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 Leinster Leader 11th February 2010

Playing Cupid among the Kildare hills
Readers looking for a romantic outing over St. Valentine’s weekend could do worse than heading for the hills and seeking out Kildare’s very own Cupidstown Hill. Whether the ‘Cupid’ in the name of the hill has any connection with the Roman god of love we may never know but what is certain is that the hill holds the record of being the highest point in Co. Kildare at 1,248 feet above sea level. This may come as a surprise to some Lilywhites as there is a general assumption that the highest point in the county is the Hill of Allen. And while the tower-crowned eminence of Allen is  Kildare’s most prominent landmark, it is little more than half the altitude of the Cupidstown .
To get to Kildare’s highlands, modest as they are, one needs to explore the hill terrain on the Kildare-Wicklow boundary. Cupidstown Hill is part of range of hills which run in a north-east to south-west direction roughly from Saggart  to Pollaphuca. Kildare’s highest village, Kilteel is located on the western slope of the ridge with wonderful views to the west out over the plains of Leinster.. Looked at in the opposite direction from the plains of Kildare this range of hills forms the first ridge of the Wicklow mountains. The county boundary runs along the ridge and indeed just down the slope on the Kilteel side of Cupidstown there is a point where the three counties meet – Kildare, Wicklow & Dublin.
 Whatever about the mystery of Cupidstown’s name its neighbouring hill just to the south-west carries a name which will send a shiver down the spine – Cromwellstown Hill. Tracking in a south-westerly direction the next eminence is the Caureen hill, notable for the green road which tracks directly over its summit and links the Hempstown and Crosschapel roads on its northern and southern flanks respectively. The ridge continues south to Tipperkevin before merging with the Wicklow hills proper in the Pollaphuca area. It is not surprising that the landscape in this location would carry echoes of past conflicts. The hilly terrain between Kilteel and Ballymore Eustace has always been contested country forming a barrier between the plains of the mid Leinster and the mountain hideaways of west Wicklow. The presence of the knight’s hospitallers’ castle at Kilteel and the imposing motte and bailey at Rathmore, guarding one of the key passes through the hills, is testament to centuries marked by skirmish and ambush among the east Kildare hills. The fort of Rath Turtle in Glending, another dramatic pass through the hills on the Eadestown-Blessington road, suggests a Norse origin. In later but still troubled times the defensive ditch known as the Pale tracked along the ridge and remnants of it are still to be seen east of Kilteel.
And what of the great Kildare landmark of the Hill of Allen? At just 676 feet above sea level Allen is just a little over half the height of Cupidstown. Indeed Allen falls short of its neighbours to the south west, Grange hill and Dumurray hill, both over 700 feet. Grange and  Dunmurray form the first two slopes in a ridge completed by the Red Hills, a familiar view on the western horizon for Kildare town residents. 
The generally flat topography of the county means that hills which would hardly rate as such in other parts of Ireland become quite prominent when viewed against the low lying plains of the county. Cupidstown Hill, although Kildare’s highest point ranks in a lowly 22nd position in a list of 26-county high points.
Carbury Hill with its haunting castle ruins and Cappagh Hill (west of Kilcock), are two modest hills which dominate their surrounding landscapes. More geologically connected with the Wicklow mountain range are the hills which fall within the south-eastern boundary of the county in the Narraghmore to Castledermot pinpointed by names such as Bullhill, Nine Tree Hill and Knockpatrick Hill.  The place names of the county form a rich vein of terminology indicating its diverse landscape but few convey that sense of enigmatic romance as Kildare’s very own Cupidstown Hill. Series No: 164.


In his regular feature 'Nothing New Under the Sun' in the Leinster Leader Liam Kenny explores the hill terrain on the Kildare-Wicklow boundary. Our thanks to Liam...

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