Situated in the south-east of Ireland, and linked to Dublin 84km (52 miles) away by motorway, Carlow is the main town of the County Carlow. The town is built around the picturesque River Barrow, a fine fishing river. With a population of 23,000, Carlow has a friendly atmosphere, with plenty of things to do and see for visitors.
The town has lots of traditional Irish pubs, as well as more modern eateries, including trendy cafes.
Local historic sites include Carlow Castle, a ruin dating from the 13th century, while the ruins of St. Mullins Monastery, where a heritage centre is now found, are a further 6oo years older! Just outside the town, the Browne's Hill Dolmen is a must-see. A truly ancient relic, this dolmen looks as if a section of Stonehenge was ripped up and plonked in Carlow.
Also of interest is Croppies Grave, a unique carved monument to mark the spot where 600 Irish freedom fighters were killed by British forces during the 1798 Battle of Carlow.
Visitors should also check out Carlow County Museum, which holds lots of over 5,000 antiquities -- including Neolithic and Bronze Age artefacts, medieval coins and many other objects -- in an atmospheric former convent. Carlow Cathedral, which dates to the early 19th century, is worth a visit if you like nice old churches.
For families with kids, Carlow Town Park on the banks of the beautiful River Barrow -- which dominates the town's everyday life -- has a modern playground with padded surfaces. The park also has various interesting sculptures.
Saint Patrick's Day in Carlow - Historic Irish town with a good community spirit
Evidence of a settlement in Carlow dates back thousands of years, as the Browne's Hill Dolmen shows.
A monastery was built in the town in 634AD by St Comhgall, which became known as St. Mary's Abbey, and the town grew up around this settlement. The exact location of the original abbey is disputed, but historians agree it was probably close to the site of the present-day St. Mary's Church.
Carlow was an important stronghold in medieval times. In fact, for a thirteen year period during the 14th century, Carlow served as the capital of Ireland -- or at least, the sections of Ireland (referred to historically as the "Lordship of Ireland") that were loyal to the British "Lord" (centuries later, Henry VII would declare himself the first British King of Ireland).
The Barrow River in Carlow Town. Image by Martin McAlinden