Maynooth is a town in County Kildare, 30 km west of Dublin. Maigh Nuad means the plain of Nuadha, the mythical king who lost his arm in battle, was fitted with a silver one, then grew back his own. The town is best known for its religious seminary, and with a population in 2016 of 14,585, it's the most interesting of the strip of towns along the northern boundary of the county. These all stand astride the historic Dublin-Galway road, nowadays M4, and are part of the Dublin commuter belt.
Celbridge with a population of 20,288 is the largest, with 18th century Castletown House nearby.
Leixlip (population 15,504) is mostly residential and runs into Lucan within the Dublin city limits.
"Maynooth" to generations of Catholics has signified St Patrick's College, established in 1795 as Ireland's national seminary for RC priests. Remarkably, it was funded by the British government, who with good reason were more scared of anti-clerical revolutionary France than they were of Rome. A bid by Peel in 1845 to triple the funding convulsed British politics, but he carried the day. From 1896 the college became a Pontifical university, conferring its own degrees in canon law, philosophy and theology. Secular faculties also developed, which in 1997 were hived off to create Maynooth University, academically separate but sharing the Old Campus, and growing around a New Campus just north. Maynooth was already expanding rapidly as a commuter town but this transformed it into a university town, with some 14,000 students and 500 academic staff. Students for the priesthood have dwindled to some 250 but St Patrick's seminary keeps going as those elsewhere in Ireland have folded and transferred into Maynooth.
Weston Airport between Leixlip and Lucan has no commercial flights, but extensive aviation facilities and it handles private and business flights.
Commuter trains from Dublin Connolly run twice an hour from 05:30 to 23:30 and take 40 min to Maynooth, with 9 stops including Drumcondra and Leixlip; a single ticket might be €5. Six trains a day are intercity services which continue to Mullingar, Longford, Dromod, Carrick-on-Shannon, Boyle, Ballymote and Sligo. Connolly station also has trains from Belfast via Drogheda, from Rosslare via Wexford and Wicklow, and the other Dublin commuter lines. For trains from Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Mayo you need to travel via Dublin Heuston, a 5 km cross-town transfer. See Irish Rail for timetables, fares and online tickets.
Maynooth 1 railway station is 200 m south of town centre. The ticket office is open M-Sa 06:00-23:00, Su 10:00-22:00 and there are machines; no toilets.
Dublin Bus 66 runs every 30 min from Merrion Square and other city stops via Chapelizod, Lucan and Leixlip, taking 50 min to Maynooth. Bus 67 is similarly frequent and runs via Celbridge. The 66 / 67 buses don't call at Busáras or the airport.
Airport Hopper 767 runs every 30 min 05:00-22:00 from the airport via Lucan and Leixlip to Maynooth, taking 50 min.
Aircoach 706 runs every hour or two from Dublin Airport via Dublin Aston Quay to Maynooth, and continues west to Athlone, Ballinasloe and Galway.
Expressway Bus 22 / 23 runs six times a day from Dublin Busáras, taking 50 min via Dublin Airport and Lucan. These continue to Mullingar and Longford whence Bus 23 runs to Dromod, Carrick-on-Shannon, Boyle and Sligo, while Bus 22 heads west to Ballina. Bus X20 from Dublin via Maynooth to Galway was axed in 2021.
Bus Éireann 115 runs every 30 min from Dublin Connolly and Heuston stations to Lucan, Maynooth and Kilcock; alternate services continue to Enfield, Kinnegad and Mullingar.
GoAhead Commuter Bus 120 runs every 30 min from Dublin Connolly and Heuston stations to Celbridge, 40 min. It doesn't come into Maynooth but continues to Straffan, Clane, Prosperous, Carbury and Edenderry.
JJ Kavanagh Bus 139 runs every couple of hours M-Sa from Naas to Sallins, Clane and Maynooth, and continues to Leixlip, Castaheaney, Blanchardstown and Corduff at the northwest edge of Dublin city.
Buses stop on Maynooth Main St and elsewhere, there isn't a bus station.
By road from Dublin follow M4 to Exit 7. Cyclists can follow the towpath of the Royal Canal, see below.
