Our staff here at the Woodford Dolmen Hotel love to get out and about in our beautiful County and explore amazing sights and activities Carlow has to offer. With the long summer evenings, we have been inspired to map out four great days of activities with the top picks and recommendations from both our staff and visitors.
We reveal some of the most hidden gems in the area, while also tipping the hat towards some of the more well-known but unmissable things to do in Carlow. Whether you’re doing a short one day stop or extending your visit to wander off the track for a few days, Carlow has great activities to enjoy, whatever your length of stay.
DAY ONE: SOUTH SIDE NATURE TRAIL
Starting down at the most southern tip of the county in St. Mullins, we have mapped out your route back to the hotel, encountering some amazing views and activities along the way and seeing what rural Carlow has to offer.
FUEL UP AT THE MULLICHAIN CAFÉ
The locally owned Mullichain Café Aoffers up some of the tastiest coffees and treats right on the bank of the River Barrow. From here you can fuel up for your adventures from this beautiful, converted 18th century store house and kick start your day out travelling the south of Carlow.
UNCOVER THE MAGICAL IRISH HEARTLANDS
Following your breakfast in the Mullichain Café, you can trek along one of several stunning trails along the river Barrow and surrounding areas. St. Mullins prides itself for being the epicentre for so many glorious walks that make up Ireland’s Ancient East. The Mullichain Café’s website talks you through a host of different routes starting from the local area covering up to 60km of natural scenic tours.
GO WITH THE FLOW
Further up the River Barrow in the beautiful little village of Clashganny, stop off and enjoy Go With The Flow River Adventures, an exciting family run water sports adventure business. Go With the Flow offers a huge range of water sport activities and canoe hire for people of all abilities and ages at very affordable prices.
They cater for all types of groups, including hens and stags, school groups, sports teams, corporate team building or any intrepid families.
ARBORETUM, HOME & GARDEN HEAVEN
After some exciting water sports with Go With the Flow – River Adventures, it’s time to wind down around the Arboretum. Carlow’s pride and joy, this award winning, family run lifestyle and garden centre has so much to offer, including their kitchen store, home and gift, furniture, and fashion areas, and their stunning garden café.
For the younger explorers, they also have a lovely sensory garden and playground area to discover. Matched with its outstanding customer service, it is no secret or surprise that the Arboretum has earned the title as Ireland first and only five-star garden centre. The Arboretum has something for everyone under the one roof and is the perfect place to finish off an exciting day touring the south of Carlow!
DAY TWO: CARLOW’S WALKING CULTURE TRAIL
Today we stay a bit closer to home, absorbing what culture Carlow Town has to offer. From war museums to haunted castles, you are sure to have your eyes opened by the Carlow Towns intriguing history. Walking our way down through the streets, enjoy the smells and tastes of the Carlow Farmers Market on a busy Saturday morning or hear stories of long ago. Through the various tours and sights, you can learn the history of this small but archival town.
CARLOW FARMERS MARKET
To start, if you are lucky enough to be visiting of a Saturday morning you can take a trip towards the Carlow Farmers Market. The market has a bit of everything on offer, from teas, pastries and crepes to fresh meat, fish and veg. Carlow Farmers Market never fails to bring a buzz and a liveliness to the town every weekend with something for everyone right in the heart of the town!
Once you’re all shopped out, you can start to head down Carlow’s busy Tullow Street towards the County Museum.
CARLOW COUNTY MUSEUM
Visitors to the Carlow County Museum are blown away by the extent of exhibitions and history available in this small but exciting museum. Our personal highlights include some interesting items and artefacts like memorabilia from Carlow Sugar Factory, and the Gallows Trapdoor from Carlow’s famous County Gaol.
The building, which also houses the county library and archives, is the heart of Carlow’s Cultural Quarter and epitomises the extent of local and national history, present in such a small County.
After the museum you can make your way out towards Carlow Cathedral, a stunning building standing over one hundred and fifty foot tall in the very centre of the town.
Since the early 1800’s, Carlow Cathedral has offered beautiful gothic detail and architecture both inside and out, with amazing statutes and eye-catching artwork that makes a visit very worthwhile.
VISUAL CARLOW & KICK BACK AT LENNON’S CAFÉ
VISUAL Carlow is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary art spaces situated in the heart of Carlow. A Centre for Contemporary Art and The George Bernard Shaw Theatre.
Soak in the view as you walk across the grounds of Carlow College from the Cathedral towards Lennons Café and the George Bernard Shaw Theatre for a coffee and a snack. This buildings’ stunning architecture both inside and out stands in contrast against the old Carlow College and Carlow Cathedral adjacent. Lennons Café offers amazing food and drinks with stunning views of the surrounding park that helps you relax, briefly removing yourself from the busy town centre.
