River Barrow Carlow Self Catering County Carlow B&B County Carlow Self Catering Carlow Rental Accommodation


"The unspoiled banks of the River Barrow, the open fields and woods, attract a huge variety of birds and waterfowl. Mallard and moorhen can be seen fussing about in the quieter stretches. Kingfishers flit above the water, while herons wait patiently for dinner to swim within striking distance. Farmlands harbour lapwing, thrush, rook, hooded crow, pheasant and woodpigeon. Other species commonly seen in woodland areas include the little grebe, woodcock, the shy sparrowhawk, kestrel, whitethroat, goldcrest, spotted flycather, long-tail tit, chiffchaff and many, many more.

The River Barrow is a nature wonderland, providing many hours of enjoyment for visitors cruising its waters. Electric blue and emerald green damsel flies share the riverside flora with red admirals, painted ladies, peacocks and common blue butterflies"

The Valerian Bridge & Black Castle, Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow. Garrison House Holiday Homes, Bar & Restaurant is located in the grounds of the castle. Photomontage by Bigger Picture Web


Ireland's second longest navigable river, the Barrow, is noted for the beauty and variety of its landscape, the fascination of its historic hinterland and the picturesque charm of its riverside towns.

An island-studded straight stretch of water leads to Leighlinbridge. Glide through the graceful arches of the oldest bridge on the river. 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, originally built in 1180. The sea of tranquillity may be on the moon, but the earthbound version is the stretch of river between Leighlinbridge and Bagenalstown, where Garrison House is located.

Leighlinbridge County Carlow

The picturesque village of Leighlinbridge

The celebrated Dinn Righ ring fort (not open to the public) on the west bank presides over pastoral beauty and pastoral peace in equal measure after which a cut leads to Rathellen Lock and on to Bagenalstown. The approach to Bagenalstown is infused with the character of its 18th century origins, with lovely stone-cut buildings, a drawbridge and a picturesque lock. Cruise on through the east arch of a railway viaduct after which a series of locks will keep the crew busy; these include locks at Fenniscourt and Slyguff.

click for River Barrow Valley Guide

Along the River:

Ballyellen lower lock, near Goresbridge. Photo By James Burke

Ballyellen lower lock, near Goresbridge.
Photo By James Burke


Goresbridge, with its graceful 9-arch bridge, lies between Upper and Lower Ballyellen locks. International buyers in search of high quality Irish horses are attracted to the famous horse fairs held here every three months. The presence of so many locks over a short 9 km of waterway, signals a change in character to the landscape. The tension between the valley and the surrounding hills increases and adds visual splendour to the journey to Ballytiglea Bridge. Moor here for Borris (3 km) Borris is the home of the Kavanaghs, an old Irish family and part of the MacMurrough Kavanagh dynasty, former kings of Leinster. Beautiful stone-cut buildings and traditional shop and pub fronts add to the appeal of the town. A 9-hole golf course and a linear park with picnic area and tennis courts provide pleasant distractions. The pubs with their traditional music sessions and friendly atmosphere have gained nation-wide recognition.

Borris, River Barrow, photo James Burke

The river Barrow at Borris.

Below Borris Lock a miniature one-eyed bridge conceals a tiny harbour. It was from this place that Arthur Kavanagh, who was born without limbs in 1831, set forth by boat to Westminster to fulfil his duties as Member of Parliament. He was Lord Lieutenant of County Carlow, Member of the Privy Council of Ireland, local magistrate and a superb horseman. Further downstream, the Rhine-like aspect of the valley can be appreciated to the full, with the Blackstairs Mountains on one side and Saddle Hill on the other pinching the river tight between the valley walls. The hills flow down to the river, retreat, and flow again, all clad in a huge variety of deciduous trees, some of which bend their heads over the stream, creating rich leafy banks of great beauty.

Bagenalstown viaduct, river barrow, photo by James Burke

Bagenalstown viaduct, river barrow, photo by James Burke

The broad graceful curves of the weirs and the setting of the locks at Ballingrane, Clashganny and Ballykeenan provide beautiful subjects for your camera and your holiday album. The river bends and bends again past Silaire Woods and its choir of birds. This stretch of water is nature at its most gentle, which makes the final bend all the more surprising and exciting, when the colourful town of Gragnamangh is suddenly revealed on the west bank, with Brandon Hill making a dramatic statement above it.

Graiguenamangh, photo James Burke

Graiguenamangh is in Co. Kilkenny, while Tinnahinch, on the east bank, is in Co. Carlow. The beautiful bridge floodlit at night, links the two and dates from 1767 when a canal system was being built on the Barrow to improve navigation. Before the bridge and perched above the town is historic Duiske Abbey, now beautifully restored. Norman monks from Stanley Abbey, Wiltshire, founded it in 1204. Take time to walk through the town with its great selection of shops, pubs and music. Those of you who like long walks can take the road to Brandon Hill or head for Tinnahinch bridge and join the South Leinster Way long-distance walking trail..

