Location

The Barrow Valley from Mount Loftus
The Barrow Valley from Mount Loftus. Ballytiglea bridge is bottom right of photo.

The Barrow Valley is situated roughly between Dublin and Kilkenny. The M9 motorway bisects it in Carlow. It’s easy to reach and well worth the slight diversion if you have the time.

Leighlinbridge – the Barrow Way

If you are heading South from Dublin or Carlow, leave the M9 at junction 6 and head down the R448 towards Leighlinbridge to begin your exploration.

 

Roadside view near St Mullins
Roadside view near St Mullins
Sunset on the river - Slyguff, County Carlow.
Sunset on the river – Slyguff, County Carlow.

About the Barrow Valley

The Barrow Valley is one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets, comprising as it does an unspoiled passage through the South East’s most beautiful landscapes. Despite being the second longest river in Ireland, the River Barrow lacks the visitor numbers of the Shannon region and that’s what makes it so special. This could just be the Ireland you yearned to see.


About the river & Barrow Way

The river was made navigable some three centuries ago by the addition of weirs, navigation canals and locks. These wide locks once allowed the safe transport on huge barges of grain, sugar beet, coal, porter and other more fragile goods. As elsewhere, the railways subsequently took much of the trade away from the river and it’s commercial traffic slowly declined.

Nowadays the river is a priceless resource for anglers, boatmen, kayakers, swimmers, walkers, cyclists, artists, photographers and wildlife enthusiasts. The locks have been restored, as has the Barrow Way – the former towpath for the earliest horse-drawn barges. You can choose to walk, cycle or travel by car on the roads between the many riverside towns and villages, each with a charm of their own.

Several of the navigation canal locks can only be reached on foot or by boat, which makes them all the more rewarding to discover.

 


Ploughing in the Barrow Valley
Ploughing in the Barrow Valley – Mount Leinster in the bakground
Rathanna village - hillside in the mist
Rathanna village – hillside in the mist

The wider Barrow Valley, away from the river, offers a chance to see authentic rural Ireland off the main tourist drag. As with much travel in Ireland, your journey is likely to be as pleasantly memorable as your destination. Stop to ask directions and you may meet some unforgettable people too – Bon Voyage !

James Burke | Blogger & photographer


Don’t forget Kilkenny city

Kilkenny Castle from the river Nore
Kilkenny Castle from the river Nore

Well worth visiting and packed with good pubs and places to eat as well as several medieval buildings and a big castle. A popular and busy tourist destination but worth a day or two exploring. About 12 miles from Leighlinbridge.