CARLOW MILITARY MUSEUM
Across the town lies the Carlow Military Museum in a beautiful 19th century church on the grounds of St. Dymphna’s Hospital. The Military Museum holds some of the most amazing and interesting facts and stories of Carlow’s Military history of involvement with the Irish Army, the Local Reserve Defence Forces, UN Peacekeeping, the Carlow Militia, the War of independence and both World Wars. It is a stunning and intriguing tour that is often overlooked by locals yet offers so many exciting stories and is not to be missed.
Perched on the banks of the River Barrow as it flows through the town, Carlow Castle stands towering above the windy streets below. Built in the early 1200’s, this castle still stands as one of Carlow’s most historic and recognised sites that is well worth a visit!
BOATTRIP.IE – RIVER CRUISE
Boattrips.ie offer a beautiful way to round off your second day in Carlow! Departing from Carlow Town Park, take off on a stunning river cruise to help you relax and unwind, immersed in an exciting and refreshing landscape.
Book a group boat trip for your family or friends, to spend an hour cruising the River Barrow with the very knowledgeable & informative tour guide Cliff and soak up the unspoiled nature and wildlife that make these trips so memorable and unique.
DAY THREE: A TRIP THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS
Under the shadow of Mount Leinster, the Blackstairs Eco-centre offers an amazing array of experiences and adventures for any group. Ran locally by Mary and Robert White and their daughter Dorothy-Ellen, they provide over a dozen opportunities for groups of friends, families, or colleagues to get out and enjoy the surrounding area and soak up what the Blackstairs Mountains have to offer through their Eco Trails.
NINE STONES VIEWPOINT
At the foot of Mount Leinster, the tallest of the Blackstairs Mountain range, the Nine Stones Viewing point offers an unrivalled view of the Carlow countryside. From this point you can see up to eight counties. On a clear day you might also be lucky enough to spot the mountain ranges in west Wales or some hand gliders and paragliders from the top of Mount Leinster of a Sunday morning. This viewpoint is a starting point along the route to the summit of Mount Leinster if you fancy more of a challenge!
Heading back towards Carlow Town after some exploring on Mount Leinster, you can swing past the amazing Huntington Castle to see their stunning buildings, gardens, and tea rooms.
Built in 1625, the castle has a spooky history, which you can hear all about on a guided tour of the grounds. Huntington Castle is a fan favourite and provides some amazing scenery and views.
MOUNT WOLSELEY GOLF COURSE
Not far from Huntington Castle, the golf-lovers can stop off for a round at Mount Wolseley Hotel championship golf course. This parkland course offers some fantastic views combined with some testing challenges for any golfer. This course, being one of the country’s premier parkland courses, is a must for any avid player that is visiting the area.
THRIVE CAFÉ, TULLOW
Just down the road from Mount Wolseley in Tullow Town, Thrive Café offers a delicious ever-changing menu using fresh, local, and organic foods. It is recognised for its delicious, tasty, and incredibly nutritious spread of meals, snacks, and drinks.
They also encourage you to “feed your lifestyle” by engaging with one of their Pilates or yoga classes, or even one of their cooking demos that really emphasize their love for good food. If you are a foodie, Thrive Cafe is the only spot for you on day three of your long weekend in Carlow!
DAY FOUR: KILLESHIN VIEWS
KILLESHIN WATERWORKS AMENITY PARK
To finish off a fantastic long weekend, take a trip up to Killeshin Waterworks. An old reservoir that used to supply water to Carlow Town. Left unused for almost two decades, Laois County Council and Carlow Town council agreed to convert the land into an amenity park for visitors. Bridges were built, fences erected, a car park was developed, and the entire area was landscaped, as it became the beautiful, educational eco tourist location that it is now.
The track around the reservoir offers ample opportunity to explore the surrounding area, catch a glimpse of some beautiful, rare flora and fauna, or even do a bit of swimming or fishing as can be seen in the gorgeous title photo taken recently at Killeshin Waterworks.
SLIEVE MARGY WAY
Killeshin Hill offers plenty of opportunity along the Slieve Margy Way to take a stroll through amazing woodlands and beautiful parks as you escape from the busy Carlow Town that can be seen below. These walks present breath-taking views across the Blackstairs Mountains and the Barrow Valley that are not to be missed on your weekend in Carlow.
Pack a picnic for your day out and relax in Oisin Park, the ‘Balcony of Carlow’, after your walk around the hills and Killeshin wood. Oisin Park has a small children’s activity play area and a picnic area overlooking Carlow Town. This is a stunning area only a couple of minutes’ drive from Carlow town centre.
It is almost hard to believe a view this good can be so close to the busy town below. Just a 5-minute drive up the hill from Oisin park is ‘the Grotto’, rumoured locally to be one of the many moving statues from the summer of 1985. Whatever about the statue, the views from this vantage point are certainly worth moving for.
Author Bio: Katie McGarr is a resident writer for Woodford Dolmen Hotel Carlow, a charming hotel in Carlow set in the beautiful banks of River Barrow, renowned for their wedding-perfect location. When she’s not taking vibrant street photos, you can find her writing articles about travel, food, and lifestyle.