Read on for our top ten things to do on your next trip to The Dolmen County.
Jump back in time to 1625 with a trip to Huntington Castle and Gardens on the outskirts of Clonegal village. Venture into the historic garrison and be captivated by its Lime Tree Avenue and Yew Tree Walk. Tour the castle’s impressive art galleries, see the notable architecture in all its glory, and take a trip to the basement for a rather curious visit to the Egyptian Temple of Isis, created as a place to worship the goddess Isis.
Outside, explore the serene grounds, ornamental ponds and one of the earliest water turbine houses in Ireland. You may be lucky enough to come across their resident peacocks, along the way.
Explore the vast gardens and ruins of Duckett’s Grove, the former 19th-century great house on a 12,000-acre estate. Take a free guided tour and learn all about the rich history of the family, the gothic mansion, its expansion, and the hardworking people who worked there.
Nature unfolds from every corner and visitors amble through charming spaces like the upper walled garden laden with historical varieties of shrub roses and peonies, while the lower walled garden is home to the rejuvenated orchard of figs and traditional Irish apples.
Be wowed by the colourful blaze of flowers in bloom in Altamont Gardens. Often talked about as the jewel in Ireland’s gardening crown, Altamont’s immaculate green meadows, breathtaking rhododendrons and magnificent rose gardens are something to behold.
Visit in February to find these gardens at their best – see the white wonder for yourself during the Snowdrop Gala, where the 200 varieties of the delicate flower planted on-site are fully in bloom.
Get down with nature on the Blackstairs Eco Trails and learn about the secret life of the mountain range and the birds, mammals, flora and fungi that complete the ecosystem. Guides will showcase the best of what rural Carlow has to offer, through lowlands, boglands, lovely lanes and gushing streams, as you make your way from the foothills along the River Barrow. See dolmens, standing stones and cairns from our ancient past, as well as lichens, mosses and ferns that form this fascinating landscape.
Take a well-deserved break on the tranquil Rathwood Forest Walk trails, which cover more than 4km of routeways. Enjoy a leisurely stroll by the pond and around the Molloy loop walk, named after the local historian and farmer Joe Molloy, who helped plant the forest more than 50 years ago. Get lost in the variety of trees, from beech and oak to Sitka spruce and Douglas fir, and expect to spot a few friendly creatures along the way - deer, rabbits, foxes, pheasants and even mink have been known to join walkers on their trails.
Heaven for chocolate lovers and ice-cream fiends, The Chocolate Garden of Ireland is a wonderland, serving up hot chocolate, snacks and mouthwatering ice cream. Not just for kids, everyone can get hands-on with a pre-booked workshop to create your own chocolate masterpieces. Of course, regular tastings are as necessary as they are nice – you certainly won’t go away hungry.
Recharge your batteries with a tranquil, calming experience at the Delta Sensory Gardens. A feast for the senses in the Strawhall Estate, it’s built in a series of interconnected gardens, mixing formal and informal landscapes with multi-sensory experiences.
The gardens change with the seasons from thousands of daffodils in spring to double flowering gorse in the summer and onto the rustic colours that appear during autumn and winter. This oasis features splashing fountains, cascading waterfalls and a ‘kugel’ of pink marble that floats on a cushion of water to create that sense of peace.
If you’re looking for some adventure, Go with the Flow River Adventures in Borris will get you out on the water. With a fleet of Canadian canoes, kayaks and river surfers for hire, follow their incredible water trails, take off on an eco-safari or for the adrenaline-hungry among you, try a white-water adventure. Embrace the beauty of Ireland’s waterways from the place with the best view – on the waters of the River Barrow or the River Nore themselves.
For whiskey-lovers, the Royal Oak Distillery is a real Carlow hidden gem. The craft distillery produces three styles of Irish whiskey and is the only one in Ireland where all three forms (pot still, malt and grain) are distilled in the same room. This fascinating distillery is manually controlled and guided under the expertise of 12 local distillers. Immerse yourself in the full process as you learn about – and crucially, taste – whiskey at its various stages of development in this working distillery.
Explore the secluded grounds of Kilgraney House and its string of herbal gardens including an enclosed kitchen garden which supplies the attached guesthouse with organic fruit, vegetables and herbs all year round. It’s a smell sensation as you’re surrounded by the aromatic herbs, which are particularly strong along their tea walk. Open at weekends from May to September by prior appointment, this exclusive tour includes a circular cosmic garden that will bring you closer to the ancient belief there’s a connection between people, plants, and space.
A relaxing trip full of fresh air, stunning scenery and ancient connections awaits in County Carlow – you certainly won’t run out of things to do. So when are you booking?