When British royalty wants to add horses to its farms, it often turns to the Irish National Stud, a horse-breeding facility in County Kildare. In a Discovery Tours small group, you will visit this fascinating and picturesque place, too, meeting the breeders and trainers who husband Ireland’s finest thoroughbreds.
Colonel William Hall Walker, a wealthy Scotsman, purchased the farm in 1900 and went on to become one of world’s most successful breeders. Famously, he leased the racing colt Minoru to King Edward VII and the monarch won the 1909 Epsom Derby astride the horse. The pivotal victory laid the foundation for the newly acquired farm to become a leading breeding center of the world. The facility was later gifted to the Crown, in 1915. Since 1943, the Irish government has operated it.
Around the clock, life revolves around the horses here. Stallions, mares, and foals are put through their paces, and many more have gone on to win international derbies and crowns. “The Stud,” as it is known, has a more formalized program dedicated to breeding horses for royalty, and Queen Elizabeth herself has stopped by to inspect the facilities. During your visit, you’ll meet some of the passionate horse lovers who help usher their charges to success.
You’ll also hear about the legends that have made Irish National Stud such a respected and prestigious institution in the equestrian arts. See the revered skeleton of the bay gelding Arkle, a champion steeplechaser. Hear about Royal Charger, winner of three major races but more notable as a sire to many horses that went on to win cups and stakes around the world. Touring this remarkable place, you get a sense of the importance of the lineage, discipline and structure that go into creating the world’s most respected and crowned race horses.
You’ll find Irish National Stud to be a peaceful place. Tranquility reigns throughout the pastoral landscape, particularly in the farm’s iconic Japanese Gardens. Designed to achieve utmost harmony, these traditional gardens are traversed by pathways that link a lily pond spanned by a graceful arched bridge, an intimate tea house, a gentle waterfall and many other elements. As a whole, the garden is meant to symbolize the journey of the soul into Eternity. You may stroll past the cave of birth, the sunken path of childhood and the island of joy and wonder. Planted here in 1906, they are widely considered to be the finest in Europe, a perfect marriage of Eastern and Western designs.