Five Facts you probably didn’t know about Co. Carlow

Carlow Town, located in the heart of the South-East of Ireland is often overlooked because Kildare and Kilkenny are just a stone’s throw away. This is the reason why Carlow would make an ideal base for a short break so you can discover the real hidden gems in this beautiful county.

Why not discover a few facts about the hidden gems in the County

Easter was determined in Co. Carlow

Easter is the most important day of Christianity but by the 5thand 6thcentury there was a divergence within the church as how to calculate Easter. In a nutshell, the Celtic Church celebrated Easter on a different date than the Roman Catholic Church.

In 630 AD Pope Honorius wrote to the Irish threatening excommunicacion if they did not conform to the Roman way of calculating Easter. As a result of this letter the church in Ireland held a synod in 632 at Magh Léne or as it is known today Old Leighlin in Co. Carlow. The synod probably took place at the site of Old Leighlin Cathedral which is built upon the ruins of an early monastic site founden by St. Gobban in the early seventh century. At the time of the synod St. Laserian, who is also known as Molaise, who was the successor of Gobban was the leader of the religious community here.

Hard to imagine that all that was going on where there were no proper roads in the country, never mind the economical impact it had on the local community. Evidence suggests that at the time about 1500 monks lived on the site where the Church is now.

Today Old Leighlin is a small rural village a few miles to the South of Carlow town and St. Lazerian’s Cathedral now belongs to the Church of Ireland.

Ref: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~irlcar2/Old_leighlin.htm,

Carlow was once the capital of Ireland

Carlow Castle was constructed by William Marshal (about 1207 – 1213) to guard the vital river crossing and it served as capital of the Lordship of Ireland under King Edward III from 1361 – 1374. The castle remained impressive until 1814 when a Dr. Middleton tried to convert it into a lunatic asylum and blew it to bits. Only the Western wall with its circular towers remains today. However it still is an impressive landmark in the town.

Today Carlow Town has about 23000 inhabitants and provides the ideal base for day trips in the neighbouring counties. With severalB&B’s, hotels and selfcatering accommodation, it caters for all budgets and needs.

All shops are in walking distance on Tullow and Dublin Street. The Fairgreen Shopping Centreis also located close to the town centre.

The oldest working bridge in Europe is in Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow

The focal point of Leighlinbridgeis its valerian-bearded bridge, built in 1320 by Maurice Jakis the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin beside the Black Castle which is one of the earliest Norman castles in Ireland. Although the bridge was widened to accommodate motor traffic, it is still the original structure.

Although only small, Leighlinbridge has a close knit and active community which manage and maintain a few nice community gardens. It even won the gold medal in the Entente Florale competition in 2001.

Leighlinbridge is the ideal base for walking, boating and cycling and is part of the Mount-Leinster-Heriage drive.The Lord Bagenal Hotelprovides its own mooring and is one of the finest hotels in the County.

St. Patricks College is the oldest Catholic college in Ireland

St. Patricks College Carlowwas founded in 1782 by Dr. James Keefe, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin and his co-adjutor Bishop Daniel Delaney and opened in 1793. From the start it was both a lay college and a priests seminary with the studies of Humanities at the core of the academic curriculum. However, in 1892 it became a seminary exclusively.

In 1990, nearly 100 years later it finally opened it’s doors again to lay students. The last priests were ordained here in 2001 and theoretically, the college is still open for seminarians. However, there are only very few at the present so the semenarians from the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin are sent to Maynooth.

Today the college is located in the heart of Carlow town in the “Cultural Quarter” with the Carlow County museum, the library, Carlow Cathedral and the Visual/ GBS Theatreliterally on its door step.

The Barrow is the second longest river in the country

At 192 km (119 miles) the Barrow(An Bhearú) is the second longest river in Ireland. Along with the River Nore and the River Suir, the Barrow is one of the Three Sisters.

The Barrow Valley is considered one of the most scenic and fertile valleys in Ireland where several waves of immigrants left their stamp. The evidence can be found all over Co. Carlow and beyond.

