The Gordon Bennett Route

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Events & Festivals

For The Kids
Towns And Villages
Club Cars
Attractions By Stages
Ballyshannon To Carlow
Carlow To Athy
Athy To Kildare
Kildare To The Heath
The Heath To Athy


Who is Gordon Bennett, you may be wondering, and why do I need to know? James Gordon Bennett was a flamboyant character, son of a New York media baron. At 26, he took control of his father’s news empire and boosted sales of the New York Herald Tribune among other titles, with his outlandish publicity stunts.
You might have heard the exclamation, popular in England, “Gordon Bennett!”, uttered in disbelief or exasperation. This is thought to have come from his habit of whipping the table cloths off restaurant tables as he walked by. Consternation on the part of the diners would be quickly assuaged as he handed out handfuls of cash to make good the damage.


James Gordon Bennett loved sport and donated the trophy for the six international motor car races that bore his name in the early days of motor racing, from 1900 to 1905. In July 1903, the race was held in Ireland, the route passing through counties Kildare, Carlow and Laois. It was one of the biggest and most spectacular sporting events ever to take place in Ireland.



The route was chosen by Count Zborowski, an aristocrat of Polish descent, and consisted of an eastern and a western circuit, centred on Athy, Co Kildare. The route starting point (at Ballyshannon Crossroads on the modern N78) is approximately 30 miles from Dublin city centre or around 90 miles from Rosslare ferry terminal. The eastern circuit takes in historic villages and lush countryside in counties Kildare and Carlow, whilst the western circuit passes through classic stud farm territory in Co. Kildare before crossing into the picture postcard scenery of Co. Laois. The route takes you along leafy secondary roads and through rural villages and busy market towns. Venture off the beaten tourist trail and your curiosity will be rewarded!


And the winner is…
The route is 104 miles, but the competitors in the race would have covered 327.5 miles by lapping the circuits a number of times. The winner, Belgian driver Jenatzy, nick-named the Red Devil and driving for the German team, took 6 hours and 39 minutes to complete the course! If it were rush hour on a Friday evening we’d think that pretty good going!



No need for a vintage model or a straw bonnet!

Over 100 years on from the Irish Gordon Bennett Cup Race, the county tourism organisations, county councils, Leader companies and car clubs from the three counties have come together to put in place a strategy that will promote the route as a tourist attraction. The signposts mean that anyone can follow the route in their own vehicle or hired car. The route is accompanied by a free route guide, revealing fascinating facts about the race, and listing all the fantastic places to visit along the way.



Order a free route guide!
Click here to order your free copy of the Route Guide, pack the family into the car with a picnic and head off into the countryside to explore this undiscovered part of Ireland, whilst reliving the excitement of one of the first ever motor rallies, and the pre-cursor of Formula 1!