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10 of the Best Things to do Near Kilkea Castle in South Kildare

Discover fun things to do near Kilkea Castle in South Kildare. Explore Kilkea Castle history, grounds, and more on a weekend break.

There are so many fun things to do in County Kildare and since Dublin and Kildare are neighbors, those things are readily accessible from Ireland's capital if you are short on time. 

You can easily spend a day exploring the top sights in Kildare. If you venture further to South Kildare, you'll find plenty to keep you occupied for a weekend, especially if you indulge yourself with a stay in Kilkea Castle Hotel

In this post, we'll explore things to do near Kilkea Castle in South Kildare County. 

Kilkea Castle in South Kildare

Getting to South Kildare

Kilkea Castle is located less than 90 minutes by car from Dublin City in South Kildare County. Traveling by car is your best option for this weekend getaway since bus and train connections are limited and inconvenient. 

South Kildare is a spread out and generally rural area. Booking a traditional car rental is one option. You could also travel in style by hiring a Tesla from UFO Drive in Dublin.

Kilkea Castle History

Did you know that Kilkea Castle is one of the oldest castles in Ireland and features a rich and fascinating history. The original castle was built in the late 12th century for Sir Walter de Riddlesford. 

After three generations, Kilkea Castle ended up in the hands of the FitzGerald Dynasty following an advantageous marriage. Kilkea Castle remained with the FitzGeralds for seven centuries. 

Kilkea Castle was occupied by many colorful characters in the FitzGerald family over the years including Silken Thomas who denounced King Henry VIII and led an early rebellion against the English in Ireland. 

He ultimately paid for this decision with his life. 

Gerald The Wizard Earl was another famous Kilkea Castle inhabitant who earned his moniker from his interest in alchemy and the dark arts. Legend has it that The Wizard Earl disappeared after demonstrating some of his magic for his wife Mabel. 

It is said that Gerald the Wizard Earl will return to Kilkea Castle on the 7th day of the 7th month of every 7th year riding a white steed with silver shoes. 

Kilkea Castle hosts a fascinating brochure detailing the rich history of the property and the South Kildare region on their website. 

Things to do in South Kildare

Now that we understand a bit more about the region and its history, let's discover all the interesting things to do near Kilkea Castle in South Kildare (and beyond!)

1. Athy Town and Castle Walk 

White Castle in Athy Town in South Kildare Ireland

Athy Town is the gateway to the South Kildare region and is definitely worth a stop. Impressive 15th Century White Castle guards the banks of the River Barrow and gives Athy a rich atmosphere.  

If the weather cooperates, you could spend some time walking along the River Barrow. If you are short on time, you can make a quick stop for provisions and continue on your way. 

Frank O'Brien's Pub is an old-fashioned pub and grocer. We stopped here and picked up a 4-pack of craft beer to enjoy at Kilkea Castle from Ballykilcavan Farm and Brewery which is located in nearby County Laois.

2. Athy Heritage Centre Shackleton Museum

Shackleton statue in Athy Town in South Kildare Ireland

We are fascinated by the history of Antarctic exploration. Sir Ernest Shackleton, one of the great names in polar exploration was born on a Quaker farm near Kilkea Castle. 

Today, the Athy Heritage Centre Shackleton Museum features permanent exhibits covering the life, adventures, and daring Antarctic rescue undertaken by Shackleton. 

The museum also features a car that ran the Gordon Bennett Cup Race. The race was held in Ireland (part of the UK at the time) because racing was illegal on British public roads. 

Due to these unique circumstances, this forerunner of Grand Prix racing took place in South Kildare Ireland in 1903. 

As you're driving around the roads of South Kildare, keep an eye out for Gordon Bennett Route signs and imagine what it would have been like to complete the series of circuits covering a total of more than 500 km in just 6 hours in a car open to the elements.

3. Kilkea Castle Grounds

Kilkea Castle grounds in South Kildare Ireland

When considering things to do near Kilkea Castle, don't overlook the castle itself! You can't get any more near than that... Kilkea Castle is situated on 180 acres that includes coiffed gardens, a golf course, and wilder woodlands.

Take some time to walk the well-manicured grounds. Take a walk just after sunrise for some spectacular photo-ops. The River Griese flows just beyond the garden wall. 

Listen to the water burble as you admire golfers starting a round. You may even spot fellow guests indulging in a bit of falconry with some impressive birds of prey on display.

4. Fine Dining at Kilkea Castle

Kilkea Castle also offers a number of dining options. Treat yourself to dinner in Restaurant 1180 which is located inside the 12th century castle. 

Feel like royalty as you dine in the great hall and soak up the 12th century experience. Check the different rates if you are planning a stay at the hotel because some include a 3-course dinner with wine (and breakfast too!) at Restaurant 1180. 

For a more casual dining option, check out Hermione's Restaurant at the Clubhouse. Situated on the golf course in a multi-faceted glass dome, Hermione's is more about hearty steaks and beer than delicate fine dining. It's a great counterpoint to Restaurant 1180. 

