Just outside of Dublin, Maynooth feels more like a suburban neighbourhood than a town of its own. It is artful and well-designed with no pretension. You can reach Maynooth by heading west on the M4/N4/N6 Motorway route that leads cross-country from Dublin to Galway.
Our intention was to snap a few photos of the Maynooth Castle and grab lunch somewhere before continuing on to Galway, but were so intrigued that we stayed a few hours.
Maynooth lies in an area that was known as The Pale, essentially a Norman-English colonization that covered land in the center of Ireland’s eastern coast. It began with an invasion in the 1100s and held strong until the 1500s when people began paying only portions of taxes to English king, moving outside of the Pale, and voting out the leadership.
The Pale was surrounded by a fence where the local laws within took precedence over Irish Law. Eerily, this concept was “borrowed” centuries later for the development of ghettos. Here the only difference was that residents could come and go as they please, which led to the end of its power.
In the early 1700s, development of this land was planned as a seminary for the National University of Ireland, commonly known as Maynooth University, which is the only university in Ireland not inside a city.
Saint Patrick’s College was built in 1795*, though the two entities share common spaces and facilities. Because this area was under English grip for so long, a large percent of the town was given English names instead of Irish ones.
*Thank you for the correction, Donna!
Unfortunately, by the time we had eaten and explored a bit, it had started raining and I could not get any good photos of campus. I found two cool drone videos for Maynooth University and Saint Patrick’s on Youtube.
Backtracking, when we first arrived in Maynooth, we took advantage of the free underground parking garage at the Dunnes Stores Manor Mills shopping mall in the main center.
I had first learned about the castle while Google Earthing cool places to stop along the M4/N4/N6. We made previous stops at the Wonderful Barn and on to the Aughnanure Castle, and later at the Clonmacnoise Abbey ruins. Weather and timing prevented any good photos from those locations but the sun shined on us in Maynooth.
Also known as the Geraldine castle, after the Earl of Pembroke “Strongbow” granted this land to the Fitzgerald family in the 1100s. The castle was attacked and ruined, rebuilt and ruined again, until finally the Fitzgeralds relocated to the Carton House on the town’s eastern side near Dublin.
Today you can tour the castle during certain times, and local initiatives are in place to make it a World Heritage site.
We really should have eaten a few hours sooner, but there was so much to look at and we had met a nice woman who worked at Maynooth University that was telling us about the town. Pizza, Sushi, Cantina, you name it and Maynooth has it. We decided on Brady’s Clockhouse, billed as a traditional Irish restaurant. It was right outside the town’s central square on the main road Parson Street.
My friend ordered roast beef and gravy over potato mash with steamed vegetables, and I ordered grilled chicken with cream sauce over turnip/carrot mash and roasted curried veggie bites.
We also discovered more variations of “Brown Sauce” and were thoroughly amused by the serving process. A fortified column in the restaurant near the kitchen cranks out plates of food like a conveyor belt and the waitress takes them to the table and that was that.
There are loads of pubs, cafes, bakeries, confectioneries, golf courses, boating docks, and equestrian centers in Maynooth. For such a small town I was at a loss to think of something we could not find here.
With our bellies full, we walked back along Dukes Harbor that services the Royal Canal. Before the modern train system was in order here, one could easily take the canal from Maynooth into Dublin and back.
Maynooth now has one of the busiest train stations in the region, and most people who travel the Royal Canal do so at leisure.
Time to head to The West.