Bagenalstown, otherwise known in its Gaelic version as Muine Bheag is sited on a pleasant stretch of the River Barrow and derives its name from Walter Bagenal, who, in founding the town, had visions of mirroring the city of Versailles, in northern France.
However, his efforts became frustrated due to the re-routing of the coach road away from the town. He left more than enough for visitors to enjoy with handsome stone public buildings including the impressive Courthouse, now a public library in Bagenalstown.
The arrival of the railway in 1846 rejuvenated the town, and its neo-classical railway station is one of the finest in Ireland. Attributed to William Deane Butler it is constructed of limestone and granite and is a seven bay, two-storey building in an Italianate villa style. Today Bagenalstown station still retains its charm in a largely unaltered state. This former mill town made full use of the river Barrow to transport grain, beet, coal, turf and Guinness by barge, evidence of which can be seen in its fine industrial architecture. Near the railway bridge on the R705 Borris road is an example of the Carlow fence which consists of a decorative fence made of granite pieces, laid horizontally over vertical posts and is found nowhere else in the world.
One of the finest views of Bagenalstown may be enjoyed on the approach road from Leighlinbridge and includes the spire of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church and the fine tower of St. Mary’s Church of Ireland Church. St. Andrew’s Catholic Church was built in 1820 on a site provided by the Newton family, successors to the Bagenals. The stained glass behind the altar is worthy of particular attention. Nowadays, riverside walks, picnic tables and a picturesque lock enhance this fine town which has been twinned with the French town of Pont Pean since 1999.
ATTRACTIONS: The ruins of the early 14th century Ballymoon Castle and 13th century Ballyloughan Castle (No access allowed. The castle may be viewed from the nearby adjacent gate.) are located near the town. Wells Church, situated closeby, is the preserved ruin of a church dating back to 1262. The church is surrounded by an enclosed and well-maintained graveyard which is still in use today.
ACTIVITIES: Outdoor swimming pool. The McGrath complex offers excellent sporting facilities including cricket, hurling, soccer and Gaelic football fields, tennis court and pitch and putt courses. The River Barrow in this area is renowned for coarse fishing with wheelchair friendly fishing stands located near the swimming pool. The Barrow Way long distance walking route passes through the town.