The Barrow. Our River Your Journey


The Barrow Way

The River Barrow rises in the Slieve Bloom Mountains in the southern midlands and flows to join its two ‘sisters’, the Nore and the Suir, before reaching the Celtic Sea at Waterford Harbour. The River Barrow was made navigable in the eighteenth century by the insertion of short sections of canal along its course. It was a significant commercial waterway up until the 1960s with a towpath alongside, where horses pulled barges and goods for transport. Following the demise of the river for commercial purposes, attention turned to the value of towpath as a significant natural resource for amenity and walking activities.

The 114km long Barrow Way follows the surviving grassy towpath stretching from the canal hamlet of Lowtown in Co. Kildare to the beautiful monastic site and village of St. Mullins in south Co. Carlow. Alternatively, the route can be easily explored by taking short sections of the walk in a series of daily trips. It is a National Waymarked Way and is a peaceful route through a quiet sylvan landscape, with the constantly expanding river, growing more majestic every mile, for company. The path offers much of architectural interest to the visitor – bridges, many arched, and pretty lock houses, some still in use. Overnight accommodation options are good: the route is frequently punctuated with villages and towns offering a range of services to visitors.

Among the interesting places the route passes through and where walkers might wish to linger a while are the towns of Rathangan, Athy and Carlow. Borris in South Co. Carlow is a fine place that grew up around Borris House, the home place of the MacMurrough Kavanagh clan and Graiguenamanagh, a quaint old monastic town where a book festival is held every year, is Ireland’s Hay-on-Wye.

There may be some surface quality issues at points along the route including muddy sections and sections where the path is narrow due to partial the collapse of the river bank. Care is needed on these sections. 9 kms or 9% of the Way follows local roads. Dogs under effective control are allowed but visitors are reminded to clean up after your dog.

Stage 1

of the Barrow Way starts in Lowtown, Co. Kildare and a distance of 23km (14 miles) takes you to the town of Monasterevin. The raised banks of the canal offer beautiful vistas of the surrounding countryside with views of the Hill of Allen and the Wicklow Mountains.

Stage 2

covers the stretch from Monasterevin to Athy – 23km (14 miles). This stretch offers the visitor much of historical and architectural interest with many old bridges and houses.

Stage 3

runs from Athy to Carlow – 19km (12 miles). Starting from the heritage town of Athy, the route passes many interesting lifting bridges and old mills before reaching Carlow Town.

Stage 4

Carlow to Bagenalstown – 16km (10 miles). Milford, approximately 7km south of Carlow is one of the most attractive stretches along the River Barrow. Set in an idyllic location with three bridges, mill buildings and a large wooded area, it is well known as an aquatic triangle with regular spottings of herons and kingfishers. This stretch of walk is rich with historical buildings and castles including the Black Castle at Leighlinbridge and the many architectural gems in the town of Bagenalstown, where this strretch ends.

Stage 5

takes the walker from Bagenalstown to Graiguenamanagh – 2km (16 miles). This route passes the pretty villages of Goresbridge and Borris before ending in Graiguenamanagh, a picturesque abbey town and a popular boating centre. Overlooking the River Barrow is Duiske Abbey founded by Norman monks from Stanley Abbey, Wiltshire in 1204. The “Early English” design boasts a lofty nave and it is the largest of Irish Cistercian monastery churches.

Stage 6

Graiguenamanagh to St. Mullins – 6km (4 miles). This stretch has beautiful woodland surroundings with a strong ecclesiastical theme in the religious settlement at St. Mullins. The lower settlement is set on a glorious stretch of the Barrow Valley and includes a picnic area.