Maynooth town is compact and walkable. Bus 67 runs near Castletown House in Celbridge, while Bus 66 flanks the Royal Canal to Leixlip.
- 1 Maynooth Castle, Main St, Maynooth W23 F2D5, ☏ . May-Sept daily 10:00-18:00. This was built from 1203 as a stronghold of the Fitzgerald dynasty. It was expanded in the 15th century but early in the 16th its governor "Silken" Thomas Fitzgerald rebelled against Henry VIII. Siege guns of that era could make short work of medieval fortifications, so a vengeful English army blasted down the castle, slew its garrison, and set off in pursuit of Thomas himself. The castle was restored in the 1630s, nicely in time to be wrecked again in the Confederate wars of the 1640s. Only the gatehouse and Solar Tower survived, while the Fitzgeralds decamped to finer mansions and left this ruin. Free.
- St Patrick's College aka Maynooth College or Old Campus faces the castle. It was established in 1795 as a seminary for RC priests, as described above. Since 1997 it shares the Old Campus with the secular Maynooth University. You can stroll the campus exteriors but the only interior that is routinely accessible is the beautiful College Chapel, Tu Th 10:30-12:30 in term time. College tours may also take in the Great Hall, St Mary's Oratory and Stoyte House.
- National Science Museum has a branch within Old Campus, with a collection of scientic instruments. It's open Jun-Aug W 14:00-16:00, Su 14:00-18:00.
- 2 Castletown House, Celbridge W23 V9H3, ☏ . W-Su 10:00-17:00. Grand Palladian mansion built in 1722, you can only tour the ground floor. The extensive grounds are open daily in daylight hours. Free in 2021.
- Celbridge Abbey in that town's centre is a 17th century mansion, converted in 1951 into a facility for people with learning difficulties and run by a religious brotherhood. You can stroll the gardens M-F 09:00-16:00.
- Tea Lane Graveyard 500 m west of Celbridge town centre is an atmospheric graveyard with a ruined medieval church and 1860s chapel. It's open M-F 10:00-17:00, Sa Su 11:00-13:00. The lane was Church Road until 19th century millworkers were brought over from England, to drink copious volumes of tea and carpet the lane with their discarded tea-leaves.
- 3 The Wonderful Barn was built in 1743 at the north end of the Castletown Estate. It's nowadays severed from the estate by M4, so you flash past it between Exits 5 and 6. It was primarily a Folly, a work creation project, but also served as a granary. It's a strange conical tower with an exterior stairway spiralling up: it would make one helluva helter-skelter but there's no public access. The Bottle Tower in Rathfarnham, Dublin is modelled on it. Another that you can ascend is in Samarra 125 km north of Baghdad, but this is inconvenient to reach from Maynooth.
- 4 Conolly's Folly was likewise a work creation project of 1740, designed by Cassels. It closed off the vista from Castletown House and its confection of arches, mock gatehouse, pineapples and eagles is generally abbreviated as "The Obelisk". See it free from the public lane, you can't go "inside" even if it had one.
- 5 Leixlip Spa is only worth a look if you're passing. In 1793 the Royal Canal was being excavated when the workers broke in upon a warm spring, bubbling up through a fault line from the Hadean depths. The landowner developed it into a spa and it had a brief vogue. Its waters tumble into the River Rye, but they're a drop in the ocean compared to the ruinous drainage of funds in constructing the canal across the river valley. The spa became derelict, vandalised and trash-strewn: it's been cleaned up several times only to fill up again like an unattended skip.
- 6 Larchill Arcadian Gardens, Phepotstown, Kilcock W23 Y44P (off R125), ☏ . May Jun Aug M-F and some Sa Su, 10:00-14:00. This is Europe's best surviviving ferme ornée - an ornamental farm-style garden. It was created at the turn of the 18th / 19th century and restored from the 1990s. There's a walled garden, lake and spattering of elaborate follies. Adult €8, child €6.
- 7 Taghadoe 5 km south of Maynooth has a truncated Round Tower, the main remnant of an early medieval monastery. The adjacent C of I church was built in 1831 and fell derelict in the 1870s.
