Carlow is the second smallest county in Ireland. Its county town, Carlow, sits on the river Barrow, Ireland’s second longest. Cruises on the river are a popular activity. There are riverside walks and early 19th century warehouses along the quays. The scant ruins—two towers, a connecting curtain wall and the western half of a keep—of a Norman castle are in the town centre. The castle saw much action over the centuries. Carlow Attractions
The Carlow County Museum, by the tourist office, has 19th and 20th century domestic layouts that include a dairy, kitchen, and forge. Carlow Cathedral, near St Patrick’s College, was begun in 1828 and is in the English Gothic style. Note its slim tower. A military museum is in the town. The town puts on an arts festival in June.
The Carlow courthouse, dating from 1834, on Dublin Street, is considered one of finest in the country. It was designed by William Morris and built of Carlow granite. In the basement are cells and dungeons. A cannon from the Crimean War was placed on the steps.
Near Carlow is Duckett’s Grove, eleven acres with a ruined Gothic revival castle and mansion with two walled gardens, a small pleasure ground, and former outbuildings of a much larger estate.
Leighlinbridge, on the river Barrow south of Carlow, has a 14th century bridge beside which is ruined Black castle dated 1547. The town’s flowers and parks have contributed to its tidy village award. Killeshin, west of Carlow, is the site of a national monument: a ruined church, once part of a monastery founded in the 5th century.
Tullow, where many of the buildings are of granite, is the county’s other major town. The museum in the church at the River Slaney bridge displays historical items of the town. Three miles from Tullow on the road to Shillelagh is Rathgall stone fort, an extensive hillside fortification with 8th century outer walls and medieval inner walls.
South of Tullow, off the N80, is Altamont House and Gardens. In the grounds are formal gardens, a lake area, a wild garden, and an ice age glen overlooking the River Slaney. The house dates from the 18th century with 19th century additions. A tidy town winner, Clonegal, is a historic village set in tree clad hills by a river. It is home to a group of restored weavers’ cottages and Huntington Castle and gardens, rebuilt in 1625. It is the ancient seat of the Esmonde family and is still lived in. The house and gardens can be toured.
Myshall, at the foot of Mt Leinster by the Blackstairs Mountains, copied Salisbury Cathedral when building its Adelaide Memorial Church in 1913. From here you can drive up Mt Leinster to the Nine Stones prehistoric grouping.
St Mullins Ecclesiastical complex and Heritage Centre includes a medieval church ruin, the base of a round tower, and a former Church of Ireland church, built in 1811. Saint Moling founded the original monastery, which was plundered by the Vikings in 951, then burned in 1138. An abbey was built on the site in the middle ages. Surviving is a 9th century high cross depicting the crucifixion and domestic medieval buildings.
Saint Moling's mill and well are a short distance away. The former Catholic church is a heritage centre with local history, maps, photos, and small artefacts. Catch a boat from the village to New Ross for views along the river Barrow.
North of Tullow is Rathvilly, another tidy town award winner, noted for its flower displays. At the crossroads near the village is a large motte. Clonmore, of historic interest, is a former religious community and monastery town, connected with early Christian times. The surrounding area offers scenic landscapes.
Look for the Browne’s Hill portal tomb, a megalithic structure with a 100-ton dolmen capstone on the Rathvilly road, three miles from Carlow. Another well-preserved dolmen, Haroldstown, is located off the R727.
Shankhill Castle, on the Carlow/Kilkenny border near Paulstown, is set in parkland. Guided tours are given of the interior. Also near the border is Borris, a heritage town in the river Barrow valley below Blackstairs Mountains. Traditional shopfronts, pubs, and stone buildings contribute to the atmosphere.
Bagenalstown offers riverside walks, the 17th century Tudor-Gothic Dunleckney Manor, and the 13-14th century ruins of Ballyloughan castle. The gatehouse is considered one of the finest examples of its type in Ireland. Ruined 14th century Ballymoon castle is three miles east in a field by the L33. Access it via a timber footbridge.
For opening times and full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website
Shillelagh-Tulow road, 6km east of Tullow; 8km west of village of Shillelagh, 400m down country lane
Altamont House and Gardens
Tel. 0 59 915 9444
Ballykeenan House Pet Farm and Aviary
Off Carlow Rosslare road near Mysall village
Tel. 0 503 57665
On Rathvilly road, near Carlow town, signposted, carpark
Tel. 01 647 6000
On east bank of Barrow river, Carlow town
Carlow County Museum
College Street, accessed from Carlow tourist office
Tel. 059 9131 554
Carlow Military Museum
Athy Road, Carlow, in former church
Duckett’s Grove Walled Garden and Pleasure Grounds
Near Carlow town
Tel. 0 59 913 0411
Web: Duckett’s Grove
Tel. 0 59 915 1769
Huntington Castle and Gardens
Tel. 0 5393 77552
Web: Huntington Castle and Gardens
Killeshin National Monument
Tel. 0 50 22 1178
Web: Lisnavagh Gardens
Oak Park Forest Park
Oak Park, Carlow
Tel. 0 59 913 1554
Rancho Reilly Pet Farm and Children’s Activity Centre
Springhill Rd, Carlow
Tel. 0 87 770 1181
Rathgall Stone Fort
5km from Tullow on the Shillelagh Road
Tel. 059 9131324
Rathwood House, Garden World and Forest Walks
Rathwood, Tullow, on R725
Tel. 0 59 915 6285
Web: Rathwood House and Garden World
On Carlow/Kilkenny border near Paulstown, in parkland
Tel. 0 59 9726145
St Mullins Ecclesiastical complex and Heritage Centre
Tel. 0 59 9724140
In church at Slaney River bridge
Tel. 0 59 9151286
Carlow Tourist Information Centres
The Forester's Hall, College Street
Tel. 059 913 0411
Official Tourism website: Carlow Tourism
Photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
River Barrow, Leighlinbridge main street crossing River Barrow, Tullow bridge crossing River Slaney, Rathvilly, Shankhill Castle by Sarah777; Carlow castle by Mike Searle; Carlow town centre, Carlow cathedral, Carlow courthouse, Tullow main shopping street, Altamont House by Jonathan Billinger; Huntington Castle yew walk, Borris main street by Humphrey Bolton; Nine Stones on Mt Leinster, River Barrow below Saint Mullins by Kevin Higgins; Adelaide Memorial Church Of Christ The Redeemer at Myshall by Liam Murphy; St Mullins ruined church by Paul O’Farrell, St Mullins monastery ruins by Paul O’Farrell; Ballyloughan Castle, Ballymoon castle by Liam Murphy
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