The Curragh is a flat open plain of almost 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) of common land in County Kildare.
The name Curragh comes from the Irish word “currach” which translates as “plain”, a place of the running horse. So, the Curragh is Ireland’s largest, finest, and possibly only, example of a surviving ancient lowland unenclosed grassland. What`s more, the 5,000 acres stretch from Kildare Town to Newbridge.
Moreover, this area is well known for Irish horse breeding and training. The Irish National Stud is located on the edge of Kildare town, beside the famous Japanese Gardens. Also located here is Pollardstown Fen, the largest fen in Ireland. So, this area is of particular interest to botanists and ecologists because of the numerous bird species that nest and visit there. There are also many rare plants that grow there.
The Curragh is unique in terms of its natural and cultural heritage.
It is perhaps the oldest and most extensive tract of semi-natural grassland in Europe, having existed as such for over two thousand years. What`s more, possibly the only landscape of its kind in the world consisting of a mainly unenclosed flat to a gently rolling plain of 4,870 acres.
The rich pastureland is renowned for the breeding of racehorses. So, it is said that races were held there as early as the 1st-century ad. It is the site of several noted training stables, and studs are located there. Also, the Irish Derby is run there annually.
The Curragh also is shrouded in mythology. Used as a meeting site during Pre-Christian societies. The hill to the north of the Curragh is called the Hill of Allen and is the purported meeting place of the mythical Fionn MacCumhaill and his warriors who raced their horses here.
Legend has it that in about 480 AD, when St Brigid became intent on founding a monastery in Kildare, she asked the High King of Leinster for the land on which to build it. When he granted her as much land as her cloak would cover, she then placed her cloak on the ground to cover the entire Curragh plain.
The interesting facts about The Curragh:
Firstly, The Curragh Racecourse on the plain is Ireland’s Premier Flat Racecourse. Every year, it hosts all five classic races in the racing calendar: the Irish Derby Stakes, the Irish Oaks, the Irish 1,000 Guineas, the Irish 2,000 Guineas, and the Irish St. Leger. What`s more, it is one of the most prestigious venues worldwide to watch flat racing.
Secondly, since 1646 it has also been a military training area. There has been a permanent military presence since 1856. The Curragh Camp is now home to the Defence Forces Training Centre of the Irish Defence Forces.
What`s more, driving on the Curragh you’ll notice lots of sheep grazing the land. The sheep have been legally entitled to be there through Victorian legislation (the Curragh Act of 1870).
Furthermore, on 2 July 1903, the Gordon Bennett Cup ran through the Curragh. It was the first international motor race to be held in what was then the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Moreover, the plains were used to film the battle scenes in the film Braveheart.
Below are my photos taken in September 2022.