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Co Kildare: one walk, one run, one hike, one swim, one cycle, one park and one outdoor gym

Your essential, outdoor guide to fitness and recreation in Co Kildare

When the weather is good, there is so much to do outdoors in Ireland – solo, or with family or friends. Here are seven activities - with locations, descriptions, tips and some maps for a general guide.

Below you can read John O'Dwyer's pick for a great walking path, Conor O'Keeffe on a running route, Rozanna Purcell recommends a hiking trail, Mary McCarthy on an outdoor swimming location, Ian O'Riordan picks a cycle trip, Sylvia Thompson on a family-friendly park and Fiona Alston selects a popular outdoor gym.

And remember, whatever you do and wherever you go, please be safe. And enjoy.

Name Athy Slí
Distance 2.6km
Background The Slí na Sláinte walking routes are mapped, measured paths in County Kildare - in locations including Celbridge, Kilcock, Naas and Newbridge.


Route Information The walk starts by the River Barrow at the courthouse - which was originally the town's Corn Exchange building from 1857. You continue along the Barrow Path, under the Horse Bridge and Railway Bridge, and along the Canal path to the slipway which leads to the Carlow Road. Turn left to St Michael's Church of Ireland and then right to get to the People's Park. Continue left along Leinster Street and back to the Courthouse. For the rest of the Slí na Sláinte routes, see here.

Name: Donadea Forest Park – Aylmer Loop
Background: Aylmer Loop Starts from the first car park, enter the forestry at a wooden framed mapboard for a Slí na Sláinte route. Follow the arrows on the blue disc with footprints (and the Slí na Sláinte arrows) along the forestry road.

Route Information: Starting from the first car park, enter the forestry at a wooden framed mapboard for a Slí na Sláinte route. Follow the arrows on the blue disc with footprints (and the Slí na Sláinte arrows) along the forestry road for 300m to reach a T-junction where you turn right. Another 150m takes you to a three-way junction where you veer left and cross a small stream by a small concrete bridge. Continue to follow the arrows on the blue discs along the forestry road for 500m to reach a crossroads with wooden signpost. Continue straight on.

Staying on the forestry road, the loop passes a number of tracks on the left before climbing gently to reach a roadway on the left on a bend. Veer right (straight) here and past a track on your right. After 250m the loop swings right and 500m further on passes straight through a crossroads. The loop passes through a number of junctions – and at one of them merges with a Nature Trail (marked with yellow arrows and wooden Nature Point posts). Shortly afterwards the loop turns right at a four-way junction. Follow the forest road as it passes through the USA Plots area. After passing a stone memorial to the firefighters of New York killed in the 9/11 disaster, the loop turns right and emerges into a popular recreation area that contains a lake, cafe, and the ruins of Donadea Castle. The car park from which you started is only 200m from the castle.

The name Donadea derives from the Irish word “Domnach”, which signifies a church and also Sunday. It is believed that all churches bearing this name were founded by St Patrick, and the foundations were marked out on a Sunday. One of the earliest references of the manor of Donadea was in connection with an inquisition taken in Cloncurry in 1312 – and in 1621, King James I created Gerald the first Baronet of Donadea.

By the mid-1800s the Donadea estates were one of the largest in Co Kildare, amounting to almost 16,000 acres. It was around this time that extensive development occurred in the grounds surrounding the castle. The works included the construction of a stone wall surrounding almost 600 acres, the development of an artificial lake, a massive programme of tree planting within the demesne and the realignment of existing roads. In 1936 the Irish land commission acquired the lands of Donadea from the Aylmer estate. In 1981 Donadea Demesne was opened to the public and the estate is at present under the care and maintenance of Coillte (the Irish Forestry Board). This loop is one of a network of forestry trails created by Coillte as part of its Coillte Outdoors Programme. It meanders along forest roads and paths incorporating Lime Tree Avenue, and the 9/11 Memorial. (Aided by: Discover Ireland and Coillte)

Hike name Killinthomas Woods
Distance 3.7km
Elevation gain 39m
Approximate duration 1 hour
Difficulty Beginner
Route type Loop
Starting point See AllTrails Fr Doyles, Killygurie, Hazel and Ballydermot Loop
Amenities Parking
Dog-friendly? Yes
Tips The best time to walk here is spring, to take in Bluebell Way.

Name: Barrow River
Location: Google Maps: Across from the Aldi in Athy
Brief Description: Grassy banks, slipway and small boat jetty
Amenities: No
Lifeguard: No
Water Quality: There are no designated swimming spots in Co Kildare so water not tested for this purpose. Environmentally tested as Good/Moderate EPA
Tips: Not a lot of boat traffic but Athy Triathlon group who swim here recommend you wear a tow float and don't swim alone. Currents here can be very strong and fast. You can wade in by the slip but it gets out of depth quite quickly. There is also a slipway at the courthouse but it is deeper here.
(Edit: This entry replaces a previous one for Kildare because this is considered more suitable). 

Name: Arthur's Way
Start location: Arthur Guinness Square, Leixlip
Route: From where the rivers Liffey and the Rye meet, a well-marked northeast pathway via Celbridge out towards Oughterard.
Distance: 16km
Time: 1-1.5 hours
Highlights: The only leisurely trail in the country where you can learn all about the evolution of the nation's favourite pint.
Look out for: The imposing Leixlip Castle, dating back to 1172, and purchased by Arthur's descendant Desmond Guinness in 1958.
Tips: Short but sweet cycling trail best enjoyed at a properly leisurely pace.

Park name: Japanese Gardens, Kildare town
Amenities: One of the best examples of Japanese gardens in Europe, these exquisite gardens are laid out with trees, plants, flowers, lawns, rocks and water to symbolize the journey through human life and beyond.
Special features: A self-guided leaflet for the Japanese Gardens is available in 15 languages.
Access: Free car parking on site. A shuttle bus operates from Kildare train station. And Bus Éireann route 126 from Dublin stops in Kildare town, a 10 minute walk away. Adult: €13, child 3-16 €7.50. Google Map "Japanese Gardens, Kildare".
Dogs: Dogs must be kept on their leads at all times.
Tip: Your ticket covers access to the gardens and National Stud so try to visit both.

Name: Newbridge Adult Gym, Liffey Park
Equipment: Dip bars, chest press, ab-curl, stepper, body twist, chin-up, shoulder extension, stationary bike.
Location: Google Maps
Information: Located in Liffey linear park, which has lovely walks by the river.

Get Active Series
- 32 great walking routes in Ireland - one in each county
- 32 great hikes in Ireland
- 32 great running routes
- 32 great outdoor swim locations
- 32 great cycling routes
- 32 great parks
- 32 great outdoor gyms