Walking the Barrow Way

Enjoy easy grade walking beside the River Barrow in South East Ireland
. I have listed the entire Barrow Way walk but the southern stretch is more scenic (in my humble opinion). You can also pick a shorter section and ring your B&B to collect you at the end (check with them when booking). Of course you can drive to a particular place and just wander around if you are pushed for time, which is what many people do.

Waterways Ireland's map showing the locks and larger towns along the River Barrow.
Waterways Ireland’s map showing the locks and larger towns along the River Barrow.

 


Graiguenamanagh & St Mullins are favorite places to spend a few pleasant hours, take photos & get refreshments. Milford is a lovely quiet spot. I’ve linked in the text to individual pages which are also on the drop-down menu above.


> Hill walking info is at bottom of page

Background

I read recently that someone’s guest said “it’s like walking into a Constable painting” when first experiencing the Barrow Way. There’s nothing like it in Europe and quite a few mainland Europeans come here to experience the peaceful, natural atmosphere you get while walking beside the river.

113km (70 miles) in length, running beside the beautiful River Barrow, Ireland’s second longest river. By breaking the journey into manageable strolls (or even at at different times) you can enjoy one of Europe’s most beautiful walks beside the beautiful River Barrow. TIP: carry snacks & drinks if you are going far as there will be nowhere to stock up between villages & towns.

The Upper Reaches of the River Barrow

The River Barrow from the Grattan Bridge near Vicarstown, Co. Laois.
The River Barrow from the Grattan Bridge near Vicarstown, Co. Laois.

The Walk – Stage 1 Starts in Lowtown for a distance of 14 miles (23km) which takes you to the town of Monasterevin. The raised banks of the canal offers beautiful views of the surrounding countryside with views of the Hill of Allen and the Wicklow Mountains.

Stage 2 Monasterevin to Athy – 14 miles (23km).
This stretch offers the visitor much of architectural interest with many old bridges and houses. Athy Heritage Centre near the bridge is well worth a visit.

Athy, River Barrow
Athy, River Barrow. Can’t find the large version!

Stage 3 Athy to Carlow town – 12 miles (19km).
This is the first of four stretches which pass through the county of Carlow. We start off from the heritage town of Athy and pass many interesting lifting bridges and old mills. Maganey bridge marks the junction of Three Counties: Kildare, Laois and Carlow. A very scenic stretch of the river here and there’s more to come..

Maganey Bridge, River Barrow
Maganey Bridge.

Recommended on the Barrow Way | Walks & Destinations

Stage 4 Carlow to Bagenalstown 10 miles (16km).

Carlow Town has a number of interesting old buildings and a new Arts Centre plus lots of shops and 2 cinemas. From my point of view, one of the most impressive sights in Carlow town is the prehistoric Browneshill Dolmen with its enormous capstone – located on the Hackettstown Road out of town. The Barrow Valley was populated many thousands of years ago, the river being used for transport long before roads existed. The whole county has an array of prehistoric remains which are listed here. See also here.

Browneshill Dolmen, Carlow
Browneshill Dolmen, Carlow. Photo doctored in Photoshop but very impressive.

Milford

Milford on the river Barrow

Milford, approximately 7 km south of Carlow town. Arguably, the most scenic stretch of the whole river begins here as you head South towards St Mullins.
Set in an idyllic location with three bridges, weir, large mill buildings and a large wooded area, Milford is an ideal antidote to driving on motorways. Otters, herons, dippers and kingfishers are often to be seen here – in fact I saw my first Irish otter here. Walk up to the lock if you have time, along the tree-shaded navigation canal bank. See video page for a short film I made here.

Leighlinbridge village

leighlinbridge
Leighlinbridge

Leighlinbridge (pronounced Locklin Bridge) This stretch of our walk is rich with historical buildings, including the Black Castle at Leighlinbridge which was an important river crossing for centuries and said to be the oldest working bridge in Europe. Scientist John Tyndall was born here. A charming village, there are several shops & pubs. Cross the river by the Valerian Bridge and continue towards Bagenalstown via Rathellin Lock (shown below). Further downstream there are many architectural gems in the larger town of Bagenalstown. If you need supplies, there is a riverside Aldi here and a nice picnic area created by local community activists near the outdoor swimming pool – (pool open in high season only).

Rathellin Lock and Barrow Way
River Barrow, Rathellin Lock and the Barrow Way – near the swimming pool.

Stage 5 Bagenalstown to Graiguenamanagh – 16 miles (26km).

Carrie-Ann passing through the Railway Viaduct in Bagenalstown
Carrie-Ann passing through the Railway Viaduct in Bagenalstown

Goresbridge Village

A small village with a Petrol Station / Deli / Shop for supplies. plus a couple of pubs. Recently the riverside area on the Kilkenny side has been developed into a lovely mooring & picnic area by the local community. There are riverside walks in either direction on the Carlow side, along the Barrow Way.

Goresbridge
Goresbridge.

Borris Village

The village of Borris nestles in the foothills of the Blackstairs mountains and has retained its Georgian buildings and charms of former days.

