Killeshin is an important medieval monastery, was the centre of learning and culture since early Christian times. The present church was built c.1150 and is well worth visiting not just for its beautiful Romanesque doorway, one of the finest examples in the country, but for its scenic setting.
Nestling in peaceful countryside, Killeshin has such wonderful views across the Barrow Valley to the Blackstairs Mountains that it has been called the “The Balcony of Carlow”. The doorway is only one of only a small number of doorways in Ireland with a triangular gable above the arches.
ATTRACTIONS: Óisín Park with picnic area and children’s playground.
Slieve Margy long distance walking route.
The official start of the walk is in Graiguecullen but please note that many of the other villages enroute are also excellent starting points, offering car parking, refreshments, toilets, post offices & public phones (refer to map for details). For accommodation/ events in the area please contact Portlaoise Tourist Office 057 – 8621178 or Carlow Rural Tourism 0503 – 30411 or Carlow Tourist Office 0503 – 31554.
A) Start at the Rowing Club, Graiguecullen and follow the Barrow Way track to Maganey Bridge. The Rowing Club was originally the site of the Canal Stores. On leaving Carlow you will pass by the Old Graves & Braganza, the former Bishops residence. After the Bill Duggan Bridge, you will pass by Ireland’s first & largest Sugar Factory. The River Barrow (192km) is the second longest river in Ireland. Enroute to Maganey there are two locks, Bestfield and Maganey. The Barrow Way is managed by the Office of Public Works Waterways Division. The Barrow Way is approved by The National Waymarked Ways Committee. Located on the opposite side of the river is Knockbeg College (1793), a large diocesan secondary college. The weir near the college is a popular spot for local swimmers.
B) Reach Maganey Bridge, cross over the bridge and follow the tarred road to Killeen. After approximately 2.5km turn left down a laneway. The laneway will lead you through a small housing estate. Follow the arrows across the fields. Before returning to the tarred road, note the beehives. At Maganey the three counties of Laois, Carlow & Kildare meet. In Killabban (approx. 1km off the Way) are the ruins of a monastic settlement founded by St. Abban in the 7th century. A local legend says that he lived for 300 years, it is more probable that there were two St. Abban’s.
C) Take the next right down a laneway, later left along a track and follow through the fields to enter the village of Arles through the Church grounds.
Arles the Verdant or Fortified Hill. The local Norman Family, the Grace’s, built the Church of the Sacred Heart (1866). The famous architect Pugin designed the Church. The Grace family owned the land on which the American Empire State Building stands. William Russell Grace founded W.R.Grace & Company (1854) and was the first Catholic Mayor of New York. In 1885 he accepted the Stature of Liberty from the French on behalf of the American people. The graveyard contains a fine mausoleum to the Grace Family.
D) Cross the road, follow along the old mass path, climb uphill through the fields before descending along a laneway to a tarred road and turn left. On the route of the mass path is St. Abban’s Holy Well (650 A.D.), a place of local pilgrimage. The path rises up to Maidenhead, where in 1650 Cromwell’s army is reputed to have camped. Nearby in Castletown Church, Cromwell’s officers stabled their horses.
E) After a short distance turn right on to a track and follow it until it reaches a tarred road at the Rushes. Continue straight across the fi elds to connect to the Swan Loop (see across). Turn left to follow the Slieve Margy Way. The Rushes is so called because of all the rushes that grew in the area. Sir Charles H. Coote Bart, Tory M.P. 1801 – 1802, built the old Rushes School (1807) to educate the local Catholic population who lived in the Bull Ring Village (no longer existing).
F) Upon reaching a T-junction at the main road turn right. Beware of traffic on the road. Turn left uphill at the Grove Lounge (Behan’s). Continue uphill, taking the next two left turns and then a steep right to follow the way marked way into Rossmore Forest.
As the ground rises to over 1,000 ft there are excellent views of the Barrow Valley, Dublin & Wicklow Mountains. This area forms part of the Castlecomer Plateau, which is bounded on the east by the Barrow Valley & the Nore Valley on the west. The Plateau is the centre of the Leinster Coalfields. Rossmore, Wolfhill and Castlecomer were once rich mining areas, with anthracite being the predominant coal mined.
The forests are owned & managed by Coillte.
G) Follow the way marked way through the forest and turn right onto the tarred road. At the Grotto junction turn left downhill for Uiseann Park. The grotto was originally erected at the new mines (1954) but it was later moved to its current location by the miners. Uiseann Park is the site of dancing boards (dancing every Sunday afternoon during summer) & a rural conference centre. There are spectacular views of the Barrow Valley, Carlow, Kildare, Wexford & Wicklow. The night time view of Carlow Town is impressive.
H) Cross the fields & follow the old Glosha Road to reach a hidden gem, Glosha Waterfall. Turn right onto a tarred road and follow the way marked way to reach Clogrennan Lock on the River Barrow. Follow the Barrow way to Graiguecullen. Clogrennan Lock was the last lock constructed on the River Barrow and it is unusual because it has no lift drop. On the outskirts of Graiguecullen is Carlow Lock. On the far banks are remains of the Norman Carlow Castle.
(See E ) Cross the fields to emerge into the carpark of the Rushes Pub. Turn left along the national main road (N78) to reach a series of stiles, which run parallel to the road. The last style emerges at a T – Junction to cross the national main road (N78) leading down a minor road. Beware of traffi c on the road. At the fi rst junction, turn left down a laneway & shortly afterwards cross the fi elds to reach another laneway, turn left. At a crossroads turn right along a forest road. At the next junction turn right onto a tarred road and walk uphill into Wolfhill to the start of the Swan Loop. At Slatt, on the road into Wolfhill, the famous 1798 rebellion leader, Fr. Murphy camped here with his army. Many of the dead rebels are buried in the local graveyard. A monument was erected at Slatt in 1998.
A) Park the car at Wolfhill Church. Walk down a laneway, which leads into a forested area. Follow the laneway until it reaches a tarred road at Fennell’s Crossroads, turn right for Phelim’s Crossroads.
Wolfhill is a hill of the howling wolves. Situated over 800ft on the Slieve Margy Ridge. Coal mining was carried out in the area for over 300 years. En route at a junction there is evidence of a Lime Kiln, burnt lime was used to fertilize the land.
B) At Phelima’s Crossroads turn left. Follow the tarred road through forested countryside to a crossroads, turn left down a lane way.
A Druids Altar, a chambered cairn (tomb) gives its name to the town-land, Monamanry, the Plateau of the Druidesses.
The unknown origin & use of the bronze age stone circle adds mystery to the area. (Turning right at the T – Junction leads onto the Fossy Mountain Walk, see Timahoe Walks ).
C) The lane way soon becomes a track through a forested area. The end of the track way forms into a tarred road which leads downhill into the Swan. Turn left at the T – Junction. At the crossroads in the middle of the Swan turn left uphill and follow the road to Wolfhill. Although heavily forested, the walk into the Swan offers some excellent views. In a field beside the Swan T – junction is a Bum Stone. Here coal dust/ culm and clay were mixed together to make Bums, a solid fuel. The Swan is named after the local pub. The area is famous for its fire clay factories located in the Swan & Wolfhill.