Walking a Grassy Path

“Like walking in a Constable painting,” or so a visitor described the Barrow Way, a 113 kilometre trail linking Robertstown, County Kildare and St. Mullins, County Carlow, following the original 18th century towpath alongside Ireland’s second longest river.

I’d love to let you believe we waltzed through the entire hundred or more kilometres, but being not so much lazy as time pressured, we went straight for the end point, St Mullins, and spent a few Friday hours walking up to Graiguenamanagh: this part of the route because it was described as the most scenic (though from photos online, it all looks tranquilly pretty) and it gave us the opportunity to meet up with friends in Graig.

The monastic village of St Mullins (where Saint Moling built a monastic site in the 7th century) is the end of the towpath — and thus the end of the Barrow Way — as the river becomes tidal there. Joined by its two sisters, the Nore and the Suir, it flows down to Waterford and into the Celtic Sea. With a Norman motte — a huge mound that once had a wooden tower to protect the bailey at its base — the remains of a 9th century high cross, a medieval church ruin, the base of a round tower and graves of many of the 1798 United Irishmen, this small area holds pieces from enough eras for everyone to claim their own.

My people, however, were more interested in the welcoming cafe, the art on the shed, and the dog who was full supporter of the daily crossword.

The early part of the trail is part of Bahana Forest Trail. It’s a hard-packed surface but the trails part ways not far up the river and the path becomes the grassy track that it is for most of its length. There are side channels with locks all along the river to make navigation possible for smaller boats, each lock with a lovely house.

If walking through a 19th century landscape doesn’t bring a bit of solace to your soul, I don’t know what will.

The grassy paths were easy on the feet and so inviting to the eyes.

Soothing views on all sides, Freney’s Chair, named for a highwayman who would come down from Mt Brandon and use the chair as a reference point, gives the best excuse to stop and look.

The lawn in front of the Carriglead Lock House seemed perfect for a garden party. We had a bit of a pause — nowhere near party-length — and continued on our way.

We were just around the bend from Graig when dark clouds made us seek shelter under a few handy trees. Our rain gear got a good testing (not all of it passing, unfortunately) and the picnic we decided to just eat right there was a bit soggy in spots. Soon enough the sun came out again and we trailed wet jackets all the way into the town.

Crossing this bridge takes you from Kilkenny to Carlow: Graignamanagh is officially just the Kilkenny side, with Tinnahinch on the other.

The Irish name for Graignamanagh means Grange of the Monks, and the medieval Duiske Abbey is worth popping in for a look. A back staircase leads to this 13th century door.

I loved how a side chapel featured these obviously newer kaleidoscope windows.

Widow’s Cottages from around 1860 were built by the Clifden family for indigent widows, complete with potato patches to the rear. By the way, one is on Air bnb so you can nose around photos of the interior with it’s beautiful windows and very thick stone wall.

And a last glimpse before we leave Graignamanagh for St Mullins, and home.


Ireland is criss-crossed with walking trails traipsing through hills, fields, along rivers, canals and the seashore. Villages, places resonating with history, natural beauty are all there to be experienced at a walking pace. Sometimes it just takes a few Friday hours and a picnic lunch — sogginess optional — to bring a bit of tranquility.

For more information on the Barrow Way, see Barrow Valley Guide or the Irish Trails website.

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