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Video filmed at Clashganny & Tinnahinch - a scenic drive from Borris to Graiguenamanagh and both easily accessible by road from Leighlinbridge. Follow the river from here to Bagenalstown and turn left at Church of Ireland then right at junction past petrol station to Borris. Ask anyone for directions.

The beautiful River Barrow

The Barrow River and the Barrow line represent two distinct cruising experiences, each with its own character and both guaranteed to enchant and delight you and your cruising companions.

THE BARROW RIVER The first section explores the journey downstream, from Athy to St. Mullins, and describes the marvelous experience of cruising on the River Barrow, with all its weirs, locks and great variety of scenery. Cruising enthusiasts who have sampled other waterways are now turning to the River Barrow to meet the challenge of this exciting river. They are finding a water wonderland, which matches the great inland waterways of Europe for the sheer beauty of the valley it has carved.

Milford on the river Barrow. Photo by James Burke

Milford on the river Barrow. Photo by James Burke

THE BARROW LINE The second section, illustrates the leisurely journey along the Barrow Line of the Grand Canal from Lowtown to Athy, where it joins the river navigation.

The restored lifting bridge, Bagenalstown

THE BARROW NAVIGATION The Barrow is Ireland's second largest river. It runs for 192 km from source to sea and is navigable for hire cruisers from Athy to St. Mullins, some 68 km. There are 23 locks, including the sea lock at St. Mullins. The Barrow Line of the Grand Canal is 46 km long and forms the second part of the navigation carrying 9 locks between Lowtown and the junction of the Barrow at Athy. Running westwards and eastwards from Lowtown is the main line of the Grand Canal, which can be cruised to Shannon and Dublin respectively providing 300 km of pleasure waterway.

The River Barrow County Carlow

The River Barrow

The Barrow hinterland is imbued with a riverside culture which is steeped in tradition, a people who are warm and welcoming and a plethora of pubs and ..s where the best of Irish food, entertainment and hospitality can be enjoyed. Cruising the River Barrow is a unique experience due to its unspoilt, uncommercialized and uncrowded waters. There are no long queues passing through locks and no problems getting space at quaysides. The waters of the Barrow are suitable for swimmers, while the tow path and woodlands offer a superb walking environment. Cyclists and walkers can explore the historic castles and ruins and the scenic countryside on the quiet roads each side of the river.

New - enjoy a River Barrow boat trip with Cliff. Based in Carlow. Click for website

boattrips.ie river barrow trips, carlow




Over 300 years before the Christian era, legend has it that a great battle took place to capture the fort of Dinn Righ, a large mound near Leighlinbridge. The presence of such formidable defensive structure indicates the importance of the Barrow as a strategic military highway as well as a highway for commerce since earliest times. Evidence of early Christian and later medieval church establishments can be seen all along the river, notably at or near St. Mullins, Old Leighlin, Carlow, Sleaty, Nurney and Monasterevean.

The Barrow was a significant commercial canalised waterway right up to the 1950's with important river ports at Athy, Carlow, Graignamanagh and New Ross. Barges carried consignments of malting barley to Dublin as raw material for the famous Guinness stout, which was transported back downstream in its finished state. (Fair exchange being no robbery!)

Later, beet-filled barges supplied Ireland's first sugar factory at Carlow. The Barrow is now completely given over to pleasure - your pleasure. Bon Voyage!

The River Barrow offers riverside walks, birdwatching, wildlife-spotting (including otters), peace and tranquility.



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Cruising downstream, the valley becomes deeper, with first the west and then the east banks carrying tiers of trees on steep hills which tumble colourfully towards the river all the way to St. Mullins and the end of the navigation...

St Mullins, photo James Burke

St. Mullins is a scenically charming riverside village with an impressive ecclesiastical history and is one of the most important religious foundations in Co. Carlow. A walk of about 2 kms from the mooring leads to the graceful ruin of the monastery founded by St. Moling in the 7th century. The kings of South Leinster, including the MacMurrough-Kavanaghs, are buried in the precincts. A small bridle path behind the ruins leads to St. Molling's Well, from which close up views of the river, its weir and old millrace can be enjoyed".

St Mullins Lock. Photo by James Burke

Barge at St Mullins Lock. Photo by James Burke


River Barrow Carlow Self Catering County Carlow B&B County Carlow Self Catering Carlow Rental Accommodation

River Barrow Carlow Self Catering County Carlow B&B County Carlow Self Catering Carlow Rental Accommodation