Here’s a compilation of the top visitor experiences in Carlow for you to explore and enjoy this summer.
A fascinating walk through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen with its canopy of ancient oaks and huge stone outcrops leads the visitor to the River Slaney. “Every visitor says it has a special atmosphere, that’s why so many people come back. Every element you want from a great garden is here, from lovely lawns, floral beds and beautiful woodland going down to the river, to a walled garden and really superb collections, such as the snowdrops, rhododendrons and the fabulous oaks in the Arboretum” – Pauline Dowling, Site Manager at Altamont Gardens.
Car park fee of €2 per vehicle applies. Gardens – free individual admission. On site is the Corona North Commemorative Border, Altamont Plant Sales and the Sugar and Spice Café offering tasty drinks and treats in the beautiful surroundings of the plant sales area.
Always renowned for its extensive range of herbaceous perennials, Altamont Plant Sales boasts of having one of the largest collections of old shrub roses available for sale to the gardening public year round.
Arboretum Inspirational Gardens
Arboretum Inspirational Gardens were designed by Arboretum founder and owner Rachel Doyle with the idea that colour affects mood; they are the perfect place to escape to if you’re craving that moment of tranquility. As you stroll around, you’ll find a number of seating areas where you can just escape from the mayhem of everyday life. The gardens feature a stunning array of colourful plants, shrubs, fruit trees and ornamental features. Not forgetting the friendly koi who reside in the Arboretum pond. Designed to inspire visitors on planting schemes and solutions, the garden offers endless ideas that can be easily recreated in gardeners own homes. Arboretum has recently opened a newly refurbished childrens’ play area and the much loved adjoining maze is a popular feature for the young, and young at heart. This play area is located within the patio area of Rachel’s Garden Café where you can enjoy a tea or coffee and deliciously tempting treats, be it sweet or savoury. A visit to the Inspirational Gardens is a treat for the amateur or the enthusiast and pre-booked tours can be arranged.
The gardens are located on the grounds of Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven, Ireland’s first five-star garden centre which offers a complete shopping experience from wonderful plants to quirky gift ideas, Weber barbecues and accessories, ladies’ fashion, Regatta outdoor wear, kitchenware, homewares and a new health and wellness department.
The Barrow Way Walk
The judges of the Irish Times Best Day Out in Ireland competition 2015 selected the Barrow Way as one of the top five finest and impressive visitor attractions in the country and in 2022 it featured in the Irish Times list of Top 20 Places to Holiday in Ireland.
The Barrow Way follows the towpath, originally a path alongside the River Barrow where horses pulled barges and goods for transport. Nowadays, visitors can enjoy excellent flat walking, passing good land where tillage and cattle farming is predominant. The path offers much of architectural interest to the visitor. The full length of the Barrow Way from Robertstown to St. Mullins is 113km.
Bagenalstown Boat Trips with An Bád Keppel
If you want to relax and enjoy the fantastic scenery along the River Barrow surrounded by the history that makes Bagenalstown so beautiful, there is no better way to do it than with a trip onboard An Bád Keppel. The journey of a lifetime along the man-made canal in Bagenalstown awaits visitors who will experience the story of how it all happened, and enjoy the beauty of the wildlife. It is a journey you don’t want to miss and will never forget. An Bád Keppel is operated as a community boat trip by a group of enthusiastic volunteers who are keen to share their knowledge of the beautiful River Barrow. The reviews speak for themselves.
We had the best time on the Barrow river with James and his team from the Bagenalstown Trip Boat. I would recommend this experience to everyone – Mary
My entire family had a blast with the Bagenalstown Trip Boat, from being welcomed onto the boat we were accompanied by smiles and laughter, this was such a great day out – Connor
For an outdoor adventure for all the family, enjoy an open-boat trip on the beautiful River Barrow. Take time to immerse yourself in nature and heritage, experiencing life as it was for the river folk of a bygone era. There is something for all to explore. Kids will enjoy spotting all manner of wildlife such as kingfishers, otters, dragonflies and shoals of fish as they glide past the boat.
For those with a busy lifestyle, it’s the perfect occasion to switch off the mobile phone and relax inches above the waterline, unwinding to a more soothing pace of life. Hear the tales and legends of the river’s boatmen and gently touch the cool waters they plied while flowing through the ancient arteries of a once glacial Ireland. Trips are suitable for all, from the very young to the young at heart.
Are you a fan of the Tudors? Then you’ll love this Tudor gothic mansion. Borris House was modelled after an 18th century house and a former 15th century castle, making it a landmark of Irish architectural history. Borris House is privately owned and Morgan and Sara Kavanagh and their family, direct descendants of the original owners are in residence.
There is so much to enjoy during a visit here including access to the granary, a looped film detailing the history of the family and the estate, the lace garden and wonderful woodland walks.
The Borris Viaduct
The Borris Railway Viaduct with its sixteen arches supported by soaring limestone pillars is one of Ireland’s best examples of pioneering 19th century railway engineering. Designed by the engineer William Le Fanu (1816– 1894) and built by M. Talbot, the viaduct rises to 60ft high and spans the Borris and Mountain River Valley. It was built at a cost of £20,000 and completed in 1860.
Step back in time and follow the track of this historic and unique landmark viaduct on an aerial walk. The people of Borris are proud and delighted to welcome you to this unique visitor site and share with you the grandeur and magnificence of one of the most admired and celebrated railway structures in the country.
