I got the chance last weekend to spend a couple of days just outside Athy in Co. Kildare at a family wedding. The day after the wedding we had some lovely weather, so i decided to take a trip up to the town to have a look around. Arhy or Baile Atha I is named after a 2nd century chieftain, Ae, who is said to have been killed on the river crossing, thus giving the town its name “the town of Ae’s ford”. Athy is a market town at the meeting of the River Barrow and the Grand Canal in County Kildare, Ireland, 72 kilometers southwest of Dublin. Also a designated HERITAGE TOWN OF IRELAND, the Athy Heritage Centre-Museum focuses on the history of Athy and thesurrounding area.The Heritage Centre (also the Town Hall) located in Emily Square, marks a key position in the centre of the town and was built for the Duke of Leinster in 1740.
The town developed from a 12th century Anglo-Norman settlement to an important stronghold on the local estates of the FitzGeraldearls of Kildare, who built and owned the town for centuries. 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, linking here with the River Barrow, and the arrival of the railway in 1846, illustrate the importance of the town as a commercial centre.
From early on in its history Athy was a garrison town loyal to the Crown. English garrisons stayed in the Military Barracks in Barrack Lane after the Crimean War and contributed greatly to the town’s commerce. Home for centuries to English soldiers, Athy gave more volunteer soldiers to the Great War of 1914-18 than any other of similar size town in Ireland.