Walk In Ireland – The One With The Most Peaceful River
Explore a section of the Barrow Way from Goresbridge to Graiguenamanagh in Ireland’s Ancient East, a historic riverside towpath, following the winding River Barrow through a verdant valley on the border of County Carlow and County Kilkenny.
Sample a slice of nature and peacefulness on one of the best sections of the 120km long Barrow Way, ideal for all level of walker, and where heritage sites and riverside scenery abound. The River Barrow is Ireland’s second longest river, and in the late 18th century was made into a navigation, with locks that bypass every rapid and weir. This allowed commercial goods to be transported by barge from Waterford to Dublin and along the River Shannon. This walk begins along the eastern bank, with natural river interspersed by regular canal locks. It’s a peaceful journey surrounded by birds, flowers and trees.
South of Goresbridge, the Barrow Way grows more spectacular as it winds through woods towards Mount Brandon. The trail stays on the left bank of the river for the full route as you head south. Be aware that this is a long walk with no services on the way, unless you take a detour to the village of Borris.
Shortly after Goresbridge you follow a side canal down to Lower Ballyellen Lock. After this on the far bank you’ll see Barrowmount House, once home to the Gore family, which the village of Goresbridge is named for. The Gores were an English family who came to this area around 1700 having been granted lands seized from the natives.
Soon the River Barrow becomes dominated by tall spruce and firs as the waterway grows more dramatic. You come to Balltytiglea Lock, and pass under the bridge of the same name. If you want to explore the picturesque granite village of Boris, it’s a 2.5km road walk east of the bridge. Continuing along the river, the woods start to get thicker, overhanging the still river. You follow a side canal and arrive to Borris Lock, County Carlow.
Borris Demesne, which boasts some of Ireland’s tallest trees, is on your left now. Borris House, the ancestral home of the McMorrough Kavanaghs, Kings of Leinster, is one of the few Irish estates that can trace its history back to the Royal families of ancient Ireland and the tour covers all aspects of the history of the family and the house, from the original 15th century castle, through its many subsequent changes and alterations, right up to the present day. The legendary Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh, who was born without arms or legs, nonetheless became skilled at sailing, horse riding, fishing and hunting, and travelled the world.
Back on the river, the Barrow Valley starts to deepen, as steep wooded slopes drop to the riverbank. You follow canals down to Ballingrane Lock and then Clashganna Lock, where there is a swimming area in the Summer.
You will pass forested rock walls as you continue towards Graiguenamanagh. You come to Ballykeenan Lock, and Brandon Hill towers over the river dead ahead. As you near Graiguenamanagh the valley grows steeper, with forested walls climbing on either side. You arrive to the 18th century bridge in Tinnahinch, County Carlow — Graiguenamanagh in County Kilkenny is on the far bank. Part of the bridge here was destroyed during the 1798 Rebellion.
Graiguenamanagh or Gráig na Manach, meaning “Village of the Monks” is located on the River Barrow at the foot of Brandon Hill. It is home to Duiske Abbey, the largest of the thirty-four medieval Cistercian abbeys in Ireland. With a simple exterior contrasting with its elaborate interior, visitors can see the ancient stone and high clerestory windows of the nave as well as an effigy of a 13th-century knight at the entrance.
Easy – There is a National Way Marked Way linear walking route along a flat, grassy towpath. There are gravel tracks in places.
14.5km/approx 3.5 to 5 hours
Start at/Finish at:
Start at Goresbridge and finish at Graiguenamanagh County Kilkenny.
How to get there:
Goresbridge is located on the R702, while Graiguenamanagh is on the R703. Kilbride Coaches connect the two villages and offer a transfer back to the start of the walk.
Check the weather and pack smart – Have a fully charged cell phone; Water; Snacks; Wear layers of appropriate clothing, waterproof jacket and correct footwear/waterproof hiking boots. Bring a camera for the fabulous views and maybe your swimming togs for dip to cool down afterwards.
Leave word with someone about where you are going and approximately what time you expect to be back.
Never leave any items or valuables visible inside your parked vehicle.
Phone 999 or 112 and advise the emergency crew whether you need an Ambulance, the Gardaí (police), Fire Brigade or Mountain Rescue.
The Barrow Way “Leave No Trace” principles are:
- Plan ahead and Prepare
- Be Considerate of Others
- Respect all Animals and Wildlife
- Travel on Durable Ground
- Leave What You Find
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Minimize the effects of fire.
Minimize your impact on the environment. Leave nothing but footprints & take nothing but photographs.
Paddle your own canoe
Another option to explore Ireland’s most unique and enchanting waterway is by an open-top canoe, kayak, paddle board or to have an outdoor water adventure with an open boat trip. The River Barrow is a most wonderful, intimate and engaging nature corridor with bordering woodlands, scenic waterfalls, old lock-keepers cottages and abundant wildlife.
Awaken Your Senses With A Visit to Ireland’s Ancient East, County Carlow and County Kilkenny.
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Note: Featured image at the top of the blog is of Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny © Failte Ireland. Courtesy of photographer: Luke Myers
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