Small in terms of geographical area maybe, but Carlow in Ireland is huge in all other aspects—be it the town’s rich history, cultural vibrance, distinct monuments up for display, the unique experiences you can partake in, or interesting places that are increasingly attracting tourists. There is an old-world charm about this Irish town that can best be explored and experienced on foot, so remember to pack your comfiest pair of shoes and ready yourself for some walking amidst stunning bucolic scenery. We’ve put together this list of things to do in Carlow, Ireland, that will make yours an unforgettable Irish getaway!
1. Explore the town's history at Carlow County Museum
Trail off the town’s main street onto College Street, and you’ll find Carlow County Museum, home to several fascinating artefacts and pieces that take you through Carlow County’s history. In its four galleries, the museum displays varied collections that document local folk legends, historical findings, the county’s social history, as well as important archeological findings. Among the most notable items there is the 19th-century hand-carved pulpit from Carlow Cathedral that is made entirely of oak and is about 6 meters (20 feet) tall. It is a primarily self-guided museum, but you can go in for group tours if you’re more than 10 people.
Carlow County Museum
Address: Carlow Tourist Office, College St, Carlow, Ireland
Website: Carlow County Museum
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 10am - 4:30pm (closed on Sun)
2. Learn about military history at County Carlow Military Museum
Make a trip to County Carlow Military Museum, and you’ll be able to discover the machinations of military artillery and objects. Vintage uniforms and the Irish army’s weapons are displayed for visitors to admire. Not just that, you can also marvel at the exhibits from World War I, the Irish War of Independence, and several other wars and missions. To further popularity and interest, tourists are allowed to try on uniforms of the Irish Defence Force! If not by yourself, you can hitch a group tour of the museum and explore the many showcases and the history behind them.
County Carlow Military Museum
Address: 15 Athy Rd, The Elms, Strawhall, Carlow, R93 FX43, Ireland
Website: County Carlow Military Museum
Opening hours: Sun: 10am - 5pm (closed all other days)
Price: 1.5 - 3 USD
3. Marvel at contemporary art at VISUAL Carlow
Serving as one of Ireland’s leading galleries of contemporary art, VISUAL is home to four halls, each of which displays some of the most exquisite pieces of art you’d have seen. The Main Gallery is the primary display section, while The Studio Gallery and The Lobby Gallery are for special smaller exhibitions or serve as reading rooms. The Digital Gallery, as the name suggests, is where art is explained via the use of audio-visual media. Check out VISUAL’s website for the latest lineup of exhibitions and showcases, and plan your visit accordingly.
Address: Old Dublin Rd, Graigue, Carlow, R93 A3K1, Ireland
Website: VISUAL Carlow
Opening hours: Tue - Fri: 11am - 5:30pm; Sat: 12pm - 5:30pm; Sun: 2pm - 5pm (closed on Mon)
4. Appreciate Carlow Cathedral's beauty
Easily among Carlow’s best places to visit is Carlow Cathedral, which has been styled in Gothic Revivalist design and is every bit a spiritualist’s haven as it is an architecture buff’s thing of interest. The cathedral’s bluish-grey exterior is accentuated by a 46-meter-high (150 feet) entrance and is topped with a stone-built spire, all of which perfectly complement its understated yet beautiful interior, furnished with Sicilian marble. The whole experience will fill you with sheer awe, so don’t forget to visit!
Address: College St, Graigue, Carlow, Ireland
Website: Carlow Cathedral
5. Marvel at Brownshill Dolmen's engineering
Travel out about 3 km (1.8 miles) east of Carlow, and you’ll find Brownshill Dolmen, a megalithic tomb that is considered to be around 6,000 years old! It has been given the status of a National Monument, and researchers to date have not been able to ascertain its exact purpose, but they reckon that it probably served as a Neolithic burial tomb of sorts. This formation of rocks has a capstone estimated to weigh about a whopping 103 tonnes (113.5 tons), making it among the heaviest found across the European continent. It is an easy drive from Carlow’s main centre, so do make sure you go and check it out.
Address: Hackettstown, Hacketstown Rd, Carlow, Ireland
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
6. Admire the majestic Carlow Castle
History buffs must absolutely not miss a trip to Carlow Castle. Built sometime in the early 13th century, the limestone-clad castle stands tall along the banks of River Barrow. It has changed ownership as well as purpose several times but has remained constant in one thing—being a proud relic of the town’s colourful yet strange history. Although much of the castle has suffered destruction, its remaining two towers and the west wall are enough to give a picture of its overall magnificence in the past.
