Athy (the ford of Ae) has been an important river crossing from early times and is full of historical interest. It has been the site of many battles from the time in the eleventh century when Ae, King of Leinster, fell here. In 1308 the town was burned by the native Irish and seven years later it was again plundered, this time by the Scots under Robert Bruce. The town bridge was built in 1796, but the first recorded bridge on this site dates back to 1413.
Beside the bridge is White’s Castle, which was built in 1506 by the eighth Earl of Kildare. Seventy years later it was enlarged by William White hence its name. A short distance upstream is Woodstock Castle, built in the thirteenth century and later taken over by the Fitzgeralds. According to tradition Thomas, the infant son of Maurice Fitzjohn, was rescued by a monkey when there was a fire in this castle and thereafter there has always been a monkey in the Kildare coat-of-arms.
The first of the many mills and maltings to be found along the Barrow, which sprang up availing of the side cuts to drive the water wheels and the improved transport facilities, was at Ardreigh Lock. Most of these mills failed to move with the times and by the 1840s there had been a rapid decline in the industry; the antiquated Irish mills were unable to compete with the flow of cheap flour which the emigrant ships brought back from America as ballast. Hannon’s mill at Ardreigh survived until the early 1920s.
Today, Athy is a busy town with lots of charm & character. Narrow, busy streets crowded with little shops make this the very essence of the Irish country market town. Athy, Co. Kildare is situated on the Barrow less than 50 miles away from Dublin, with easy access to the airport and seaports of Rosslare and Dublin. The town is serviced by the main rail line, linking Dublin and Waterford. It is also serviced by a provincial bus service which provides excellent transport to and from Dublin every day.
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