Photo: Damien Eagers/Shutterstock

This Unusual Monument Is One of the Quirkiest Places in Ireland

Ireland Culture
by Matador Creators Jun 23, 2024

Ireland has plenty of quirky, unique, and remote places to explore. But the TikTok account Weird Ireland just posted one that you definitely won’t find in guidebooks: Donnelly’s Hollow, about an hour west of Dublin in County Kildare. Specifically, it’s in an area called “The Curragh,” a 5,000-acre, fence-free region of rolling farmland known today for being home to many of the country’s fastest race horses.

“The hollow has a monument in it because 200 years ago, a big fellow named Dan Donnelly beat a lad so bad,” says the narrator, who introduces herself as Brinsley McNamara, “that they built a statue here to commemorate the brawl.” The statue is to celebrate Donnelly — the winner of the fight — not to remember the person who was beat to a pulp.

@weirdireland Go to Donnelly’s Hollow it’s free and neat and go see the Curragh sheep too they sometimes overun roads freerange #weirdireland #ireland #kildare #thecurragh #footprints #irishtiktok ♬ original sound – Weird Ireland

But before you start thinking that that sounds pretty violent, know that it’s not quite the full story. The natural amphitheater-like shape of Donnelly’s Hollow made it an ideal location not just for grazing, but for entertainment. In the mid-1800s, boxing was one of the most popular forms of entertainment, and in 1815, it was the site of the famous bare-knuckle boxing match between Irish champion Dan Donnelly and English champion George Cooper.

Supposedly, more than 30,000 spectators watched the fight in which Donnelly won in the 11th round. The victory became a source of national pride for the Irish people, who saw Donnelly as a symbol of their resilience against British rule over Ireland, which began in 1801.

However, something extra-unusual Weird Ireland points out about Donnelly’s Hollow are the mysterious footprints behind the memorial marker. The large impressions lead away from the site of the fight and up to a hillside, and legend says they’ve been there since that very day in 1815. In realty, they’re probably still there — and so big — because of countless visitors following the tradition of walking in his footsteps. But either way, it’s still the path Donnelly took, and walking in them has become a traditions to visitors to Donnelly’s Hollow.

How to get to Donnelly’s Hollow

Donnelly’s Hollow is on public land and open 24 hours a day. The only way to reach it is by car, and it’s about a 45 minute drive from Dublin. That makes it a great day trip if you don’t want to spend too much time away from Dublin’s art, museums, and culture, but want to spend some time in the countryside. If you don’t have a car, you can take a series of buses, but it’ll involve a bit of walking at the end and makes the trip take three times as long.

Donnelly’s Hollow is about 10 minutes from the town of Kildare, a town synonymous with horse racing. Visitors to Kildare can visit the Curragh Racecourse to catch a race or take a behind-the-scenes tour, or take the “Irish Racehorse Experience” at the Irish National Stud & Gardens to take a deep dive into the history, culture, and experience of raising award-winning horses. The next-door Japanese Gardens are a nice place for a stroll on warm days, with some gardens more than 100 years old.

Families may want to check out the Kildare Maze, with more than a mile of winding, tricky paths or the Kildare Farms Food Shop, with a petting zoo and kid-friendly activities.

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