To name but one example: St. Mullins was and still is a magical place founded by Moling in the middle of the 7thcentury. Not only did he build the first saw mill but also established the longest running ferry across the river Barrow. The ferry stopped in the late 1960s and was running for about 1300 years continously. St. Mullins had the same significance as Glendalough and Clonmacnoise at the time, so it’s a real hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

The Clashganny Lock between St. Mullins and Borris is one of the most scenic landscapes on the river and probably the most photographed lock on the Barrow. The picture speaks for itself.

Today the river offers several activities for the entire family. Cycling, Hiking, boating or a leisurely walk and much more are waiting for anybody who is ready to indulge in the landscape along its banks.

St. Mullins – 1400 Birthday Party

Guided Tours in Ireland

In the tranquil landscape between the foothills of the Blackstairs Mountains and the bank of the river Barrow, the now nearly forgotten village of St. Mullins still withstands the ravages of time. Well known in pre-Christian times by virtue of a holy well and standing its ground for several centuries against Vikings, Normans and the Irish themselves, only ruins and fallen down buildings remind of the once busy hustle and bustle of a lively early monastery.

It’s hard to believe that it’s famous name saint, Moling, was born 14oo years ago and maybe it is a blessing that this birthday is not greatly celebrated. That way this special place in South County Carlow will keep it’s charme and natural beauty.

Moling soon discovered the wealth of the Barrow valley and build a corn mill which led the farmers in the area to settle even closer together to form a loose community. Later Moling instigated a ferry service which was in constant use until the middle of the 1960s. Only the progress of modern times and with it the car stopped this service after more than 1300 years of continious operation.

After Clonmacnoise, and Glendalough, St. Mullins was once rated the third most important ecclesiastical site in all Ireland. Not much is left of the once majestic buildings but the spirit of generations long gone.

After the Vikings came up the river to raid the monastry several times, the Normans built a motte to defend the area. Even the kings of Leinster recognised the special spirit in St. Mullins and found their final resting place here.

Walking around the area you still can feel the special magic of times past.

The last big historic “event” was the rebellion of 1798 and today their graves are identified with green markers which are dotted all among the graves.

Don’t forget to stop on the view point for Clashganny for a few pictures before you head back to Carlow.

Come on, let’s celebrate St. Molings birthday this year…

http://www.carlowtours.ie/portfolio/st-mullins-and-borris-village/

Guided Tour in Waterford


Christmas Spirit in Waterford City

What a great way to get into the spirit of Christmas – Winterval in Waterford – still time to go

Waterford in the South-East of Ireland has a lot to offer for the entire family.

For history buffs – visit the oldest Norman tower on the island: Reginalds’ tower where you can explore the Viking past of this city.

Built on the remains of a timber structure it is nothing short of history and interesting features inside.

…or why not take a look in the newly built Medieval Museum – which houses Santas Grotto. So you can entertain the kids as well as yourself…

and why not get the discount ticket which covers for the entrance into the Bishops Palace as well.

Again… loads to see for the little ones while you enjoy the re-enactment of Waterfords rich history.

Get yourself onto the horse-drawn carriage to get an idea of Winterval – the Christmas Festival in Waterford.

Make sure you get a ride on the nostalgic carousel or try out a day in a Viking village.

All well done and makes you hungry for more – don’t worry, nobody has to get hungry or thirsty here. A lot of huts prepare food from all over the world.

And when you get tired why not relax in Reg’s pub where you can enjoy a continental mulled wine while your kids enjoy a Christmas movie.

Make sure you don’t miss the light show after dark behind the Medieval Museum.

As there is so much to see and do in Waterford city alone- we intend to go down again soon. From an Ice-rink to a petting zoo and many more attractions, not to forget the friendly people we met during our 3-day stay.

Waterford also has ample parking ability around the city which is easily accessible from Carlow and anywhere else in the country due to great roadworks and ample sign posting. There is also plenty of accommodation for every pocket available. From B&Bs on the outskirts of the city up to 4-Star-Hotels with all amenities.

Family fun in Wexford


Guided Tours in Wexford

History with a difference

Do you want to do something with your kids? This fantastic location is Entertainment for kids of all age as well as for grown-ups. We are headed to the Irish National Heritage Park in Wexford

During school holidays and on weekends you can join a guided tour with a viking, a celt or a norman knight. The tour takes about 1,5 hours, takes you to 9000 years of history in a very entertaining way and keeps your children occupied.

