Kildare (Irish: Cill Dara, meaning "church of the oak") is a town in County Kildare, Ireland. As of 2016, its population was 8,634[2] making it the 7th largest town in County Kildare. The town lies on the R445, some 50 km (31 mi) west of Dublin – near enough for it to have become, despite being a regional centre in its own right, a commuter town for the capital. Although Kildare gives its name to the county, Naas is the county town.


Cill Dara
Saint Brigid's Cathedral
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 53.15772°N 6.91128°W / 53.15772; -6.91128
CountyCounty Kildare
  Total3.1 km2 (1.2 sq mi)
105 m (344 ft)
  Density2,800/km2 (7,200/sq mi)
Eircode routing key
Telephone area code+353(0)45
Irish Grid ReferenceN726124


Founding by Saint Brigid

Rich in heritage and history, Kildare Town dates from the 5th century, when it was the site of the original 'Church of the Oak' and monastery founded by Saint Brigid. This became one of the three most important Christian foundations in Celtic Ireland.

It was said that Brigid's mother was a Christian and that Brigid was reared in her father's family, that is with the children of his lawful wife. From her mother, Brigid learned dairying and the care of the cattle, and these were her occupations after she made a vow to live a life of holy chastity. Both Saint Mel of Ardagh and Bishop Mac Caille have been credited with the consecration of Brigid and some companions, after which the woman established a community beneath an oak tree, on a hill on the edge of the Curragh. Hence the name Cill Dara, the church of the oak.

Not too far away, on Dún Ailinne, lived the King of Leinster who had donated the site to the holy woman. A story told was that the King had offered Brigid as much land as her cloak would cover. When she spread her garment it miraculously stretched out to embrace the entire Curragh. True to his promise, the King gave her the fertile plain, and there the new community grazed their sheep and cows.

Carmelite Friary (White Abbey) Church, Kildare

The Carmelite Friars accepted the invitation of Lord William de Vesci and came to Kildare in 1290. This same de Vesci also established the Franciscans in the Grey Abbey and built the original castle of Kildare. With the suppression of the monasteries under Henry VIII, White Abbey was surrendered on 3 April 1539. The Friars, however, continued to minister clandestinely to the people of the area during the next two centuries. When the Penal Laws were relaxed in the 1750s the Carmelites returned to Kildare and erected a church and a school close to or on the original 1290 foundation. This eighteenth century church served the Carmelites and the people in the district for more than one hundred years. The foundation stone of the present church was laid on 8 December 1884. The architect was William Hague who designed churches in the Pugin style. The church is therefore gothic in design and the builder was John Harris of Monasterevan, who used Wicklow granite and local stone from Boston, Rathangan. The church is cruciform in plan with the nave being set off with alternating window and arched roof-truss. The transepts are defined by polished granite pillars with moulded bases and carved caps which support arches in line with the walls of the nave. The side chapels are seen from the transepts and chancel through arches springing from moulded piers which also support the large chancel arch with its polished granite corbel shafts, moulded bases and carved caps. The principal entrance doorway faces east with pillared jambs, carved tympanum and moulded arches set in a projecting porch. The tower, with its lantern belfry, extends above the level of the nave roof. It has deeply recessed windows on each face and is finished with a moulded cornice. From this point, the tapering spire rises to a height of 40 metres and is surmounted by a cross. On the north transept wall of the church are inserted – for safekeeping – some interesting fifteenth/sixteenth century stone sculptures which came from the ruins of the Franciscan Grey Abbey. They are similar to the carvings from Great Connell and Dunfierth, also in Co Kildare, and probably came from the same workshop. The stained glass in the church includes scenes from the lives of Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the Scapular Vision, as well as Saints Patrick and Brigid, and the four Evangelists. The rose window over the main entrance is of special interest with its centrepiece being the Prophet Elijah, the spiritual founder of the Order. The surrounding panels show St Telesphorus, St Dionysius, St Albert (Patriarch of Jerusalem), St Andrew Corsini, St Cyril of Alexandria, St Louis IX, St Angelus, and St Albert of Sicily.[5]

In February 2016, the Carmelite Church and Friary were entrusted to the Indian Carmelites.[6]

