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. 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. Graiguenamanagh & St Mullins are favorite places to spend a few pleasant hours, take photos & get refreshments.
Hill walking info is at bottom of page.
NOTE: See the right hand menu for photos & info from each location along the river.
113km (70 miles) in length, running beside the beautiful River Barrow, Ireland’s second longest river. By breaking the journey into several manageable strolls (or even at at different times) you can enjoy one of Europe’s most beautiful walks beside the beautiful River Barrow. Picnic or snacks & drinks advised as there may be nowhere to stock up between villages & towns.
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.
Stage 3 Athy to Carlow – 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 (good Heritage Centre) 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 but there’s more to come..
Recommended on the Barrow Way: | Walks & Destinations
Stage 4 Carlow to Bagenalstown 10 miles (16km).
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, large mill buildings and a large wooded area it is famous as an aquatic triangle. Otters, herons, dippers and kingfishers are often to be seen here. Walk up to the lock if you have time, along the (often muddy) tree-shaded navigation canal bank.
Read Irish Times article by Olivia O’Leary, (photo of Milford by me)
This stretch of our walk is rich with historical buildings and castles including the Black Castle at Leighlinbridge which was an important river crossing for centuries and said to be the oldest working bridge in Europe. There are several shops & pubs here. Cross the river and continue towards Bagenalstown via Rathellin Lock (shown below). Further downstream there are many architectural gems in the larger town of Bagenalstown.
Stage 5 Bagenalstown to Graignamanagh – 16 miles (26km).
Joyce’s – one of several great pubs in the picturesque Georgian village of Borris. Don’t forget the handbrake! The impressive viaduct at bottom of town once carried a railway and is the gateway to Mount Leinster. The village of Borris nestles in the foothills of the Blackstairs mountains and has retained its Georgian buildings and charms of former days. For Borris village you’ll need to walk up from Ballytiglea bridge. There is a petrol station / shop on the 1st left turn (towards Bagenalstown) where you can buy coffee & snacks or continue on towards Borris village.
Alternatively, head through Borris, following the road & river to Clashganny – a popular spot for swimming & walking. Turn left along the river to Ballykeenan Lock looped walks:
Graiguenamanagh / Tinnahinch – a picturesque and friendly River Barrow boating centre with traditional pubs. As visited by Oz Clarke & James May in a BBC drinks programme.
Many Graiguenamanagh shops have kept their traditional fronts and the local public houses have earned nation-wide 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.
Stage 6 Graiguenamanagh to St. Mullins – 4 miles (6km).
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. Walk back along the riverside to find St Mullins Lock.
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 and seasonal Cafe (closed Mondays). The tide reaches St Mullins from New Ross so there is a sea lock nearby and this marks the end of the riverside walking.
Off season visits: The so-called ‘shoulder months’ are great for visiting the Barrow Valley. May gives you beautiful wild flowers and trees in first flush of green while October has early mists, autumnal shades, peace & quiet. As a bonus, off-season accommodation prices fall too.
USEFUL LINKS FOR BARROW WAY WALKERS:
Barrow Valley Facebook Page – share your feedback & get up to date events & photos
Walk Ballytiglea (Borris) to St Mullins by the riverside – Irish Times
See also South Leinster Way
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 – see more info here.
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
A great walk up the hills starts near Ballymurphy in Co. Carlow. You don’t have to do the whole loop of course. I’ve done 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 map above for local place names. Parking is available at start of walk.
This website features the photography & writing of James Burke, who lives locally and has been enchanted by the River Barrow since arriving. All images & videos are copyright James Burke.
- This website is sponsored by Bigger Picture Web, small business websites, search engine optimisation, commercial photography, video services, Kilkenny
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