It started when we entered the Heritage park. All children got their “tool kit”, sheets of drawings which they could fill in with the provided crayons. The pictures were motives which could be found in the park. The children were also told to search for gold as there will be a cert at the end.

After we watched a movie to introduce us to the rich Irish history, we hat a reception with our tour guide who was dressed up as a celtic farmer.

As our guide “Dublin Paddy” guided us through the ages we decided to have lunch first.

After the tour we enjoyed a workshop by one of the tour guides and we could try out different armors and weaponry.

Four ways to use a boat on the River Barrow

The River Barrow is the second longest river in Ireland, so why not discover the beauty of it by boat?

Especially in the South of County Carlow, on the border to County Kilkenny the river Barrow offers its entire beauty. Cashganny is one of the most picturesque locks in Ireland. This short stretch of the Barrow between Clashganny and Graiguenamanagh has something for everybody: adventure, tranqulity, peace and action.

February doesn’t really spring to mind to go out canoeing but we did just that. On a gorgeous crispy morning I met Charlie Horan fromGo With the Flow.ie at Clashganny Lock.

1. Canoeing like the Native Americans

After being kitted out with a life west and a short instruction about paddling and health and safety we got into the canoe. The water was freezing but I had no intentions for a swim. I thought it will be a nice tranquil paddle – well, it wasn’t quite that tranquil. We pulled in on the bank where Charlie told me how to hold on and balance our vessel while going over rapids. Rapids? Hang on – what happened to the nice quite trip?


It turned out it was great fun and I wanted to do it again straight away.

2. Carry your vessel like the Vikings

We turned towards the canal to go back to Clashganny. So that meant: get out of the canoe – easier said than done, carry the boat upstream past the lock and paddle upstream to Clashganny. That was the plan… we had to change it because the canal was frozen solid.

3. Conquer the canal with an ice breaker

We even tried to get on top of the ice sheet with the front of the canoe and let the weight break the ice. Much to our suprise the ice was too thick, so what to do now?

“No problem”, Charlie said, “sure – Graiguenamanagh is only half an hour from here” – great!

Out of the canoe and carry it back – again – it’s heavy when you carry a vessel that is built for 4 and there’s only the two of us.

Eventually we got back on the river to continue our adventure.

We paddled along and Charlie pointed out a few interesting views: Ryans Castle which was abandoned and destroyed. I’m fascinated by ruins and always imagine what might have happened in it’s hayday.

And I got my wish granted as we went over another set of rapids. This time a bit faster and it was even better than the first time!!

But then again, I was absolutely stunned by the natural beauty and peacefulness along the river.

Slowly but surely I got tired from the paddling when I realised, you can use a canoe in another way:

4. Using the Canoe as a gym

I was so glad to see Graiguenamanagh appearing behind a bend. What a view!! This trip was even better than I ever expected.

We left the boat at the mooring and started looking for a lift back to Clashganny. Graiguenamanagh is such a beautiful picturesque village with really friendly and warm people. Eventually a gentleman who felt sorry for us gave us a lift back to Clashganny.

I was tired but happy after this trip and never felt cold as the time just flew. We spent the best part of 2 hours on the river. It was a great adventure – Thank you very much Charlie!

If you want to know more about river adventures, you can contact Charlie directly here: Go With The Flow or if you want to incorporate it into one of your trips, please feel free to contact us here: Book now or call Bianka on 0876509880

Did you know Easter was determined in Co. Carlow?

Lesser Known Facts about Carlow

 

 

Easter was determined in Co. Carlow

Easter is the most important day of Christianity but by the 5thand 6thcentury there was a divergence within the church as how to calculate Easter. In a nutshell, the Celtic Church celebrated Easter on a different date than the Roman Catholic Church.

In 630 AD Pope Honorius wrote to the Irish threatening excommunication if they did not conform to the Roman way of calculating Easter. The result was an synod held by the Irish church which took place in 630 – 632 at Magh Léne, today known as Old Leighlin in Co. Carlow. The synod probably took place at the site of Old Leighlin Cathedral which is built upon the ruins of an early monastic site.

When St. Patrick and his followers started to convert the Irish to Christianity, they changed already existing traditions and re-named them, for example, the Spring Festival of Bealtaine became Easter. That way the people didn’t feel under pressure to get baptised, it rather became “fashionable”.