Dinner in Restaurant 1180 in Kilkea Castle in South Kildare IrelandDessert at Restaurant 1180 at Kilkea Castle in South Kildare
Steak and chips at Kilkea Castle in South Kildare Ireland

5. Burtown House and Gardens 

Giraffe sculptures at Burtown House and Gardens near Kilkea Castle in South Kildare
Located just 10 minutes away by car, Burtown House is a chill thing to do near Kilkea Castle. Grab a coffee at the Green Barn and then walk among the sculptures dotting the lawns of the property. 

Burtown House and Gardens has a proper walled garden and winding walking paths. We walked along a small stream that runs through the property and then we noticed someone looking at us in the distance. 

Behind a short fence, we spotted two adorable donkeys. We walked up and they let us pet them on the nose and give them a scratch behind the ears. 

They looked so content. One of the donkeys literally smiled at me and melted my heart!
Smiling donkey at Burtown House and Gardens near Kilkea Castle in South Kildare

6. Moone High Cross

Moone High Cross near Kilkea Castle in South Kildare
Continuing on from Burtown House and Gardens, it's just a 6 minute drive to see the Moone High Cross. This historical site is very unassuming with a small place for a few cars to park just off the road. 

Moone High Cross dates back to the 10th century and at over 7 meters tall is the second tallest in Ireland. Biblical scenes in sharp relief emerge clearly at the base. 

The cross itself sits under a modern transparent roof positioned over the ruins of a crumbling church and cemetery. Helpful information panels put the Moone High Cross into religious and historical context for the visitor.
Biblical scenes on a section of Moone High Cross in South Kildare Ireland

7. Castledermot Round Tower and St. James Church

Castedermot Round Tower and St. James Church in South Kildare
10 minutes further on, you'll arrive in Castledermot. The Castledermot Round Tower and St. James Church is impressive to walk around. 

The red door to the church is framed by the arch of a doorway of a ruined structure and makes for a dramatic photo-op. The round tower is unusual. 

It dates back to the 10th century and has a pebbled textured and battlements perched on top. The cemetery on the site contains the only Viking Hogback stone in Ireland. 

There are some helpful information panels at the entrance to help orient you to what to look for.
Viking hogback stone at St. James Church in Castledermot in South Kildare

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Are you interested in ideas for other places to combine with this short trip to Kilkea Castle in South Kildare? Why not spend a weekend in Kilkenny or take a drive in Tipperary? You could also take a detour from Kilkea Castle to visit Waterford and Wexford including the fabulous Wexford Wildfowl Reserve before returning to Dublin.

8. Castledermot Abbey

Castledermot Abbey near Kilkea Castle in South Kildare

If the gate to Castledermot Abbey is locked, simply walk next door to get the key from Mr. Horan. At least that's what the sign says. 

Fortunately for us, the gate was open and we wandered in among the ruins. 

The Franciscan Friary at Castledermot dates back to the 13th century and has a storied history including being plundered by Robert Bruce's army in the early 14th century and being ransacked by Cromwellian forces in 1650. 

Today, you can enjoy the light playing off the stone arches and grand former windows open to the sky.

9. Hike Mullaghreelan Wood

Mullaghreelan Wood near Kilkea Castle in South Kildare Ireland
Mullaghreelan Wood is another fun place to go near Kilkea Castle for a quiet walk. Spend an hour wandering the trails. 

As you climb toward the top of the hill, keep an eye out through the trees for a glimpse of Kilkea Castle and Kilkea Demesne. 

A hike in Mullaghreelan woods is one of the more relaxing and mindful things to do near Kilkea Castle.

10. Altamont Gardens

Altamont Gardens in County Carlow
I'm cheating a little bit with this last recommended thing to do near Kilkea Castle. This post focuses on attractions in South Kildare. 

However, Altamont Gardens is just across the border in County Carlow. Nonetheless, Altamont Gardens is just a 30 minute drive from Kilkea Castle and is well worth a visit. 

Explore the formal gardens and historic walled garden. Make sure to take a hike around the lake. The serene surface of the water reflects the surrounding forest as the sun starts to set making for some amazing photo-ops. 

Grab a coffee to refuel yourself in the Walled Garden Cafe before the drive back to Kilkea Castle.
Lake at Altamont Gardens in Ireland

Map of Things to Do Near Kilkea Castle in South Kildare

Click on the image of the map below to open an interactive version in Google Maps highlighting all the best things to do near Kilkea Castle in County Kildare.
Map of things to do near Kilkea Castle in South Kildare Ireland

There you have it: 10 of the best things to do near Kilkea Castle in South Kildare. This weekend trip is the perfect off-the-tourist-track getaway for an Irish va(stay)cation.

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Things to do near Kilkea Castle in County Kildare Ireland Best Places to Visit in Ireland: Kilkea Castle

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: 10 of the Best Things to do Near Kilkea Castle in South Kildare
10 of the Best Things to do Near Kilkea Castle in South Kildare
Discover fun things to do near Kilkea Castle in South Kildare. Explore Kilkea Castle history, grounds, and more on a weekend break.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog