Part of the Ancient East, Carlow mixes natural beauty with rich history. Its buildings reach far further back than its monasteries, medieval castles, and county houses. The prehistoric dolmen at Browne’s Hill is the largest in Europe!
Carlow is the second-smallest county in Ireland, so it’s possible to see a lot of the beautiful landscapes centred around the River Barrow. Hikers can choose between the Barrow Way walking trail along the river or something a little more difficult in the Blackstairs Mountains and Killeshin Hills.
In this post, we’ll take a look at three of the most fascinating castles in Carlow.
3 Castles to Visit in Carlow
1. Carlow Castle
Standing on the banks of the River Barrow, Carlow Castle is a reminder of medieval times in the county’s main town. The military fortress was built between 1207 and 1213 in a similar design to Ferns Castle in County Wexford.
Due to its position at the confluence of two rivers, the castle was repeatedly attacked from the late 15th century to midway through the 17th. It withstood these attacks; what left it in the state that you can see today was an attempted remodelling by a local physician in 1814.
He used explosives in an attempt to demolish the area, but took much of the castle with it, leaving only two towers and the west wall.
When: 13th century
Open for Visit: Yes. The castle grounds are open 24 hours.
2. Huntington Castle
Built in 1625, Huntington Castle is set in over 160 acres of gardens, woodland, and farmland. The gardens were laid out in the 17th century and include an avenue of French lime trees, fishponds, and an ornamental lake.
It is said that the castle is plagued by ghosts of Druids, who create mists and start fires at will. Guests can enjoy an adventure playground, tearoom, gift shop, and walks through the rose garden and surrounding woodlands.
If all that is not enough, the castle is a bed and breakfast where guests can stay overnight – if the Druids haven’t scared you off, that is.
Where: Huntington, Clonegall
When: 17th century
Open for Visit: Yes. 11:00 – 17:00 from May to September with tours every hour from 14:00. You can stay overnight in the castle year-round as it’s also a bed and breakfast.
3. Leighlinbridge Castle
Also known as Black Castle, Leighlinbridge was one of the first Norman castles in Ireland. It got its other name as the Kings of England were forced to pay “Black Rent” if they were to be given peaceful passage on the main road through Leinster.
The original castle was built to defend the Barrow river crossing back in 1180. However, all that stands of the castle now is the tower and part of the bawn, both of which were added in the 14th century.
When: 14th century (rebuilt in the 16th)
Open for Visit: Yes, although little is left of the castle.