24-48km (15-30 miles) W of Dublin

The flatlands of Kildare are rich in more ways than one. The soil is lush and fertile, producing miles of green pastures perfect for raising horses, and the population is one of the most affluent in the country, with plenty of cash for buying horses. Driving through the smooth rolling hills, home to sleek thoroughbreds, you'll notice a similarity to the green grass of Kentucky -- in fact, the county is twinned with Lexington, Kentucky. This is the home of the Curragh, the racetrack where the Irish Derby is held, and of smaller tracks at Naas and Punchestown.

Once the stronghold of the Fitzgerald Clan, Kildare comes from the Irish cill dara, or "Church of the Oak Tree," a reference to St. Brigid's monastery, which once sat in the county, surrounded by oak trees. Brigid was a bit ahead of her time as an early exponent for women's equality -- she founded her coed monastery in the 5th or 6th century.