Go all out along the Barrow Navigation with off-grid adventures that celebrate the soul-stirring beauty of the great outdoors.
The natural environment around the River Barrow is a pure playground for kids. This is a landscape of easy riverside walking trails and gentle cycles, of fun family safaris and bracing swims. You can enjoy a feeling of total freedom here: get the blood pumping with jumps off riverside diving boards; rush down the rapids in a Canadian canoe; and bike along emerald green riverbanks where birdsong fills the air. For a flipside to all the outdoor adventure, why not amp up the fun-factor with excellent rainy-day activities including bubble soccer, chocolate-making sessions and poignant tours of a replica Famine ship.
G2 Adventure Centre
Go karting, ziplining and roller-skating are just some of the activities to enjoy at Ireland’s largest indoor activity centre. Located just outside Carlow town, it’s the ideal go-to for high-octane fun on rainy days. Why not have a go at tag archery; described as “paintball less the pain”; test your problem-solving skills on a colour coded climbing wall; or play football as a human bumper car with a game of bubble soccer? The centre is suitable for all age groups and skills sets, so choose your fun and off you go.
Mount Brandon Pottery School
Kids can fully indulge their creative side at Mount Brandon Pottery School, a five-minute walk from the town of Graiguenamanagh. The school is run by potter Carmen Wenner, who guides kids in using clay to create castles, towers, toys and magical creatures – allowing their imagination to run wild. Taster classes are ideal for kids and can be arranged directly with the pottery school.
Chocolate Garden of Ireland
A sumptuous temple to all things sweet, the Chocolate Garden of Ireland combines a café, play area and visitor experience with a great array of chocolate experiences. The workshops in particular will score highly with kids and offer everything from information on how cocoa is grown and harvested, to a hands-on chocolate-making session. Keep an eye out on their website for hands-on classes for kids, or pop in for afternoon tea with everything from strawberry and chocolate fondues to homemade scones.
Carlow Arts Festival
The vibrant and dynamic Carlow Arts Festival has been going for 40 years and has garnered a big following for the depth and range of its programming. And with its emphasis on street art, spectacle and family-friendly shows, it’s an excellent one for kids. With 80% of the programming entirely free and a line up boasting circus acts to acrobatic displays, it’s a no brainer for a dash of culture in Carlow town.
On the river adventures
Go with the Flow offers amazing adventures on the water for great days out with the family. The weirs and rapids keep things fun and exciting (without being too scary) on the Thrills and Spills Trip while you can really make a day of it on the half or full-day Family Safaris. If you’d prefer to sit and relax along the river, try a guided boat tour with Boat Trips Ireland with a chance to spot some of the area’s glorious wildlife including kingfishers, dragonflies and otters.
Cycling Graiguenamanagh to St Mullins
For a great day out along the towpaths of the River Barrow, cycle it! The stretch from Graiguenamanagh to St Mullins is flat and very manageable and makes a perfect day out for a cycle adventure without the strenuous effort. The route is about 6km each way, and there are pretty locks and lockkeepers’ cottages along the way. Once you get to St Mullins, relax and explore the ecclesiastical history of the village and enjoy cake with a view at one of the outdoor tables at the Mullichain Café. Bikes can be rented from the Waterside Guesthouse in Graiguenamanagh.
Wild Time Woodland Fun and Forest School
Promoting the benefits of time spent in the woodland, Wild Time Woodland Fun and Forest School runs events and family days out where you can switch off with all the family. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for nature walks and other family event in the great outdoors.
Dunbrody Famine Ship and Irish Emigrant Experience
Excellent for kids, a tour of this replica Famine ship brilliantly brings history to life with costumed performers and knowledgeable guides. Kids will be astonished by the hardship of life for those who had to spend 23 hours of the day below deck – the dark, the filth, the cramped conditions. Informative, moving and memorable, this engaging tour is sure to make an impression.
Fancy a bit of wild swimming? With its beautiful natural surroundings, the River Barrow is ideal. Graiguenamanagh boasts two swimming spots that are popular with locals in the summer. Adventure-seekers can enjoy the high-octane fun of jumping off a diving board into the river – a big hit with older kids – or if you’re after something a bit more sedate, head to the small swimming area nearby.