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Kentucky travel guide

About Kentucky

Bourbon, bluegrass and one heck of a horse race: what’s not to like about Kentucky? The beating heart of America’s bourbon industry, visitors can sip (okay, glug) their way through the likes of Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark on tasting tours of the state's top distilleries.

Much of this corn-based liquor is quaffed during the Kentucky Derby, described by plaudits as ‘the greatest two minutes in sport’. The state goes mad for this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it horse race: fancy hats are dusted off, bets are placed and mint juleps are quaffed at extraordinary speed. Held in Louisville, the Derby is part of a two-week festival, which kicks off with the USA’s biggest fireworks display, followed by a smorgasbord of events, including a marathon and steamboat race.

If you’re inspired to snatch a bit of action yourself, saddle up and canter across the prairies or take a tour of a thoroughbred centre to spot future winners.

Aside from riding, you can hike the Appalachian Mountains, rattle along mountain bike trails in the Daniel Boone Forest, or duck underground in Mammoth Cave, the world’s longest cave system. You can canoe gentle rivers, paddle white water rapids, or hook blue catfish in the Ohio. Or how about exploring Civil War battlefields and the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln?

The soundtrack for any Kentucky trip is bluegrass, and music aficionados can track the birthplaces of such legends as Billy Ray Cyrus and Loretta Lynn along Route 23, the Country Music Highway. Time it right, and it won’t be long before you’re slurping another bourbon and tapping your toes at a bluegrass festival.

Key facts

Area:

104,659 sq km (40,409 sq miles).

Population:

4.4 million (2015).

Population density:

42.3 per sq km.

Capital:

Frankfort.