Address: Graigue, Carlow, Ireland
Website: Carlow Castle
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
7. Catch scintillating views from Borris House
A popular wedding and events venue, Borris House also makes for a pretty amazing visit. It is a former royal estate and hides amidst expansive gardens and lush woodlands, which together make for a completely picturesque setting. Although the house has suffered some damage over the years, it has been carefully restored to retain its charm and popularity. You can go in for a guided tour to understand its history and know details about its architecture. Else, spend some time in the sprawling parklands, rife with rich flora. Plus breathtaking views of Mount Leinster, Blackstairs Mountains, and Barrow Valley add up to the house’s allure.
Address: Borris, Carlow, Ireland
Website: Borris House
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
Price: 6 - 11 USD
8. Check out the beautiful Liberty Tree sculpture
Built to commemorate the bicentenary of the Rebellion of 1798, the Liberty Tree sculpture has been erected to honour and serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made during the struggle. Set as the centrepiece of a circular base fountain, the bronze sculpture shows a macabre scene of skeletons clambered at the base of what looks like a semi-weathered tree. It stands proudly in Carlow’s town centre and is a popular tourist spot.
Address: Potato Market, Graigue, Carlow, Ireland
Website: Liberty Tree
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
9. Soothe your senses at Delta Sensory Gardens
Escape into a world of tranquility and utter serenity at Delta Sensory Gardens, located along Carlow’s northern suburbs. The 16 interconnected gardens feature a wealth of colourful flora, hiding amidst them waterfalls, fountains, art installations, manicured gardens, and several other beautiful facets. Whether you visit in spring or fall, the experience will be just as rewarding—multi-hued daffodils and tulips dot the gardens in spring, while rust-orange colours of grass during autumn months are every bit a sight to behold. There’s also a store where you can purchase some plants and a cafe to pander to your hunger pangs. Delta Sensory Gardens is the perfect spot for spending time in the company of nature, which will please all the senses.
Delta Sensory Gardens
Address: Strawhall Industrial Estate, Strawhall, Carlow, Ireland
Website: Delta Sensory Gardens
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 9am - 5:30pm; Sat - Sun: 11am - 5:30pm
Price: 5 - 6 USD
10. Hitch a tour of Royal Oak Distillery
Irishmen love their whiskeys, yes. And you can find out all about their favourite drink by touring through Royal Oak Distillery. It is located in an 18th-century estate and is among the largest working distilleries in the country. Book yourself on one of their three tasting tours and get a great insight into what goes behind manufacturing premium, hand-crafted Irish whiskeys. The distillery is perhaps the only one that manufactures malt, grain, as well as pot still whiskey styles under one roof, which you can also taste. The tour is about one hour long, and it is recommended that you make prior reservations. This experience will be fun for novices and connoisseurs alike, so book away!
Royal Oak Distillery
Address: Royal Oak, Clorusk Lower, Carlow, Ireland
Website: Royal Oak Distillery
Opening hours: 9am - 5pm (daily)
Price: 17 - 44 USD
11. Spend time enjoying at Dome Entertainment Centre Carlow
How about some guiltless gaming and chilling? Head to Dome Entertainment Centre Carlow. Offering multiple bowling alleys, a kids’ play area, laser tag facility, pool tables, and arcade games, the place is famous among serial chillers and those with little kids. It is also a popular kids’ party venue, so you’re likely to find birthday celebrations happening when you visit. The Congo Quest area, which is a 3-D jungle-like swing set, is famous with little ones. Plus crawl tubes and slides, ball pools, soft play areas, and a soccer court make for a great place for them to let off some steam. There’s a cafe that serves great snacks and non-alcoholic beverages too.
Dome Entertainment Centre Carlow
Address: Sleaty Rd, Graiguecullen, Carlow, Co. Laois, Ireland
Website: Dome Entertainment Centre Carlow
Opening hours: 10am - 9pm (daily)
Price: Varies per game
12. Do some shopping at Carlow Shopping Centre
There’s always time for shopping, right? At Carlow Shopping Centre, you’ll find everything from regional delights to fashionable imports. It is housed within a quaint-looking refurbished stone building and has shops, cafes, and even movie halls that you can hit up. Get them monies ready, folks! It’s therapy time!
Carlow Shopping Centre
Address: Unit 18 -19, Kennedy Ave, Carlow, Ireland
Website: Carlow Shopping Centre
Opening hours: 9am - 6pm (daily)
Quaint Irish town
Carlow is not all that touristy (at least till now), but this is rapidly changing. Crossed by waterways, the town’s scenic appeal adds to its lushly wooded countryside that you can easily explore. It makes for a perfect destination to unwind and revitalize the soul, away from the hustle and bustle of big cities. These things to do in Carlow, Ireland, will do just that for you! So get cracking on that planning already!
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