- 8 The Steam Museum, Lodge Park, Straffan W23 X8N4, ☏ . May-Aug W-F 12:00-16:00, Sa Su 14:00-16:00. Collection of 19th century steam engines. It's next to Lodge Park Walled Garden, which you can tour separately. Adult €7.50, conc or child €5.
- Straffan village is also near the K golf club, see below. Its other amusements make a sorry catalogue: the butterfly farm has closed down, Castledillon is just a few stone scraps, and the monastic site was described as "not worth the services of chaplains" as early as 1294 and hasn't visibly improved since.
- Campus tours walk around the old and new college campuses.
- The Royal Canal stretches 146 km from the Liffey in Dublin to the Shannon near Longford. It's navigable throughout and has a good towpath, so you could cycle from Dublin via the north suburbs and Leixlip to Maynooth. It continues west across the county to Kilcock and Enfield, then onward across Meath and Westmeath. Check Waterways Ireland for current status of locks, moorings, towpaths and other facilities.
- Golf: the big name is The K Club or Royal Kildare, 2 km southwest of Straffan. It has an upscale resort and spa hotel, and two championship golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer. There are several more courses around Maynooth, Leixlip and the leafy edges of Dublin.
- Carton Retail Park east side of town is the main shopping area, with Tesco Extra open daily 07:00-23:00.
- West end of Main St near the University is Manor Mills shopping centre, with Aldi and Dunne's Stores.
- SuperValu is on Straffan Rd next to Glenroyal Hotel.
- Donatello's, Main St, Maynooth, ☏ . W Th 16:00-21:30, F-Su 13:00-22:00. Reliable place for Italian cuisine.
- Sasta by the River, Manor Mills, Mill St, Maynooth, ☏ . M-Sa 09:00-17:00, Su 10:00-17:00. Pleasant cafe for light fare.
- Main Street in Maynooth also has Stone Haven, Red Torch Ginger, Bistro 53, Picaderos, and a slew of fast-food outlets.
- Along Main Street find The Roost, The Duke & Coachman, O'Neills, McMahon's, Brady's Clockhouse and Oak Alley.
- Rye River Brewing Company is in Celbridge, no tours.
- Maynooth Campus has student accommodation in various locations which out-of-term is used for conference groups but is also available to individual travellers.
- B&Bs are dotted around the area but didn't open in 2021.
- Glenroyal Hotel, Straffan Rd W23 C2C9 (near railway station), ☏ . Reliable mid-price hotel in town centre, with spa and fitness centre. Some rooms small and with thin walls. B&B double €120.
- 1 Carton House, Carton Demesne W23 TD98 (R157 two km north of town), ☏ . Plush hotel, which in 2020 became part of the Fairmont group and was refurbished. Pricey but gets great scores for comfort, service, setting in extensive grounds, and two golf courses. The house was built by Cassels in 1739 and was a fine Georgian mansion until converted, and frankly messed up, to become a hotel in 2000. The developers took a lot of stick for this but some obliquy should attach to previous owners' gambling debts, psychiatric histories, and juggling tricks with live grenades. B&B double €300.
- 2 Celbridge Manor Hotel, Clane Lane, Celbridge W23 TD98 (off R403), ☏ . Upscale hotel, built in 1732 as a school and becoming a hotel in 1980. In 2021 the hotel is for sale, but it hasn't found a buyer and remains in business. B&B double €130.
- 3 Barberstown Castle, Straffan W23 CX40 (jcn R403 with R406), ☏ . Genuine 13th century castle, though much re-built up to modern times and becoming a hotel in 1971. Great comfort and ambiance. B&B double €200.
- Leixlip has mid-price business-type accommodation handy for the M4, such as Courtyard Hotel, Leixlip House, and Leixlip Manor. There's plenty more south of the river in Lucan the western burb of Dublin.
As of July 2021, Maynooth and its surrounds have 4G from Three, and 5G from Eir and Vodafone.
- Kildare has a fine cathedral and is near the National Stud and Japanese Gardens.
- Trim has a well-preserved Norman castle and is near the Hill of Tara.
- Dublin: just about everyone else in town will be heading there of a weekday morning, so it would be churlish not to explore it.