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Leinster Leader 9 August 2007
Surveying the views from Kildare’s highest village.
A pleasant ramble around Kildare’s highest village earlier this summer brought home how even the smallest localities have a wealth of history waiting to be researched and portrayed. My guide for the evening was Paddy Walsh, retired principal of Rathmore National School. Paddy was a major contributor to the voluminous Kilteel and Rathmore School History published some years ago and which turned out to be a compendium of a vast amount of information on all aspects of life in the Kilteel, Rathmore and Eadestown triangle of County Kildare.
Paddy pointed out that Kilteel, at 800 feet above sea level, is by far the highest village in flatland Kildare. From its airy heights (where locals maintain that the temperature is always a couple of degrees chillier than in Kill or Naas) a spectacular view can be had across the plains of Kildare and adjoining counties. That view is enhanced when the vantage point is the battlemented roof of Kilteel castle, an impressive reminder of the crusader knights who fortified the uplands of Kildare in the middle ages.
It was not difficult to imagine oneself in the role of a Norman baron surveying the north Kildare landscape from the tower. To the north-west Cappagh Hill, west of Kilcock could be seen, while swinging one’s gaze directly to the west the outline of Croghan Hill, famed in Co. Offaly folklore, stands proud on the western horizon – a good thirty-five miles or so as the crow flies across from Kilteel.. Further south again and back within the Kildare boundary the profile of the Hill of Allen (or at least what remains of it) is distinctive with its Aylmer tower while to the south is the small range of hills known collectively as the Red Hills behind Kildare town.
Returning one’s gaze to the Hill of Allen many mid-Kildare folk regard it as the highest point in the county. However  Allen’s 676 foot altitude is dwarfed by a hill on the north-eastern margin of the county known as Cupidstown Hill which beats it by almost double scores recording a height of over 1,248 feet. Cupidstown is just above Kilteel on the ridge of hills which runs from Saggart Hill in Co. Dublin south to Tipperkevin above Ballymore Eustace.
The fact that Kildare’s highest point lies within the Kilteel district is not the only curiosity that this corner of the county can boast. The five story castle with over eighty steps on a spiral staircase to its roof is a striking medieval structure but it is clear looking at the abundance of old walls and earthworks in the adjoining fields that it is but a remnant of a much larger complex of towers and fortifications. Down in the valley between Kilteel and the Cupidstown Hill ridge lies an ancient church with its unique chancel arch where early sculptors carved out figures in the Romanesque style of Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, Samson and the Lion and others more mysterious. The presence of the old Irish word for church ‘Cill’ in the placename Kilteel reinforces the location’s importance as an early church setting. And indeed talking of placenames the locality is rich in associations – while it is hard to know if Cupidstown Hill has any associations with romantic endeavours the name of its adjoining townsland, Cromwellstown Hill, is enough to send a tremble down the spine of any local historian.
Kilteel occupies the northern end of the Catholic parish of Eadestown, a far-flung parish in the Archdiocese of Dublin, extending from Punchestown in the South almost to Rathcoole and bordered east and west by Naas and Blessington.
Any Lilywhite keen to explore a part of the county which contrasts with the more mundane mid-Kildare flatlands or the tracts of the Bog of Allen could well take the turn off the dual carriageway north of Kill and head for Kildare’s highland country around Kilteel. Just make sure to bring a jumper for the inevitable drop in temperature!
  • My thanks to Paddy Walsh, retired principal Rathmore NS and historian, for inspiring this account.
Series no. 27

An article on the highest village in Co. Kildare from the Leinster Leader of 9 August 2007, by Liam Kenny from his regular feature, 'Nothing New Under the Sun.' Our thanks to Liam and his tour guide, Paddy Walsh.

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