Walkers: There is a petrol station / shop on the road to Bagenalstown where you can buy coffee & snacks or continue uphill towards Borris village shops & the viaduct.

bridge, Borris Estate, river Barrow
Kavanagh Harbour Bridge, Borris Estate, River Barrow. Accessible from Ballytiglea.
Ballytiglea, near Borris village. The Barrow Way beside the river.
Ballytiglea, near Borris village. The Barrow Way beside the river.

Clashganny Lock & Weir

Clashganny
Clashganny from the walk above the locks – off season.

Walk or drive through Borris, following the road & river to Clashganny – a popular spot for kayakers, swimming & walking. Look for a sign to Clashganny restaurant on your right to reach the lock and car park.


Graiguenamanagh town

Graiguenamanagh from the bridge
Graiguenamanagh from the bridge
Duiske Abbey, Graguenamanagh
Duiske Abbey, Graguenamanagh

Many Graiguenamanagh shops have kept their traditional fronts and the local public houses have earned nationwide recognition for their friendly, old world atmosphere. Our walk ends here in Graiguenamanagh, a picturesque abbey town. The name means ‘Grange of the Monks’ in Irish. The beautiful, restored medieval abbey is well worth a look inside. There are ancient high crosses in the graveyard. Locally the town is known simply as ‘Graig’

The lock at Tinnahinch. There is also an old castle here.
The lock at Tinnahinch. There is also an old castle here as it was the original river crossing point before the bridge was built.

Stage 6 Graiguenamanagh to St. Mullins – 4 miles (6km).

Lower Tinnahinch Lock
Lower Tinnahinch Lock – perfect for an Autumn stroll through a Constable painting.

St. Mullins

This lovely riverside stretch has beautiful woodland surroundings with a strong ecclesiastical theme in the religious settlement at St. Mullins. The St Mullins complex includes a medieval church ruin, the base of a round tower and the former Church of Ireland church, built in 1811, which now hosts a heritage centre (often closed). Many 1798 United Irishmen men are buried here and the area has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries, especially during the Plague. It continues to attract pilgrims even today.

Walk back along the riverside to your right to find St Mullins Lock.

River Barrow at St Mullins
River Barrow at St Mullins

St Mullins, Carlow, Ireland, river Barrow

A Norman Motte (fortified hill tower) dominates the approach to the village of St Mullins. The Bailey (village) can still be seen in the uneven grass at it’s feet.
The lower stretch of St Mullins is set on a glorious stretch of the Barrow Valley and includes a picnic area.

Norman Motte at St Mullins. Photo James Burke
Norman Motte at St Mullins. Photo James Burke
How it once looked. Courtesy Irish Archaeology.
Kayakers in St Mullins, River Barrow.
Kayakers in St Mullins at the end of the Barrow Way.

The tide reaches up to St Mullins from New Ross – there is a sea lock nearby and this marks the end of the riverside walking.


Off season visits

Misty morning near Tinnahinch. Carlow, Ireland. Photo by James Burke.
Off season visits bring their own rewards. Misty morning near Tinnahinch. Photo by James Burke

The so-called ‘shoulder months’ are great for visiting the Barrow Valley. May gives you beautiful wild flowers and trees & fields in first flush of green while October has early mists, autumnal shades and wistful peace & quiet. Some attractions are closed but, as a bonus, off-season accommodation prices fall too.

river barrow, barrow way, ireland, spring,
Springtime on the river Barrow

USEFUL LINKS FOR BARROW WAY WALKERS:

Barrow Valley Facebook Page – share your feedback & get up to date events & photos

Click here for Irish Trails – PDF maps of walk stages

Walk Ballytiglea (Borris) to St Mullins by the riverside – Irish Times

Wild Ireland Tour – Barrow Trip

Carlow Weather Twitter feed


Why not take to the hills! – The Blackstairs Mountains offer a wide range of walks, from the easy to the arduous and all within a short drive. You can even drive up to the Ninestones viewing point and start from there – easily accessible from Bagenalstown or Borris.

View over Co Carlow from the Nine Stones viewpoint - accessible from the road via Borris village. Photo by James Burke
View over County Carlow from the Nine Stones viewpoint. Photo by James Burke.

The stained-glass effect of small fields below the Ninestones never ceases to amaze. This spectacular road continues down to Bunclody town. On the way there you pass below the windmills at Kilbrannish where there’s a looped walk.


Buy a map here from local company East West Mapping. This excellent map contains many locally-researched place names not found on official OSI maps.


Recommended Hill Walk – Ballymurphy

TIP: A great walk up the hills starts near Ballymurphy in Co. Carlow. It’s known as Shannon’s Lane. You don’t have to do the whole loop of course. I’ve done some of it myself and I’m no mountaineer. Boots required as the path is quite rocky and bring water as you’ll need it after an hour’s steady climb. We used the East-West Mapping map for local place names. Parking is available at start of walk.

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About barrowvalley.net
This website features the photography & writing of James Burke, who lives locally and has been enchanted by the River Barrow and Barrow Valley since arriving. All images & videos are copyright James Burke.

Longlisted 2018