Hooves thumping, heart pounding, crowd cheering – get set for the races.
Within 20 minutes of each other, you’ll find two of Europe’s best race courses: Punchestown and The Curragh. With a very different feel, the nearby Curragh Military Museum focuses on the area’s military history in a fascinating exhibition that reveals how these grounds were used for both the Jacobites in 1686, along with their war horses, and British soldiers during WWI. Heading through green pastures, fix your sights next on the Irish National Stud. Here, stallions mix with stargazing – or at least they used to – thanks to the superstitions of the stud’s founder, Colonel William Hall Walker. The colonel drew up a birth chart for each foal, and if he didn’t like the stars, the foal would be sold. In the stud’s museum you can read the chart of an unfortunate colt called Lord of the Sea: “Saturn in his 5th House… makes him very little good for racing or stud purposes… no good at all except for selling.” Equestrian astrology seems a million miles away at the adjacent Japanese Gardens, also created by Walker with the help of master horticulturalist Tassa Eida from Japan. It’s a beautiful place to lose track of time.