As the leaves turn from green to gold, crimson, and red, and fires begin to crackle in the hearths of homes everywhere, thoughts turn to wandering through unexplored forests, untried delicacies in restaurants unknown and walking the grounds of stately homes as we imagine the former grandeur of an Ireland from long past. It is the season of exploration. Ireland changes from summer to autumn and our famous greenery turns into fields shorn of crops and hay, and the trees adorn themselves in the exquisite shades of tapestry that only autumn brings. Carlow is a county of lush forest walks, arresting heritage sites and the comforts of indoor splendour for those less-than-wonderful weather days. Plenty of other discoveries await as you “wander off the track” and make new memories this autumn. Find your perfect base at one of Carlow’s many sumptuous and cosy properties and make new memories during the most colourful season of the year.
1. The Carlow Walking Festival
Carlow’s majestic Blackstairs Mountains and River Barrow together with many of the county’s charming villages feature in this year’s Carlow Autumn Walking Festival which takes place from Friday, November 12th – Sunday November 14th 2021. The festival caters to all levels of walkers, from experienced hill walkers out to enjoy an invigorating mountain trek to novices seeking some peace and tranquility along more leisurely routes. This well-organised event aims to make the great outdoors accessible to everyone with knowledgeable local guides from Tullow Mountaineering Club and Blackstairs Ramblers guiding visitors through the Carlow countryside, along with local enthusiasts leading specialist walks focusing on photography and wellbeing.
2. Carlow County Museum
Visiting the multi award-winning Carlow County Museum is a must. Be wowed by the 340-million-year-old fossil, the 20ft church pulpit and an exquisite 2mm Iron Age glass bead! Among the displays are exhibitions featuring the magnificently hand carved 19th century wooden pulpit from Carlow Cathedral, one of the top 100 objects to view in an Irish museum; the gallows trap door from Carlow Gaol used in 19th century public executions; an exhibition on the Carlow Sugar Factory, Ireland’s first and largest sugar factory, which was opened in 1926; the wonderful stained glass panel by Peadar Lamb commemorating the 1916 Rising and its Carlow links; archaeological finds from the Carlow bypass including the country’s first ring brooch, courtesy of the National Museum of Ireland and Transport Infrastructure Ireland. Find out about some of Carlow’s personalities; see the remains of Kevin Barry’s last cigarette before he was executed in 1920 in Mountjoy Gaol, Dublin at the age of just 18 for his role in the Irish War Of Independence; the wooden smoking pipe of Captain Myles Keogh of the 7th US Cavalry who was killed in the battle of Little Big Horn along with General Custer in 1876; John Tyndall, Carlow’s prolific 19th century scientist whose discoveries, including the greenhouse effect still have an impact to this day. Admission remains free but pre-booking is an essential requirement.
3. Clashganny Forest Looped Walks
Get your boots on, we’re going walking! What better way to appreciate the myriad of colour that autumn brings than strolling through a forest? Clashganny Forest Looped Walk is one of the most popular walks in the county and with views this stunning, it’s not hard to understand why. Along this route the rambler will encounter secluded forest trails with some historic landmarks, and also experience all the native flora and fauna to be found along the banks of the River Barrow. Clashganny Forest Looped Walks offer gentle walks on forest roads and along the Barrow Way with magnificent views of Clashganny Lock and the River Barrow. The trail leads through an old wood which has had forestry cover present since the 1800s.
The Clashganny Lock Loop is 3.5km long and takes approximately 1.5 hours to complete over flat terrain while the Clashganny Forest Looped Walk covers 6km, taking two hours to complete. Always bring weather appropriate footwear and clothing. Visit: https://carlowtourism.com/clashganny-looped-walk/ for more details.
Plan for five minutes of blissful relaxation at the seating point overlooking Clashganny Lock! This is just one of the many looped and long distance walks in County Carlow. For further information visit https://carlowtourism.com/category/outdoor-activities/walking/
4. Brownshill Dolmen
The Brownshill Dolmen is one of five portal tombs to be found in County Carlow – at Haroldstown, Kilgraney, Ballynasilloge and Ballynoe. These dolmens, or portal tombs, were places of communal burial during the early Neolithic period and were constructed approx. 3300-2900 BC. In colloquial terms, Carlow is known as “The Dolmen County” due to the many megalithic and neolithic treasures found throughout the county. This unrivalled megalithic tomb has the largest capstone in Europe, weighing over 100 tonnes of local granite. Here in Carlow, we are very proud of it and delighted to welcome visitors to learn more while they visit!
The Brownshill Dolmen has recently undergone a redevelopment to make the site more accessible to visitors and to showcase this ancient wonder, so if you haven’t visited recently it’s well worth a return trip. Expect a well surfaced pathway from the carpark to the site itself along with enhanced space around the dolmen and informative heritage interpretation panels.