Canoeing along the River Barrow
If you enjoy outdoor activities, then this is the place for you. Go With The Flow Adventures has canoe fun for every level. This includes water rapids and a river safari.
Paddle Your Own Canoe offers you the opportunity to rent a canoe and camping gear and organise your multi-day trip down the River Barrow. With trails between Monasterevin in County Kildare and New Ross in County Wexford it is possible to paddle for up to six days passing through beautiful countryside, villages, towns and historical sites.
Pure Adventure is based in Graiguenamanagh. Located on the banks of the River Barrow, Pure Adventure offers a range of activities that include exhilarating white water kayaking trips, scenic canoe tours and chilled out Stand Up Paddle Board adventures along with guided walks.
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 M9 bypass including the country’s first ring brooch found in the county, courtesy of the National Museum of Ireland and Transport Infrastructure Ireland. See our latest exhibit, the grave effigy of Robert Hartpole, Constable of Carlow Castle and High Sheriff of Carlow, dating from 1594.
County Carlow Military Museum
This museum is dedicated to the collection, preservation and display of military memorabilia heritage. All artefacts are donated by families of former service men and women and show their careers involving local, national and international events in which they participated. A range of over 4,500 items cover all periods from Carlow Castle, 1798 Rebellion, 1916 Rising and World War One and Two. Extensive reference material can be used by school groups, tourists, authors and researchers. Come and see us and support us in preserving our community’s past for visitors and Carlovians of the future.
The Chocolate Garden of Ireland
While it is regrettably not possible to grant all of our long-held childhood wishes, there is one that Carlow offers that you have to experience to believe.
The Chocolate Garden of Ireland, a family-run business that has gone from strength to strength, is a modern chocolate and ice cream factory in Tullow, County Carlow.
Established by Jim and Mary Healy in 2001, the premises also accommodates a visitor experience, café and ice cream parlour and attracts visitors of all ages to explore the joy of chocolate-making for themselves.
Delta Sensory Gardens
Delta Sensory Gardens are an oasis of peace and tranquillity, with sixteen interconnecting gardens set on 2.5 acres close to Carlow Town. Stroll and admire the beautiful limestone sculptures throughout the gardens, bask in the tranquillity of the water features and marvel at the one–tonne of pink marble floating on a cushion of water.
Visitors can delight in a mix of formal and informal landscapes. The Sensory Gardens are highly acclaimed and have received many awards over the years, and are suitable for visitors of all abilities and age groups. There is nowhere quite like the Sensory Gardens, and no trip to Carlow would be complete without a visit here.
Duckett’s Grove, the 18th, 19th and early 20th century home of the Duckett family, was formerly part of an estate that has dominated the Carlow landscape for over 300 years. Even in ruin, the surviving towers and turrets of Duckett’s Grove Walled Gardens and Pleasure Grounds form a romantic profile making it one of the most photogenic historic buildings in the country and a castle in Ireland that is well worth a visit. The revival of two old walled gardens has been completed by Carlow County Council, the old paths revealed and the beds and borders reinstated. Open daily, daylight hours.
Huntington Castle was originally built as a garrison in the 17th century and was later turned into a family estate by the Lord Esmonde. A direct descendant of the castle’s founders, current custodian Alexander Durdin Robertson and his family is keeping tradition alive in a decidedly hands-on fashion.
These gardens were mainly laid out in the 17th century by the Esmondes. They include the French limes on the Avenue, the ‘parterre’ or lawns to the side of the house, the fish ponds on either side of the centre walk through the wilderness and the majority of Yew trees which comprise the Yew Walk. Larger plantings have resulted in Huntington possessing a number of great Irish trees, including four varieties of hickory, a cut leaved oak, Siberian crab and buckeye chestnut. Explore the kitchen gardens, with the Greenhouse and the recently restored Rose Gardens. Then stroll through the enchanting Italian Gardens and the ruins of the old Abbey before walking through to the ‘Wilderness’ woodland where formal walks and pathways will guide you past shrubs, flora and bamboo to the old turbine house which supplied electricity to Huntington as early as 1888. The bottom of the wilderness is marked by the delightful River Derry which flows as the boundary between County Carlow and Wexford.
Then head back to the castle where a guided tour of the house provides a window into both its fascinating past, and the lives of the family who call the castle home today – or simply take a well-earned break in the tea rooms. To get the full Huntington experience stay the night in one of their beautiful castle rooms.
Rathwood is an Irish owned family business, with everything from the finest home and garden furniture to the very best in kids’ events. Providing you with beautiful yet affordable items for your home, it is also a place to escape to and enjoy the very best. Be it a great lunch, a day of pampering or creating memories to treasure with your family, Rathwood is always a treat.
Rathwood has a beauty salon, ladies boutiques, furniture showrooms, a garden centre, a restaurant and much more. There are lovely woodland walks, a children’s playground, the Maze of Ireland and a train ride.
The Visual Centre for Contemporary Art & The George Bernard Shaw Theatre
Experience your world in a new way, in the largest art gallery in Ireland. VISUAL is a cultural gem in the middle of Carlow Town and displays local and international contemporary art with free admission.
Be inspired and challenged by great art, both inside and outside the building this summer.