Today I have a special treat for all of you!
We’re going to walk through a rough itinerary that you and your special someone, or someone’s (ie., family) can use to travel down the absolutely incredible scenic 87-mile long Barrow River in Ireland, the biggest of the Three Sisters which criss-cross each other and scatter the whole of the country. I personally believe that Ireland is a magical place and canoe is really the best way to see the true Celtic foundations of the country. There’s Ireland Stonehenge” at Ballynhattin, tons of ancient celt dolmens, historical lumber and grain mills, etc.
Among the historical landmarks and stunning landscape there’s plenty of farming towns with the most welcoming locals who’re eager to share the country’s history with you. Combine all that with friendly old-school pubs fully stocked with Irish Whiskey, Guinness Draught, and plenty of other brews on tap. Visit markets, cozy theaters, catch some entertainment at any one of a hundred public gatherings that might happen at a moment’s notice…
Like I said, Ireland’s a magical place and traveling by water puts you right in the center of it all!
Day 1: We begin 72 miles southwest of Dublin where the Barrow and Grand Canal meet at Athy, Co. Kildare
- Check out the local Heritage Museum to see the many spoils from famed Irish traveler Ernest Shackleton.
- Next go to Whites Castle and take it in, your entry point to the Barrow is within view.
- After setting off downriver in the Barrow past White’s Castle, you’ll soon see the Grangemellon Castle, soon after the historic Levitstown Mill.
- Hit the shore when you see the Maganey Bridge and visit the Three Counties pub for a hearty Irish stew or whatever menu item catches you.
- Hop back in your canoe and continue downriver and take in the Grange and Shrule Castles along the way.
- Soon after you’ll pass the Bestfield Lock, much respected by the locals for being “very” haunted!
- After passing the lock, you’ll tie up at the Bestfield boat house and find a place to pitch a tent or look for a B&B to spend the night at.
Day 2: Continue by jumping in the water at Carlow and heading downriver toward Bagenalstown
- Not long after after Carlow, you’ll pass several eye-catching towns and river crossings including Milford, Old Leighlin, and Leighlinbridge — where renowned Irish physicist John Tyndall was born.
- Moor your canoe at Leighlinbridge, take a walk and see the many sites including the ruins of the Black Castle near the riverfront.
- Continue downriver a few miles where you’ll be treated to more sprawling Irish waterfront and you’ll arrive in Bagnelstown, or “New Versailles” as town founder Lord Bagenal wished it to be called (Note their courthouse which was inspired by the French palace of the same name.
- Pitch your tent or stay at The Lord Bagenal Hotel for the night (If you’re hitting the hotel, order up a bowl of their famous seafood chowder with a side of fresh baked bread — you’ll not soon regret you did.)
Day 3: Leave Bagenalstown and head for Clasganny (Warning: You’ll be shooting plenty of weirs today!)
- Head downriver and you’ll soon shoot (ie., pass over) two centuries old weirs on the river at Fenniscourt and Slyduff, before you passed by the burned remnants of the Barracore Mill.
- Next you’ll pass the majestic town of Goresbridge surrounding by rolling green hills and dotted with plenty of aged pine trees and tons of waterfowl including ducks, Kingfishers, Herons, Cormorants and Egrets.
- After shooting the weir below Goresbridge you’ll be canoeing alongside the an old horse towpath as you near the Ballytiglea Weir. These towpaths are great for hiking as well, so don’t hesitate to moor your craft and go out sightseeing, there’s tons of trails about.
- After shooting Ballytiglea you’ll be traveling in between plenty of granite boulders, passing over a few more weirs and even negotiating some mild rapids.
- Soon after the rapids, you’ll be treated to a sprawling Irish hinterland full of farmland, green meadows, pine and oak forests, and you’ll see the first signs of plum trees which seem strangely out of place in this land.
- Continue to the fork at the town of Burnfoot (Bun na h’aibhinn to the Irish), where you’ll moor up at the famous Borris Estate. Take the estate tour and learn about the estates insanely troubled history full of intrigue, murder, royal weddings and much more.
From here, you can still continue downriver to the River Nore junction if you wish. This itinerary is a great way to get in touch with the history of the country when you first arrive, and would also make for a great end-of-trip adventure after you’ve spent time in the bigger cities like Dublin, Cork and Limerick.