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Carlow may be small, but it certainly has a big heart, and this historic area has so much to offer visitors, including scenic walking trails, activity breaks, ancient sites and stunning gardens. If you’re looking for a short break in Ireland then a holiday Carlow could be just what you need.
Enjoy One of the Many Trails
Carlow has several wonderful trails to explore, each offering something unique to your Carlow experience, and taking you across the length and breadth of the county - although with Carlow being Ireland’s second-smallest county, you won’t take long driving from one side to another.
Among the popular trails waiting for visitors are the South Carlow Adventure Trail, the Carlow Garden Trail, the Carlow Food Trail and the Mount Leinster Heritage Drive. With the Blackstair Mountains and River Barrow providing ample activities and spectacular scenery to enjoy in Carlow, if you’re a first-time visitor to the county, you’ll wonder why it took so long to get here.
Ireland’s second-longest river, the River Barrow runs along the border of Carlow with several scenic viewing points in the county. With a range of short walks to enjoy, you can really escape from it all by walking along the River Barrow. If you fancy something more challenging, the River Barrow Way is a 115km walk that starts in Lowtown, Kildare, and ends in St Mullins, Carlow.
Walking in the Blackstair Mountains
The scenic Blackstair Mountains, which separate Carlow and Wexford, have several walking routes to enjoy, with something for all abilities, but do make sure to have appropriate footwear. Among the most popular treks are the Mount Leinster walk, which will see you scale Carlow’s highest peak, as well as the 11.5km Black Rock Mountain Loop. While exploring this mountainous terrain, be sure to visit the Nine Stones Viewing Point where you can enjoy views over eight counties including Kildare, Wicklow, Kilkenny and Waterford.
Drive the Mount Leinster Heritage Drive
Due to its size, Carlow is a county that can be easily explored in a couple of days, and the Mount Leinster Heritage Drive is one of the best ways to do this. The 75km driving route takes you through the beautiful Carlow countryside as you explore the towns and villages of Borris, Bunclody, Clonegal, Fenagh and Bagenalstown. This drive will take you to some of Carlow’s most spectacular homes and gardens, while the Carlow Garden Trail, which can be explored alongside the heritage drive, has over 20 picturesque gardens to enjoy.
Some of the popular sites to visit when driving the Mount Leinster Heritage Drive are Borris House, Huntington Castle and Gardens and the Altamont Gardens. There are also several ancient heritage sites and ruins along this driving route, with Ballymoon Castle, Rudkins Mills and Leighlinbridge Castle all worth taking the time to visit.
5,000 Years of History at Brownshill Dolmen
Take a detour from the Mount Leinster Heritage Trail and discover some 5,000 years of history at the megalithic site of Brownshill Dolmen. This prehistoric tomb is just a short drive from Carlow Town and is the largest tomb of its kind in Europe, and acts as a tribute to Ireland’s first farming communities.
Enjoy Carlow Town
The best way to explore Carlow Town is on foot, so leave the car and enjoy the popular Carlow Town Walk. The walk takes you face to face with many famous sites and monuments in the town including The Liberty Tree, Carlow Castle, Carlow County Museum and St Mary’s Church of Ireland.
For beer fans visiting the county, be sure to make a pitstop in Moneybeg and enjoy a tour of the Carlow Brewing Company, one of Ireland’s top craft beer companies.
Carlow Town has many great accommodation options, while there are hotels to suit all budgets in Carlow that will have you well placed to set off exploring the county.