From talking to hundred of visitors every year one of the most common routes around Ireland is Dublin – Kilkenny – Killarney – Galway. It’s a great way to see the country hitting on some of the most popular sites but stops are required and Carlow is a well located town between Dublin and Kilkenny. If you want to stay 1-2 nights I’ll recommend some of the best accommodations below and where to eat/drink. Carlow is a land steeped in rich history, scenic landscapes, and cultural heritage. Despite being one of Ireland’s smallest counties, it boasts an abundance of historical sites and natural wonders that enchant visitors seeking an authentic Irish experience.
A Glimpse into County Carlow’s History
County Carlow’s history is a tapestry woven with ancient tales and significant milestones. Carlow Town, the county’s capital, bears witness to centuries of human settlement, with its roots tracing back to the arrival of the Normans in the 12th century. The majestic Carlow Castle, standing proudly on the banks of the River Barrow, is a testament to the county’s medieval past and the tumultuous periods of Irish history.
The influence of the powerful Norman dynasty, the Fitzmaurice, is evident in sites like Huntington Castle in Clonegal. This enchanting castle, surrounded by serene gardens, showcases stunning architecture steeped in legends and ghostly folklore.
Top sites to explore in County Carlow:
1. Brownshill Dolmen: Ancient Marvels
Tucked away in the serene countryside, the Brownshill Dolmen stands as an enigmatic relic from Ireland’s distant past. This megalithic tomb, dating back to the Neolithic era, is a staggering sight to behold. Its massive capstone, delicately balanced atop upright stones, creates an awe-inspiring portal to ancient times.
Visitors can’t help but be captivated by the sheer scale and engineering prowess of this 5,000-year-old structure. Stepping into the presence of the dolmen evokes a sense of wonder and curiosity, inviting contemplation about the people who built it and the rituals it may have witnessed over the centuries.
2. Altamont Gardens: Nature’s Serenity
Nestled near the River Slaney, the Altamont Gardens are a botanical paradise that delights the senses. This enchanting garden, renowned for its diverse plant species and breathtaking landscapes, offers visitors a serene retreat amid nature’s beauty.
Stroll through lush woodland paths, meander alongside tranquil lakes, and admire the vibrant colors of rare plants and flowers that flourish in this idyllic setting. The peaceful ambiance and harmonious design make it an ideal spot for relaxation and photography enthusiasts seeking to capture nature’s serene beauty.
3. Carlow County Museum: Unveiling the Past
Step into the Carlow County Museum and embark on a journey through the county’s fascinating history. Housed within the vibrant cultural center of Carlow Town, the museum’s exhibits offer a captivating narrative of the region’s heritage.
From ancient artifacts and archaeological discoveries to interactive displays and multimedia presentations, visitors can explore the diverse facets of Carlow’s past. Discover the stories of ancient settlers, learn about local traditions, and gain insights into the county’s evolution through various periods of history.
4. The Barrow Way: Riverside Tranquility
The Barrow Way invites adventurers to meander alongside the tranquil waters of the River Barrow. This scenic walking and cycling trail spans over 115 kilometers, tracing the river’s path through verdant landscapes and charming villages.
Follow the trail through lush countryside, passing by old mills, picturesque lock gates, and inviting picnic spots. Encounter local wildlife, soak in the peaceful atmosphere, and relish the opportunity to connect with nature while immersing yourself in the timeless beauty of County Carlow’s riverside trails.
5. Rathwood: Family-Friendly Escapades
Rathwood offers an array of family-friendly activities set in a picturesque woodland setting. Visitors of all ages can enjoy a diverse range of experiences, from thrilling adventures to leisurely pursuits.
Hop aboard the Rathwood train for a scenic journey through the woods, marvel at captivating falconry displays, and explore the enchanting maze garden. The site also boasts a delightful garden center and shops filled with unique gifts and local crafts, making it an ideal destination for a fun-filled day out with family and friends.
Where to stay:
- Our 5* Pick – Lyrath Estate House (Just Outside Kilkenny Town 30minutes from Carlow)
- Our 4* Pick – Kilkea Castle
- Our 3* Pick – Cooper Hill
- Our Budget Pick – Rings Coach House Retreat
Food & Drink:
- To Eat: Clashganny House (fine dining)
- To Drink: Conway’s Bar & Restaurant
Final Thoughts: Embracing County Carlow’s Treasures
County Carlow’s blend of ancient wonders, tranquil gardens, riverside trails, cultural hubs, and family-friendly attractions offers a mosaic of experiences that cater to every traveler’s interests. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, nature lover, culture buff, or seeking family adventures, County Carlow beckons with its unique attractions, promising a delightful location filled with exploration and discovery.