Athy, situated in the south of Co. Kildare, is a market town on the convergence of the River Barrow and Grand Canal. The town takes its name from a 2nd century battle fought there, which resulted in the death of Ae, son of a Munster Chieftain. Thereafter the river crossing was known in Gaelic as Ath Ae (meaning the Ford of Ae) a name subsequently anglicised as Athy. The Fitzgeralds, Earls of Kildare, were landlords of the town for centuries and most of the street names commemorate their family members, one example being "Emily Square".
The town developed from a 12th century Anglo-Norman settlement to an important military outpost on the border of the pale. The first town charter dates from the 16th century and the town hall was constructed in the early 18th century.
The completion of the Grand Canal in 1791 and arrival of the railway in 1846 illustrates the importance of the town as a commercial center.
Of the many church ruins in Athy, St. Michael's is perhaps the most ancient. It was built in the fourteenth century. Some of the vestry and sidewalls have disappeared, but there is still some of the original church remaining. The dedication to St. Michael is derived from the St. Michael family who were lords of Athy and it is quite probable that it was this family who were the founders of the church.
The 15th century White Castle, in the centre of the town, is now a private residence and unfortunately there are no public visits or tours.
The Moat of Ardscull
About 3 miles outside of Athy on the Kilcullen road is one of the largest Norman mottes in the country, Ardscull Motte. The 35ft high mound with its surrounding ditch and bank, and previously incorporated an enclosed yard, is believed to have been created in the 12th century. Close by is the battle site where Edward Bruce and his Scottish supporters defeated a strong English army in 1316.
Baile Átha Í , County Kildare, Ireland | Disclaimer