A visit to Kildare and Portlaoise

The first day of December arrived cold but with lots of blue sky and sunshine so not wanting to waste such a glorious day I decided to take myself off to Kildare for a bit of exploration. On my first trip to Ireland last October the coach from the airport had turned off the main route and gone to Kildare Village, which isn’t an actual village but a very attractive shopping centre just outside Kildare town, and it looked so nice that I’d put it on my list of places to visit when I had the opportunity. Allowing for three stops en route it was an hour by coach from Roscrea so it was doable, though the stupidly infrequent coach times meant that (a) I may not have very long there or (b) I would be there longer than I wanted to be before making the return journey.
After a late-ish breakfast of the most divine scrambled eggs on toast done by Nellie I got the 10.30 Kavanagh’s coach from the stop round the corner from the house and arrived at Kildare Village an hour later – and for anyone who likes designer and expensive stuff it’s definitely the place to go to as every single shop was a big name. Calvin Klein, DKNY, Karen Millen, Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Ted Baker, Versace, Cath Kidston, Kurt Geiger, Heidi Klum, Nike, Lulu Guinness, Armani, Swarovski….. those were just some of the names among the 90-plus shops, and even though most of them were advertising ‘discounts’ their stuff was still expensive. I don’t ‘do’ designer anything though so the only shop I went in was the Lily O’Brien’s chocolate shop – I may have given up eating cake several months ago but I do like a bit of chocolate occasionally so I treated myself to a bar of Salted Caramel and one of Malted Chocolate Crunch then spent most of my time taking photos.
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Kildare Village
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One of several reindeer in set displays around the village
One of the side ‘streets’ of the village led to a children’s play area and a boardwalk running between two pleasant grassy areas to a main road a couple of hundred yards away, and about halfway along was what seemed to be an old ruined church. With a couple of shots taken from the boardwalk I went along to the road to see if I could find a way in and discovered an information plaque set in the boundary wall – this place was the Grey Abbey, named from the colour of the habits the resident monks wore.
The ruins occupied one corner of an obviously still used graveyard but with the entrance gate locked my only means of access was via a primitive stone ‘stile’ which went up and over the wall; a wire fence separated the ruins from the graveyard and a large notice said ‘Danger – Keep Out’ but part of the fence had collapsed to ground level and it was obvious that others had gone before me so in I went. The ground was very overgrown and there was nothing in there other than a couple of simple but very rusty metal crosses standing side by side and looking very unloved, so with just a couple of shots taken I made my way back through the graveyard to the main road.
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Grey Abbey ruins from the boardwalk
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Inside the ruins
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Following my nose a few minutes walking took me to Kildare town centre – what there was of it, which wasn’t much – and a walk along Market Square got me to St. Brigid’s Cathedral and Kildare Round Tower which was set in the cathedral grounds. At 108ft high it’s Ireland’s tallest accessible Round Tower, with seven levels of floors and ladders (installed in 1874) to reach the top; I would have loved to do the climb but unfortunately both the tower and the cathedral were closed for the winter so I had to be content with taking a few photos from the grounds, though I’ve put them both on my ‘places to visit’ list for another time.
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St. Brigid’s Cathedral
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Kildare Round Tower
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With nothing much else to see or photograph I returned to the Village for another quick look round the shops then went to get the 1.50pm bus back to Roscrea, though as I still had a big part of the afternoon left I decided to stop off en route at Portlaoise (pronounced Port-leesh) and have a look round there. Michael had previously told me in conversation that there wasn’t much there but although the town centre wasn’t a large place it was actually bigger than I expected. There was a nice modern indoor shopping centre there too, with many of the shops we see here in the UK, though I didn’t find anywhere or anything worth taking a photo of so my visit only lasted just over an hour before I got the 3.40pm Bus Eireann coach back to Roscrea, arriving back at the house at 4.15.
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Sunset through the coach window
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Wind turbines at sunset, viewed from the moving coach
As soon as I walked in Nellie had a mug of coffee on the table for me then not long afterwards she produced a large plateful of stew with potatoes and veg – and very good it was too. Michael spent most of the evening in his room reading a book he’d recently bought and Nellie and I watched the soaps and a couple of other programmes, punctuated by playing tug-of-war with Trixie and an old cushion cover, until it was time for bed. Still not entirely comfortable with the bed sharing thing I let Nellie go up first and waited until I knew she would be asleep before I went up, then after reading a couple of chapters of my book I finally settled down for the night.
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8 thoughts on “A visit to Kildare and Portlaoise

  1. Reading your description of the shopping village made me think of Cheshire Oaks but from the photos it reminds me very much of Trentham Shopping village in Stoke-on-Trent which I really like. I would have enjoyed wandering around Kildare Village but just window shopping πŸ™‚

    I knew the keep out sign wouldn’t keep you out Eunice πŸ™‚ Interesting to see your photos of the abbey ruins. You will definitely have to plan a return visit to climb that huge tower.

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  2. The abbey ruin was an odd little place, quite neat and tidy on the outside but really overgrown on the inside. The ground was very rough too and so overgrown I had to watch where I put my feet – I would have loved to know how old those metal crosses were and who they belonged to but any possible graves have been long since buried by the undergrowth.

    I didn’t know it was possible to climb the tower until I got there and read the information board – I was all excited until I saw that it’s closed until next May 😦 Definitely a place to go back to in the future though now I know about it.

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  3. Sounds like an excellent day out and those ruins were a great find. I wouldn’t have wasted time on the shops either. Perhaps a tiny peak, because I still have some Christmas presents to buy- definitely not designer. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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    1. It was a very interesting day out Jo. I’d really only gone to explore the shopping village as it had looked so nice when I passed it on the coach last year, so to find those ruins out behind it was a bonus. I knew nothing about the round tower either, just saw the top of it above some roof tops and followed my nose until I found it, though I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t do the climb as the views from the top would have been great. The Irish National Stud isn’t far from there either so I’ll definitely be going back to Kildare in the near future πŸ™‚

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  4. The Kildare mall reminds me of similar outlet malls that I’ve been to in California. I only go to them when I absolutely must, so different from when I was younger. The cathedral and tower look fascinating.

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  5. There are some really good reviews on Tripadvisor about the tower and the cathedral so I’m determined now to go back again when I can and explore them both properly πŸ™‚

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  6. I did think about going back to Dublin on one of the days I was there but it’s a 2-hour coach ride from Roscrea so I would have had very little time to explore properly. I’ve really only managed to see a tiny bit of the country up to now so I’m hoping I can go over there for a proper holiday soon.

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