Maynooth was a long-term centre for the Geraldine or FitzGerald family, which dominated Irish affairs during the Anglo-Norman and Tudor periods. From 1932 to 1937, the town was the unofficial home to the King’s representative in Ireland, Governor General Domhnall Ua Buachalla, who declined to take up official residence in the Viceregal Lodge in the Phoenix Park, and whose family operated a hardware store in the town until 2005, the only shop with an Irish language name in the town for many years, though during 2014 a sweet shop named An Siopa Milseán opened a few doors away, which closed in 2019.
The town is just inside the western edge of The Pale. It has, at either end of the main street, Maynooth Castle and Carton House, two former seats of the Dukes of Leinster. The castle was a stronghold of the 16th century historical figure Thomas FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Kildare who was better known as Silken Thomas. The castle was overrun in 1535, after the rebellion of the Earl.
The most important historical buildings in the town are those of St. Patrick’s College and some which antedate the foundation of the college, while others are in the late Georgian and neo-Gothic revival style. The “new range” of buildings was erected by A. W. N. Pugin in 1850 under a commission from then college president Laurence F. Renehan, while the College Chapel was designed and completed by James Joseph McCarthy during the presidency of Dr. Robert Browne in 1894. Conolly’s Folly is within Maynooth’s extensive town boundaries.
There are three old monastic settlements in the vicinity of Maynooth, including Laraghbryan and its cemetery, Taghadoe and its Round Tower and Grangewilliam (Donaghmore).