We all know the benefits of walking for our physical and mental health. Consciously looking for the wonder in the world around us amplifies the impact of walking on our wellbeing. It’s fantastic to see the massive increase in walking and running during this time of lockdown. More and more people are taking to the roads and streets of our towns and villages.
Here in Carlow, the O Brien Road seems to be the epicentre for most walking activity. I prefer to take a different approach.
Join me on a virtual 11km walk that takes me away from the crowds and inspires me as I walk to look afresh at my surroundings.
An easy starting point is Askea car park on the O Brien Road. My route takes me away from this busy thoroughfare as much as possible.
The map above shows a 3km radius within which the walk takes place, so no problem keeping within the 5km limit.
There’s approximately 4kms of this route off road so that’s a really nice aspect of in town walking that many aren’t aware is possible. Leave Askea, head over on to the Tullow Road, turn right after the filling station and follow the road around until you meet the River Burrin at The Laurels Housing Estate. When we were kids we followed the ‘cart track’ out to here to get to the Burrin for a swim and adventure. The cart track is long gone but Carlow County Council added a linear park along the River Burrin from Hanover Bridge all the way out as far as the Laurels.
It’s very under utilised and should be better promoted as a walking route.
Just beside the path is an ancient Fairy Fort; fairy forts, fairy trees, were and are a common feature of the Irish country side and God help any farmer or worker who interfered with a fort or a tree – they were faced with a wretched life thereafter! Every community in the country had these locations where ‘ the Fairies’, ‘Leprechauns’, ‘the Little People’, ‘the Good people’ or the ‘Síoga’ lived. There was often white thorn tree present. I had a visitor, a young lady from Canada, arrive at my doorstep a couple of years ago who was obsessed with fairies and she was mad to see fairy forts and all the old places. She was enthralled. We shouldn’t forget or dismiss our history and culture!
The River Burrin was Tramore for many Town families and we have fond memories of trekking up the railway line to the New Burrin and picnicking on top of the hill just above the weir. This is now easier access from close to Éire Óg Club.
Continuing over the road at Éire Óg, the pathway turns to a rough path heading towards the railway line and a very low bridge which you will have to ‘duck’ under to pass. It can be muddy under the bridge but immediately you reappear on the tree lined linear path along the River Burrin. The River is a haven of wildlife with lots of swans, water hens, trout and even salmon which can be spotted at the Hanover Bridge as they may their way up river to their spawning grounds every winter. The path ends at the Gala shop beside the bridge near Woodies. Cross over the road and another path continues into the bus park, keeping you off road and passing the nicely refurbished weir. Aldi is on the opposite side of the River, continue across there Kilkenny Road and into Hanover Park (due a facelift soon) and out onto Kennedy Avenue with the River on your left.
Continue heading along Kennedy Street and onto Castle Hill, turn left down into Mill Lane and take in the views of Carlow Castle, built in the 13th Century by William Marshall.
An incredible fact is that Carlow was the Capital of Ireland for 14 years between 1361 and 1374 when the Exchequer was moved here from Dublin only to return there following repeated attacks on the Town, which was on the edge of The Pale – the area of the country under English rule.
The Castle is unfortunately now in ruins thanks to Dr Middleton who accidentally blew it up in 1814 to build a lunatic asylum. I think he would have been a suitable candidate as the first patient…
After the castle take a left and a short zig zag brings you down to the Barrow beneath ‘Wellington Bridge’. Cross over into Graiguecullen and follow the Killeshin Road out of Town and take a right onto Church Road, rather than follow the boring ring road around Town. Cut back in to the heart of Graiguecullen, up St Clare’s Road and Pears Road, passing the Croppy Graves. How often do we pass by without giving a thought to what it represents… 640 United Irishmen were massacred on Tullow Street and Potato Market by the Yeomen in 1798. Can you imagine the carnage and the scenes in Carlow on that day…..
Head over and cross through the stunning Carlow Town park, take the pedestrian bridge over The River Barrow. We turned our backs on the River for decades but the Council deserve read credit for the beautiful development of the Riverside here.
Head up Cox’s Lane, and over onto Brown Street, a very old part of Carlow Town. At the end of Brown Street, cross into St Patricks College and follow the road around to the rear and complete a lap of the playing field. An oasis in the middle of the Town.
Founded in 1782 St Pats is the 2nd oldest university level institution in Ireland and was for many years a seminary for the Diocese.
With my interest in pilgrimage routes, I’ve been particularly interested in the life of the pilgrim priest Fr Joseph Braughal of Graiguenamanagh who attended the College. He vowed after a serious illness in 1822 to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. When he recovered he left Ireland flush with £5 in his pocket, making his way to Paris and then Rome. Illness was to be a constant companion of his for the rest of his life yet he made his way from Rome, via Cyprus to Beirut and then Jerusalem. He returned to Rome via Cairo, where he suffered from fever and dsyentery. 40,000 people died of plague in the city in that year. Sounds familiar now… He eventually arrived back in Carlow in 1838 but returned to Italy to live the life of a hermit and seems to have settled in Monte Cassino. He again pilgrimed to Jeruslem and returned to Monte Cassino where he died in 1850 and was laid to rest near the tomb of St Benedict.
Anyway back to finishing the route, head back out onto College Street, take a left onto Tullow Street and return via Staplestown Road to Askea. Almost 11kms, a rewarding walk with great natural views and some local history to add a bit more interest to your exercise regime! Enjoy!