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Hiking the Barrow Way

Athy to St Mullins

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The Barrow Way walking tour follows the tow path of the Barrow River, in Ireland’s Ancient East, starting in the town of Athy in County Kildare and heading South to Graiguenamanagh and Saint Mullins Monastery.

This scenic walking route is 70km long and follows a path originally used by horses pulling barges and boats to warehouses and factories up the river. The trail takes walkers on gravel and grassy paths, crossing lush farmland, as the peaceful river meanders quietly through the countryside. The route takes you through pretty Irish towns like Athy and Carlow that will give you a taste of ‘old Ireland’. Make sure to stop in to Joyce’ bar in Borris to sample the Guinness and have a packet of our famous cheese and onion Tayto’s. 

The terrain is mainly flat and easy; in addition to the lush landscapes, walkers will also enjoy a wealth of medieval sites and old industrial architecture. Located in close proximity to the river you will see grand castles, impressive abbeys, old bridges, derelict mills and lock houses, some still in use.

Dotted at regular distances, towns along the route and pretty villages such as Leighlinbridge and Graiguenamanagh offer a full range of services and facilities to walkers. This walk finishes up in the foot hills of the Blackstairs Mountains by the 7th century Monastery of St Mullins. Learn more about what the Barrow Way is in our blog.

VIEW OUR TOUR OPTIONS

  • The Barrow Way – Short Break:
    • 3 days/2 nights. Discover the highlights of The Barrow Way walking from Bagenalstown to St Mullins.
  • The Barrow Way – Full Walk:
    • 6 days/5 nights. Hiking The Barrow Way from Athy to St Mullins, staying in our selected accommodation.

Trip highlights

  • Spot kingfishers and other wildlife
  • Follow the Barrow River, an ancient commercial waterway
  • Admire majestic Graiguenamanagh Abbey
  • Sample Carlow craft beers in a traditional Irish pub

1 Athy

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Today you will be travelling to the town of Athy in County Kildare, the starting point of your Barrow Way walking tour. Records dating back circa 150AD mention settlement in this area. Walking through the streets of Athy there is still evidence of its medieval past, some examples include Whites Castle, built in 1417 to protect the bridge over the Barrow and St. Michael’s church built in the 14th century (only parts of the original building are still visible).

When you are finished exploring Athy you can make your way to your first night’s accommodation, organise your walking pack and rest before your walk begins in the morning.

2 Athy to Carlow - 19km

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6H | +53m / -60m
After a hearty breakfast your tour walking The Barrow Way begins. You will leave the heritage town of Athy, heading South towards Carlow (the largest town on this tour). Walking predominately on grassy or gravel tow paths along the Barrow River, the route passes a variety of interesting lifting bridges, locks, islands and old mills before reaching Carlow town. Places of interest in Carlow town include the partial ruin of Carlow Castle, believed to have been built in 1207-1213, Carlow Cathedral and Carlow Court House, built in 1834, complete with dungeons in the basement and a cannon from the Crimean War positioned on its steps.

3 Carlow to Bagenalstown - 17km

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5H30 | +60m / -69m
Leaving the historic centre of Carlow you will be walking along tarmacked and grassy tow paths, set in a large wooded area known as the aquatic triangle, where you will be able to spot herons and kingfishers. Many historical buildings and castles are located on this section, including the Black Castle at the pretty village of Leighlinbridge and other places of interest in Bagenalstown.

Another historic highlight of this stretch of The Barrow Way is Spring Stream Mill in Milford, roughly 8km south of Carlow town. The mill, built in 1820, was one of the largest mills in Ireland at the time. In 1891 it, the mill was converted to produce electricity and became a hydro electro power station, supplying power to Carlow town. Despite most of the building being derelict the turbine still provides power to the national grid.

The Carlow Brewing Company, also known as O’Hara’s Brewery, is part of the growing movement of artisan beers in Ireland. The company has been producing top quality craft beers since 1996. Located just outside Bagenalstown, the river you have been walking beside is one of their key ingredients.

4 Bagenalstown to Borris - 17km

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5H30 | +56m / -67m
Walking along this very scenic section from Bagenalstown, The Barrow River meanders effortlessly through the country side. You will see a selection of large weirs and other water management systems. The Barrow Way passes through the village of Goresbridge before winding its way to your accommodation for the evening in the lovely Georgian village of Borris. One place worth a visit is Joyce’s pub, a traditional ‘half and half’ shop and bar. It is also worth noting that Borris is a gateway to the Blackstairs Mountains.