5. Duckett’s Grove Historic House and Walled Gardens
Even in ruin, the surviving Gothic towers and turrets of Duckett’s Grove Walled Gardens and Pleasure Grounds form a dramatic, romantic profile making it one of the most photogenic historic buildings in the country. This part-Cobden designed building is structurally intact and accessible to the public. Its precincts have been the subject of at least two international film sets and the site is a continuous mecca for paranormal groups, due to local legends that add to the mystique of one of Carlow’s most famous landmarks. The revival of two old walled gardens has been completed by Carlow County Council, the winding old paths revealed, and the beds and borders reinstated. Stylistically the new planting schemes echo the past yet reflect changing fashions, utilising plants and planting patterns that may have evolved over time.
Follow the heritage interpretation panels on-site and learn about the origins of the Duckett family who first arrived here in 1695, the subsequent expansion of the estate and building of the Gothic mansion and its eventual sad demise. Discover the stories of the family who lived here and the people who worked for them.
6. Huntington Castle and Gardens
Huntington Castle and Gardens is a secret escape located in Clonegal, Co. Carlow. Whilst taking in the history of this magnificent castle on a house tour, take a walk around the gardens. They were landscaped by the Esmonde family in the 17th century, with attention to detail in every element. The skilled and organised planting, exotic shrubs in the restored greenhouse and the careful, nurturing of flowers makes for a great garden visit. The recently restored ponds, French lime avenue and the world-famous yew walk which is said to be over 500 years old, add to the wonderful effect of cultivated natural beauty. The little ones can also enjoy a playground on site with different obstacles to challenge kids of all ages. The playground features swings, slides, play huts, monkey bars, balance beams and more while a separate toddler area with a sandpit is suitable for the smaller children to play. Don’t forget to check out the castle’s tearooms and gift shop.
Visitors Tip – Gardens Admission fee – €6 Adults €3 U12. House and Gardens – €10 Adults €5 Children. Open daily May – September 2 – 6 p.m., weekends in October and the Halloween mid-term break. For the full Huntington Castle experience opt for a stay in one of their restored self-catering cottages or beautiful castle rooms.
7. Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven
Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven is a hive of activity and unique to Carlow. A family-run business established by Rachel Doyle, this business has blossomed across a ten-acre site combining a kitchen store, garden café, home & gift shop, furniture area, fashion department, inspirational display gardens, a children’s play area and the award-winning Rachel’s Café. Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven is an experience too good to miss. Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven was the worthy winner of the Retail Excellence Garden Centre of the Year in 2019. An entire day can be set aside to spend here, relaxing with friends and family in the inspirational display garden, enjoying a wholesome meal at Rachels Café and letting the kids get the most from the play area while you sit with a refreshing drink.
Indulge in some of its most delicious signature dishes made with the very best of Irish produce. The incredible desserts are all made on the premises and all dietary needs are catered for with gluten, sugar or dairy-free options.
8. Altamont Gardens and Altamont Plant Sales
This gem is often referred to as the most romantic garden in Ireland. You can’t fail to be charmed by the glistening lake and weaving paths adorned with an amazing variety of great trees, which make for a delightful visit during the autumn period. Grand oak trees over 200 years old are spotted around the estate, while Irish yews line the formal Broad Walk. An unmissable highlight of a visit to Altamont Gardens is Altamont Plant Sales, with an extensive range of herbaceous perennials and one of the finest collections of shrub roses, available year round.
VISITORS TIP – The delightful on-site café in Altamont Plant Sales provides comfort and refreshments outdoors, in beautiful surroundings, so make sure to include some time for a relaxing stop there. Check for exact opening times. OPEN: Seven days per week October – December daily. Altamont Gardens and Plant Sales, Tullow, Co. Carlow R93 N882
What a coup for Carlow VISUAL is. This astonishing building really is the hub of the visual and theatrical arts, proudly based in Carlow Town on the grounds of Carlow College, St Patricks with a national and international focus. Rooted locally, but retaining a national and international focus, which is reflected in the eclecticism of the exhibitions – there is always an exhibition, event or play to be intrigued by at VISUAL.
Old Dublin Road, Carlow; Eircode: R93 A3K1
10. Carlow Military Museum
County Carlow Military Museum is a privately run museum, located in the old church on the grounds of St Dympna’s Hospital, Athy Road, Carlow. This museum holds large range of artefacts relating to local, national and international conflicts. Over 4,500 items cover periods of Carlow’s history from the 1798 Rebellion, 1916 Rising, the history of Carlow Castle, and World War One and Two. All artefacts are donated by families of former service men and women, and this museum has extensive reference materials used by school groups, tourists, authors and researchers. Carlow Military Museum presents the visitor with an opportunity to learn about Carlow’s history. The aim is to preserve, record and display items of military interest in a sympathetic manner for future generations to learn about.
County Carlow Military Museum, Old Church, Athy Road, Carlow; R93 PK46