That is also the reason why pagan believes and traditions still run parallel to the Christian rituals. So it is not surprising to find a rag tree right beside St. Laserians well close to the Cathedral.

Today Old Leighlin is a small rural village a few miles to the South of Carlow town and St. Lazerian’s Cathedral now belongs to the Church of Ireland.

Why not join us on a tour during the Easter Period? All our tours are 10% off when you mention “Easter” in the special request box on the booking form.

Hidden Gems in the Sunny Southeast of Ireland

Guided Tour to Mount Leinster Heritage Drive

What a smashing summer we had and it looks like it will be a nice and mild autumn.

Starting in Borris, you can explore a village rich in history and tradition. Borris House was built in the 17.th century by the McMurrough Kavanagh clan, the former kings of Leinster. The family still lives there and the house can be visited by prior booking.

Borris is the ideal starting point to the Mount Leinster Drive. Although only 47 miles long, this round trip invites you on every step to stop, take in the natural beauty of the scenery, relax or take a stroll.

Discover Hidden Gems in Kilkenny and Carlow

Guided Tour in Kilkenny

It was a crispy sunny winter morning when we started our tour to Kilkenny last Saturday. It turned out to be a ladies day. Four different women with nothing in common other than the interest in discovering what’s around the corner. Roz Kelly from EcoactiveIrelandcame all the way from Gorey, Co. Wexford to Carlow to join me on the trip. My other companions were friends who I know from line dancing and the Women in Business Network in Carlow.

Part one: Kilkenny Castle

After arriving in Kilkennywe had time to explore the grounds of Kilkenny Castle and were amazed at the size of the park. The 50 acre (approx. 23 hectares) area is accessible for everybody and provides the ideal spot for walking, running or just relaxing.

The castle itself looks more impressive once you walk through the main entrance on The Parade. And it is one of the best preserved Norman castles in Ireland.

We enjoyed our guided tour with Peter Kenny who excelled in his knowledge and passion for the monument and it’s history but also the stories behind it.

Interesting in connection with Carlow is that both, Kilkenny Castle and Carlow Castlewere built at about the same time by the same man: William Marshal in the 12. century.

One of the trivias I remember is, that a lot of the characters and names appearing in Downton Abbeyare based on real people who had dealings with Kilkenny Castle.

Also the tapestries in the ballroom are fixed to the walls with industrial velcro to avoid folds and dust on the original material.

As we were not allowed to take pictures, you have to explore the interior for yourself.

The tea room in the premises of theKilkenny Design Centrewas our next stop where we all enjoyed a nice cuppa and cake served with a smile.

Part Two: Highbank Orchards

Just outside Kilkenny, on the Callan Road you will find Highbank Orchards Farm. Julie and Rod Calder-Potts are growing their apples completely organic which results in excellent cider, syrup and recently in liqueur and spirit. We enjoyed a tour of the farm in their train with stops at the apple jacuzzi, the press, the orchards and the shop. I found it fascinating that absolutely no chemicals are used to grow their apples and that nature looks after itself.

Julie offered us a taste of the different products like the Drivers Cider: sparkly and refreshing but alcohol free.

Highbank Orchards support local food producers and host a range of different events during the year in their converted barn.

The last addition to the premises is the smallest registered distillery in Ireland. It was custom built in Germany and produces a high quality of liquor and schnapps which is bottled and labled by hand in the premises.

Another lovely little detail are the apple shaped bottles which make a nice gift.

I can’t wait to see this hidden gem in the springtime when the apple trees are in bloom.

Part Three: Leighlinbridge– A Hidden Gem just outside Carlow Town

The small but close knit community of Leighlinbridge can be really proud of the so well maintained gardens. We enjoyed the Garden of Rememberance and the Millennium Garden. The village was the deserved winner of a gold medal in the European garden competition “Entente Florale” in 2001. Only one applicant per country is allowed to enter.

Although only small, Leighlinbridge boasts a lot of history. Built in 1320, the nine arch bridge was once the only crossing on the River and is now the oldest working bridge in Ireland, and one of the oldest in Europe.

You might recognise the bridge from the recentChristmas ad for Sparwhere the Christmas tree comes floating underneath the arch.

