Saturday, May 11, 2013

Donadea Castle and Forest Park, County Kildare

Peig enjoying her walk at Donadea
Donadea Forest Park now encompasses almost 250 hectares. The demesne was established by the Anglo-Normans as a Manor, and the demesne passed to the Aylmer family in 1558. In 1624 Gerald Aylmer completed the construction of a Tower House, which is now the oldest part of the existing structure, as most of the visible remains we can see now date to the early nineteenth century. 
Donadea House
Lime Tree Avenue
The Aylmer's became embroiled in the Catholic Confederacy uprising in the middle of the seventeenth century, and in 1642 the powerful James Butler, Earl of Ormonde, despite being the brother-in-law of Aylmer, successfully laid siege to Donadea Castle and burned it to the ground. The house was rebuilt by 1772, and in the early nineteenth century, Gerald George Aylmer began an extensive programme of renovation, reconstruction and modernization on the estate. He had the house remodelled in the fashionable Gothic style of the time, he had large walls constructed to enclose the demesne, with a grand new carriageway (today called Lime Tree Avenue) to lead into the estate.

You can discover some of these features (including a great example of an ice house), on the grounds of the estate. 
The ancient routeway of Ireland, the Slí Mhór (The Great Way), that traversed Ireland from East to West, passes through Donadea. 
Alongside this highway of ancient Ireland, a church was founded in the early medieval period. Very little remains above ground today of the church, but a new church named St. Peter's was constructed as part of the large programme of works in the early nineteenth century.

St. Peter's Church at Donadea

A lake was also created as a landscape feature and to provide work during the Great Famine. Today it's one of the busier areas of the park, with families feeding the numerous ducks and enjoying the tranquil surroundings. Close by to the lake, you can find a poignant memorial to those who lost their lives in the Twin Towers at 9/11.

The Donadea Forest Park is under the management of Coillte, and is a great place to enjoy a walk. There is an entrance fee of €5 per car, and if you plan on making a few visits I strongly recommend purchasing a Coillte Outdoors Card for €35 that allows you to access a number of forest parks around the country for a year, you can find more information on these cards here.

For more information on Donadea, see here. 

I hope you enjoy this blog, we're trying to cover as many sites as we can across Ireland. If anyone has any suggestions about sites you'd like us to cover please do leave us a comment. If you enjoy information and images of Irish heritage sites then do follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+

If you'd like to support us then please consider downloading an audioguide to one of Ireland's wonderful heritage sites. They are packed with original music and sound effects and are a great way of experiencing the story of Ireland. They only cost €1.99 and are fun whether you are at the site, or listening from the comfort of your own home. Our latest guide is to Viking and Medieval Dublin, visit us at for free previews. 

All photographs © Neil Jackman /