Bagenalstown is the start of our ‘Short Break’.

5 Borris to St. Mullins & Graiguenamanagh - 18km

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5H30 | +96m / -113m
Leaving Borris this morning on the last walking day of this tour, once again you will follow a mixture of gravel and grassy tow paths on The Barrow Way. For the first few kilometres, the Barrow River will be flanked by mature deciduous forests, with a selection of weirs and small islands on the way to Graiguenamanagh (‘village of the monks’ in Irish), a very scenic abbey town and an important boating point.

Duiske Abbey was founded by William Marshall in 1204. The ‘Early English’ design is the largest Cistercian monastery church in Ireland and features a lofty nave. In its northern aisle a model shows the monastery as it was in the 14th century. The church was restored in the 1970’s but significant remains of the monastery exist.

From Graiguenamanagh to St Mullins, the Barrow River meanders through beautiful woodland. You will appreciate the signs of ancient settlement in this area through the ages including the ruins of a 7th century monastery, a Norman motte, the base of a round tower and a former Church of Ireland church, which now hosts a heritage centre. The riverside settlement of St Mullins is a beautiful section of the Barrow Valley and here you will find a café, picnic area, fishing spots and swimming areas. This picturesque setting is the ideal location to finish your trek on The Barrow Way. You will be collected from St Mullins and transferred back to Graiguenamanagh where you will spend the night.

6 Graiguenamanagh

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After breakfast your Barrow Way walking tour comes to an end.

Please do not hesitate to ask on of our travel specialists if you wish to extend your holiday with an extra night’s accommodation in Graiguenamanagh or transfer to a nearby city Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford or Dublin.

Hotels and guest houses on The Barrow Way have been carefully selected for their location, comfort, character, food and friendliness of the staff. Accommodation displayed is subject to availability and if the hotel or guest house described is not available, we will provide you with one of the same standard and comfort.

Athy - Standard

Your accommodation in Athy combines a modern and homely design in a luxury family-run hotel setting with a personal touch.

Carlow - Standard

Our first choice accommodation is a family run hotel in the centre of town.

Bagenalstown - Standard

Your guest house for the evening is a quality four star residence with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Borris - Standard

Our first choice accommodation is a family run guest house just a few minutes walk from the Barrow River.

Graiguenamanagh - Standard

Your last night’s accommodation is a family run guest house located just out side the town centre.

The Barrow Way Average Temperature & Rainfall

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How to Get There

Live information on Rome2Rio. We can also arrange private transfers if you prefer, just ask us.

 

Athy

 

Dublin Airport 85km:

Step 1: Dublin Airport to Carlow Town | Bus Éireann | Travel time 1H00 outside the main terminal leaving every hour | Fare €20 approx one way.

Step 2: Carlow Town (Carlow Train Station) to Athy | Irish Rail | Travel time 0H15, leaving every 2 hours | Fare €8 one way.

 

Dublin Airport 94km: (Via Dublin City Centre)

Step 1: Dublin Airport to Dublin City Centre | Aircoach | Travel time 0H30, leaving every 15-30min | Fare €6 approx. one way.

OR

Step 1: Dublin Airport to Dublin City Centre | Dublin Bus – Bus No.747 | Travel time 0H40, leaving every 15min | Fare €6 one way. (NOTE: This bus also stops at Heuston Train Station).

Step 2: Once on O’Connell Street it is a short walk, tram or taxi ride to Heuston Train Station or Busaras Bus Depot.

Step 3: Dublin City Centre (Heuston Train Station) to Athy | Irish Rail | Travel time 1H00, train departing every 2 hours from morning to evening | Fare €15 one way.

OR

Step 3: Dublin City Centre (Busaras Bus Depot) to Athy | Bus Éireann | Travel time 1H00, leaving 3 times a day: morning, mid day and evening | Fare €20 one way.

 

Graiguenamanagh

 

Dublin Airport 134km:

Step 1: Graiguenamanagh (Lower Main Street) to Kilkenny | Killbride Coaches | Travel time 1H00, bus running twice a day in the morning and mid day | Fare €6 one way.

Step 2: Kilkenny (Kilkenny Train Station) to Dublin Airport | Bus Éireann | Travel time 2H50, bus leaving every 3 hours approx | Fare €20 one way.

 

More information:

Air Coach – Airport Transfer.

Bus Eireann – Intercity Bus.

J.J. Kavanagh Coaches – Intercity Bus.

Killbride Coaches – Bus.

Dublin Bus – Dublin City Bus.

Irish Rail – Train.