The remains of the Black Castle is still a main feature of Leighlinbridge. Originally built in 1181 by Hugh de Lacy it is one of the earliest Norman castles in Ireland and changed ownership several times.

With fading sunlight and just before the hailstorm hit us we were back in the van and returned tired but happy to Carlow Town.

Interested in this or similar tours?

Hidden Gems in Co. Laois Part 1

Tour Guiding Course with Laois Partnership

It was a frosty January morning when I headed out to County Laois to meet my fellow budding tour guides from the “Tour Guide Training Program” with Laois Partnership.

For 10 weeks we learnt a lot about history, dealing with customers and legal issues. We got on a field trip to Dublin to look over the shoulders of professional guides and finally we were here to do it ourselves. We all had to pick a monument, site or tour to show off our knowledge in front of each other and to get assessed.

I arrived at Cullahill Petrol Station and six enthusiastic guides got on my minibus.

Cullahill Mountain

Vincent led the way up a snowy mountain and told us about the life and hardship for farmers of times past on the hill.

The existence was simple and harsh with no running water, no toilet, no electricity.

After a short walk across snowy fields and a little climb we were rewarded with a stunning view into Co. Laois and Co. Kilkenny.

After a quick visit to the ringfort and bit of local folklore we slowly headed to our next stop:

Donaghmore Workhouse

Only about 20mins away we reached the grey walls of the former workhouse of Donaghmore. At first glance it reminded me of a prison camp.

Stepping inside I thought my first impressions were wrong when I saw all the lovely reconditioned machinery in the agricultural museum. It really brought the past to life and we also learnt that not so long ago eggs and even living chicken and turkeys were posted abroad.

Walking upstairs the uneasy feeling returned. Hayley and Liam explained that on arrival entire families were divided into boys, girls, women and men. No contact was allowed among family members and strict discipline was to be obeyed. People had to prove their destitution and even had to give up their clothes.

It’s hard to estimate how many people passed through this institution as the records are not complete.

The facilities were built for 400 persons but according to evidence there were more than 600 people living and working here at one time.

Although so many souls passed through the gates and the workhouse was active for about 30 years (1853 – 1886), little is known about it as it was considered as shameful to be an inmate. In some peoples’ mind there is still a stigma attached to it and the taboo is only lifted slowly.

Aghaboe Abbey

our next stop led us to the impressive medieval Aghaboe Abbeywhere Eileen told us all about the turbulent times of its past.

As I grew up on the Austrian border in Germany and spent a good few school trips in Salzburg I was fascinated by this connection between Aghboe and the St. Virgilius or Virgil as he is known in Bavaria and Austria. Virgil or St. Feargal as he is known in Ireland was the abbot in Aghaboe in the 8thcentury before he became Bishop of Salzburg.

Walking through the grounds we learned that the adjacent Church of Ireland was in fact part of the abbey before the reformation. What I found remarkable was that the cemetery is mixed and Catholics and Protestants are buried side by side.

Mountrath

The cultural and religious mix continued in Mountrathas Joy and Caroline explained. I was never here before but it seems to be a busy enough town and the people are very friendly. I was impressed by St. Fintans’ Church with it’s stained glass windows.

Caroline explained the importance of the Bridgedine convent for the education of the girls in the adjacent boarding school.

We encountered rare wildlife on the River where once stood a brewery.

A house built in the late 1700 still stands tall.

Slieve Bloom

from the lively town of Mountrath it was only a 20 min drive to the Slieve Bloom Mountainsand we felt as intruders in a peaceful and tranquil wilderness. The snow did its bit to prevent us from going on top of the mountain but nevertheless, the scenery was stunning.

Mick was such a well of information about working in the bog, the woods and the mountain in days gone by and pointed out that the trees were all imported saplings and seeds from North America and Canada. As it turned out they are not suitable for the native bog as the roots are acidic and discolour the water, the stone and the surroundings.

It was an enjoyable day – I didn’t know there’s so much to do and see here in Co. Laois.

Did you know that Co. Laois is the only county in Ireland that is surrounded by counties that don’t border the sea? Check it out for yourself: Co. Carlow, Co. Kilkenny, Co. Tipperary, Co. Offaly andCo. Kildare.

Considering that there were only 5 stops today I guess we didn’t even scratch the surface. For more information please contact Bianka on 087 6509880 or book here:

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