Milestone in early motorsport

On Thursday, 2 July 1903 the Gordon Bennett Cup ran through Kildare. It was the first international motor race to be held in the United Kingdom as it then existed, an honorific to Selwyn Edge who had won the 1902 event in Paris driving a Napier. The Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland wanted the race to be hosted in the islands, and their secretary, Claude Johnson, suggested Ireland as the venue because racing was illegal on British public roads. The editor of the Dublin Motor News, Richard Mecredy, suggested an area in County Kildare, and letters were sent to 102 Irish MPs, 90 Irish peers, 300 newspapers, 34 chairmen of county and local councils, 34 County secretaries, 26 mayors, 41 railway companies, 460 hoteliers, 13 PPs, plus the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Patrick Foley, who pronounced himself in favour. Local laws had to be adjusted, ergo the 'Light Locomotives (Ireland) Bill' was passed on 27 March 1903. Kildare and other local councils drew attention to their areas, whilst Queen's County declared "that every facility will be given and the roads placed at the disposal of motorists during the proposed race". Eventually, Kildare was chosen, partly on the grounds that the straightness of the roads would be a safety benefit. As a compliment to Ireland the British team chose to race in Shamrock green[b] which thus became known as British racing green, although the winning Napier of 1902 had been painted Olive green.[7][8][9][10]

The route consisted of two loops that comprised a figure of eight, the first was an 84 km loop that included Kilcullen, The Curragh, Kildare, Monasterevin, Stradbally, Athy, followed by a 64 km loop through Castledermot, Carlow, and Athy again. The race started at the Ballyshannon cross-roads (53.0853°N 6.82°W / 53.0853; -6.82) near Calverstown on the contemporary N78 heading north, then followed the N9 north; the N7 west; the N80 south; the N78 north again; the N9 south; the N80 north; the N78 north again. Competitors were started at seven-minute intervals and had to follow bicycles through the 'control zones' in each town. The 528 km race was won by the famous Belgian Camille Jenatzy, driving a Mercedes in German colours.[8][11]

Annalistic references

See Annals of Inisfallen

  • AI697.1 Kl. Repose of Forannán of Cell Dara. [AU 698].
  • AI733.1 Kl. Repose of the daughter of Corc, coarb of Brigit.
  • AI758.1 Kl. Murthán, abbots of Cell Dara, fell asleep.
  • AI964.1 Kl. The plundering of Cell Dara by the foreigners of Áth Cliath; and the female erenagh died in the same year.
  • AI1031.9 Cell Dara and Port Láirge were burned.

Places of interest


Kildare Town lies in the Kildare South Dáil constituency and the Kildare Local Electoral Area of Kildare County Council.

Sports clubs

Athy Cricket Club 1872
Celbridge GAA Gaelic Athletic Association Senior Football Championship Kildare 1888
62 Reserve Artillery Regiment Field artillery Army Reserve Curragh
Kildare Town A.F.C Football Kildare & District Underage League Rathbride Road 1966
Cill Dara RFC Rugby Union Leinster League Beech Park 1976
South Kildare Soldiers American Football Irish American Football League Rathbride Road 2012


Kildare is served by the N7 national road. Bus Éireann operates an expressway service between Dublin and Cork which calls at Kildare, whilst Dublin Coach operates services to the Red Cow (with a connection to Dublin city centre), Dublin Airport and Portlaoise. The Dublin Coach service also has a stop at the "Kildare Village" retail outlet development.

Kildare railway station is located on the Dublin-Cork mainline railway line, with a connection to Waterford also, and options to change down the line for Limerick, Galway and Westport and Ballina. It is served by the south western commuter service too. From the station, a community transport company serves Milltown, Nurney and Kildangan, there is a shuttle bus service to "Kildare Village" and on race days, also a shuttle bus to the Curragh Racecourse.


See also


a. ^ (This footnote is from the collapsed "Historical population" side-bar. It becomes visible, along with references,[3][4] if the bar is expanded).
1813 estimate of population is from Mason's Statistical Survey For a discussion on the accuracy of pre-famine census returns see JJ Lee "On the accuracy of the Pre-famine Irish censuses Irish Population, Economy and Society" edited by JM Goldstrom and LA Clarkson (1981) p54, in and also New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700–1850 by Joel Mokyr and Cormac O Grada in The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Nov. 1984), pp. 473–488.

b. ^ According to Leinster Leader, Saturday, 11 April 1903, Britain had to choose a different colour to its usual national colours of red, white and blue, as these had already been taken by Italy, Germany and France respectively. It also stated red as the colour for American cars in the 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup.


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