Gordon Bennett Route
"Relive The Race"
Bennett Route Map

Towns and Villages


The Ford of Ae
Athy is a fine example of an Anglo-Norman linear settlement but its roots go deeper. Founded in the 12th century on a river crossing, Athy takes its name from a 2nd century battle fought there which resulted in the death of Ae, the son of a Munster Chieftain. Thereafter the river crossing was known in Gaelic as Áth Ae (meaning the Ford of Ae) a name subsequently anglicised as Athy.

The Town Of Athy
The town of Athy is a busy town brim full of heritage and character. Narrow streets crowded with little shops exude the essence of the Irish country market town. It is dominated by the well-preserved 16th century White's Castle which guards the bridge over the river Barrow in the heart of the town, a tall turreted tower, built to protect the town's inhabitants.

The Heritage Centre
The Centre is situated in the restored early 18th century market house. Through engaging displays and a rich collection of artefacts, the centre covers all aspects of local history, particularly, the Gordon Bennett Cup Motor Race of 1903 and the WWI period when many young men from the town and surrounding areas enlisted. One such man, Lieut. John Holland, won the highest award for bravery in the British army, the Victoria Cross. The centre also houses the only permanent exhibition in Ireland on the Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton who was born at nearby Kilkea. The centerpiece of the collection is a model of his ship, The Endurance, portrayed in the BBC drama with Kenneth Brannagh as Shackleton.

Moat of Ardscull
About 3 miles outside Athy on the Kilcullen road is one of the largest Norman mottes in the country, Ardscull Motte or Moat. The 35ft high mound with its surrounding ditch and bank previously incorporated an enclosed yard and is believed to have been created in the 12th century. A plaque commemorating the 1903 Gordon Bennett Motor Race was erected on the site.

Barrow Branch of the Grand Canal
The Barrow Branch brought passenger and freight barges from Lowtown on the Grand Canal to the river Barrow from 1793 until 1960. Today the canal is once again used by pleasure boaters and it remains a superb resource for the area, rich in flora and fauna. The towpath provides an excellent walking route for a leisurely stroll or a planned hike - for as far as you want to go. It's only 45km (28 and a quarter miles) to Lowtown!

Athy has an annual water festival, a Bluegrass music festival, and a weekend devoted to Ernest Shackleton.














Attractions By Stages
Ballyshannon To Carlow
Carlow To Athy
Athy To Kildare
Kildare To The Heath
The Heath To Athy

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