The Curragh is an open plain of grassland and heath found in Co. Kildare. It covers an area of approximately 1,971 (4,870 acres). The Curragh Plains are 5km wide at their widest point and extend 10 kms from North-West to South-East.
The Curragh Plains are protected by the Irish Government as they are quite special. They have remained unfenced and uncultivated for at least 2000 years. As they have remained uncultivated for over 2000 years the soil and the plants that grow there are quite unique in Ireland. In pre-Christian Ireland, a large gathering was held on the Curragh Plains. The people of Leinster gathered there and new laws were made, marriage and funeral ceremonies carried out and contests and games enjoyed.
The Curragh is associated with St. Brigid, and indeed, is sometimes referred to as St. Brigid’s Pastures. Legend has it that in about 480 AD, when St Brigid became intent on founding a monastery in Kildare town, she asked the High King of Leinster for the land on which to build it. The king scoffed at her request and granted her as much land as her cloak would cover. St Brigid then placed her cloak on the ground to cover the entire Curragh plain.
Another version of the story says that for many many weeks previously, St Brigid and her nuns had stitched and sewed and stitched and sewed – joining all their cloaks together and at the appointed time they rolled out this gigantic new cloak over the Curragh and that is how St. Brigid got the land.
I grew up in Brownstown which sits on the very edge of the Curragh Plains and even though I made a daily trip across the grassland on my way to school, it wasn’t until my late teens when I began to admire the beauty of the area where I was raised. The grassland stretches as far as the eye can see in all directions with the present-day military camp located on the spot which was occupied by the British a little over a century ago. Before the building of the permanent structures which are still visible today, the British soldiers called the plains their home.