park, she called after him because a sudden overwhelming need to give him something came over her. It was one of two special Irish sheep tokens that she had bought earlier. Now she understood why she felt the urge to buy two of them. They started off as strangers and ended up as husband and wife. Both are now living a happy and settled life in Ireland. Sigh…the love 💕💖

The Japanese Garden within The Irish National Stud

Kildare also boasts a national stud with gardens, all currently owned by the government, and found in the same area as St. Brigid’s well. It is the only stud farm in Ireland open to the public. You have to pay an entrance fee, and you can also book a tour if you wish. We decided to amble at our own pace. Okay, so finding a world famous Japanese Garden within a horsey place sure is amazing, but then again, in Ireland you will find many of such funny oddities and pleasant surprises, which only adds charm to this great country. Okay, someone here loves Ireland 😍  whoop-whoop!

The Japanese Garden was laid out by a master Japanese landscape gardener more than a century ago. They are not as big as first expected, but there’s a lot to see and experience, like these wonderful stone sculptures, and if you look closely, there’s a bird sitting on the last one. The bird is real. We recommend using a self-guide leaflet (ask at reception) and follow the exact numbered sequence. This way you can really appreciate the symbolic journey of man, or the story of life, as told with rocks, trees, sculptures, water, caves and more. The entrance to the garden is through a Japanese gate, called the “Gate of Oblivion”, where the pilgrim soul enters. The tour takes you through the cave of birth, on to childhood, then marriage, parenthood, old age, death and beyond. We were amused at how representative to real life everything was. You cross the “Marriage Bridge” and reach the “Honeymoon Path”. Ooh! A few steps to the right and there’s your first “Difference of Opinion” where you part and go your separate ways. Don’t worry, it’s only a short distance before the paths meet again. Phew! Honeymoon not over yet…😝

We visited in early May, so were very fortunate to see a lot of beautiful flowers.

Here you have the “Tunnel of Ignorance”, a shortcut through the “Hill of Ambition” and the very beautiful red “Bridge of Life”. A profound red amongst all the green. Amazing!!

 

According to the guide, the tour should only take twenty minutes, but why rush. It is so peaceful and calming walking through all this. We took much longer to finish! Muchos!!

The Irish National Stud

After exiting the garden, we crossed over to the stud. There are three little lakes on the whole property, sporting a few inhabitants like fish, birds and ducks. This lovely fountain can be found in the Sun Chariot Yard, where you’re able to see a foaling video which runs right through the day. It’s about ten or so minutes long and very interesting to watch.

We were so blessed that it was foaling season when we visited. This little cutie was just a day or two old and still unsteady on its legs. It did not stop him from being inquisitive though! Oh, and so cheeky! See the nyeh-nyeh tongue sticking out hahahahaaaaa….

Horses have been bread at this stud since 1900, where some of the best stallions in the world now reside. Breeding season runs for five months starting in February, where mares from around the world are sent here to be mated or, in horse language “covered”. Yep, a quickie that can cost many thousands of euros!! 😮 No, no further comment. Let’s just leave this whole sex thing right here 😜 Oh, and the Queen, the one who owns quite a few good racehorses (and corgis), visited Ireland for the very first time in her life, and what was on her itenary?? Yay, the Irish National Stud! I must say that you don’t have to be a horsey person to enjoy these animals, because ooooh, the foals are the most adorable!! You can also visit the horse museum where the skeleton of Arkle, the greatest thoroughbred horse in Ireland’s history, can be found. The stud is also a horse retirement “home”. Wow!

Duckett’s Grove

Oh what a day it’s been so far! A happy and busy day. We met our friends for lunch, then took a drive over to the next County, Carlow, to visit some ghosts. Apparently this 19th century ruin is haunted. A Banshee Ghost supposedly lives in this once great house and former estate. Seriously, some people “heard” screams or have “seen” tables move. How scary is that? Who do you call? Ghostbusters da-tum-ti-daa…

Duckett Grove also has other surprises. There are two old walled gardens which have been revived and restored to its almost original status. The first walled garden is on the small side, where a few historical varieties of rose shrubs and Japanese peonies, to name but a few, have been planted. The other walled garden used to be an orchid, where many paths and this sunken stone bridge has now been restored. A beautiful and quiet place. There’s also a tea-room on site, clean toilets and there is no entrance fee.

Okay, we did not find any ghosts, just sheep and birds. Lots and lots of black birds! We peeked through broken windows and cracks in the walls and saw…nothing. The ruin has also been used as a setting for two international films, and believe it or not, also favoured for weddings. It is a very imposing building though…standing right there in the middle of nothing. Hmmm…Duckett’s Grove by night…anyone??

This portico was quite a few kilometres from the actual estate, which is said to cover a total  of some twenty square kilometres or so…

AMAZING PHOTOGRAPHY!!

 

 

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