Bridge and Black Castle at Leighlinbridge. Said to be the oldest working bridge in Europe. Photo by James Burke

Valerian Bridge and Black Castle on the River Barrow at Leighlinbridge, County Carlow.

The attractive 7-arch structure was built in 1320 by Maurice Jakis and the castle which dominates the river is known as the Black Castle. In 1181 Lord Hugh de Lacy built the first castle here to defend the strategic crossing of the River Barrow after taking the surrounding lands from Irish clans. In 1320 the First “Black Castle” was built. There are no visible remains of either of these two castles. The ruin on the site today is reported to have been built by Sir Edward Bellingham, Lord Deputy of Ireland, in 1547. The castle was destroyed by Cromwellian forces, under Colonel Hewson, in 1650 during the Irish Confederate Wars. Despite all that, Leighlinbridge remains a charming traditional Irish village.

The Barrow Way at leighlinbridge, Carlow, Ireland

The Barrow Way at Leighlinbridge

Rathvinden lock-keeper's house

At Rathvinden lock-keeper’s house. Photo from a barge by James Burke

At nearby Old Leighlin (across the main road) is the lovely 13th century St Lazerian’s Cathedral. There are building remains from as far back as the 5th century here so it was always an important religious centre. A synod held here in 630 A.D. was decisive in ‘reconciling’ the Celtic & Christian date of Easter for the Irish church at the behest of the Pope. Read more here

lazerians retro copy

St Lazerian’s Cathedral, Old Leighlin, County Carlow.

See the walking guide for more information on Leighlinbridge or click here

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Local Accommodation:


Garrison Holiday Centre
offers riverside self-catering in 2 or 3 bed modern houses or a stylish Georgian B&B in Leighlinbridge. Set in walled, landscaped gardens with it’s own pub on site, Garrison offers the perfect base for exploring the Barrow Valley with all the comforts of home. Ideal for walking groups. The Black Castle stands within the grounds.