Woodland valleys, ancient hinterlands and strings of quaint villages form the backdrop to the Barrow Navigation. Since earliest times, this waterway was seen as a strategic military and commercial highway. Navigable for 65km between the historic Athy, Co. Kildare, and sleepy St Mullins, Co. Carlow, it is now a pleasure playground.
One of the best ways to experience the Barrow’s enchanting journey is by boat. The river’s waters and backwaters are a relatively undiscovered gem among the great inland pleasure cruising waterways of Ireland. Rising in the Slieve Bloom Mountains, the river flows north easterly linking the Grand Canal with the tidal waters of the Barrow estuary. As Ireland’s second longest river, you’ll encounter a variety of landscapes and wherever you go you will never be short of a place to moor.
Take a voyage of discovery as you uncover thousands of years of Irish history in mere days. The dolmen at Brownshill is Europe’s largest portal tomb, dating between 4000 and 3000 BC. Next to lush farmlands, the empty facades of old country houses evoke a time where life moved to the pace of the waterway. Graiguenamanagh’s majestic 13th century Abbey of Duiske is located in the river’s valley, while in Leighlinbridge you’ll glide under the graceful 14th century arches of what is reputed to be the oldest functioning bridge in Europe.
For paddlers the Barrow offers ample opportunities for laid-back touring along the river or white water activity in the curved weirs around Clashganna. Junior and senior rowing is popular on the route and is provided by several rowing clubs. The Barrow Way consisting of towpaths, tracks and quiet roads from Robertstown to St Mullins, offers a chance to explore the beauty of the region by foot. This 100km walking trail provides a feast of cascading banks, chirping waterfowl and electriccoloured butterflies.
During midsummer the river truly takes on a life of its own with a host of annual music and arts festivals, regattas and carnivals. Noteworthy annual events include the Carlow Regatta in June, the Athy Bluegrass Music Festival in July and the Bagenalstown and Graiguenamangh River Festivals in August. Once you have exhausted all the possibilities, why not just enjoy what the Barrow has to offer. With its attractive setting, mountain views and wooded banks, there is no better place to let the weight of the world fall from your shoulders.
Click to view our Navigation Guide.