County Carlow (from the Irish, Contae Cheatharlach) is the second smallest county in Ireland. The county town of Carlow, on the other hand, is the 14th largest in Ireland in terms of population and was once the capital of the entire country.
Carlow is so old it predates the written word, but a few scattered ancient monuments speak volumes. The history of the place is effectively announced by these, muted pieces of the past, never more terrifically than at the megalithic Brownshill Dolmen. Built around six millennia ago and estimated to weigh around 100 metric tons (the heaviest of its kind in Europe), it is supported by a number of raggedy stones, which despite their sturdy 6,000 year streak appear rather worrisome underneath a stone of such monumental proportions. The site has yet to be excavated, and so its contents remain something of a mystery.
A second National Monument of Ireland is found on the east bank the River Barrow. Carlow Castle, built during the 13th century by William de Marshall, Lord of Leinster, is a spectacular ruin, survived only by two towers and the wall which binds them together. Situated at a strategic point at the juncture of two rivers (the Barrow and the Burrin), the castle was an important buttress of multiple attacks in 1494 and 1641. In 1814, a local man described as “a ninny-pated physician of the name of Middleton,” using “blasts of gunpowder for enlarging the windows and diminishing the walls,” destroyed two thirds of the building in a muddled attempt to remodel it into an asylum. Today, his folly is part of its allure.
Unmissable Attractions County Carlow
3. Carlow County Museum (Opening Times: Monday to Saturday from 10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. in summer / Monday to Saturday from 10.00 a.m. – 4.30 p.m. in winter)
4. Visual Centre for Contemporary Art (Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday from 11.00 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. Sunday from 2.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m.)
5. Duckett’s Grove (Opening Times: Monday to Sunday from 8.00 a.m. – 9.00. p.m. in summer / Monday to Sunday from 8.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. in winter)
6. Altamont Gardens (Opening Times: Monday to Sunday from 9.00 a.m. – 7.30 p.m.)
7. Delta Sensory Gardens (Opening Times: Monday to Friday 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday 11.00 a.m. – 5.30 p.m.) Prices: Adults €5.00 / Senior citizens €4.00
8. The Leighlinbridge Millennium Garden is open all year round, from dawn till dusk.