Top 10 Attractions of Carlow Town

Carlow (irish Ceatharlach) is the county town of County Carlow, in the south-east of Ireland, 84 km from Dublin. The M9 motorway means Carlow is about an hour’s drive from Dublin.

From where comes name of Carlow? The name is an anglicisation of the Irish Ceatharlach. Historically, it was anglicised as Caherlagh, Caterlagh and Catherlagh, which are closer to the Irish spelling. According to, the first part of the name derives from the Old Irish word cethrae (“animals, cattle, herds, flocks”), which is related to ceathar (“four”) and therefore signified “four-legged”. The second part of the name is the ending -lach. Some believe that the name should be Ceatharloch (meaning “quadruple lake”), since ceathar means “four” and loch means “lake”. It is directly translated as “Four lakes”, although, there is seemingly no evidence to suggest that these lakes ever existed in this area. – Wikipedia

So Carlow was named “town of the four lakes”. Carlow is the capital of County Carlow and is located at the confluence of the Barrow and Burrin rivers. Town has a rich history dating back to the Norman times.

The River Barrow flows through the town, and forms the historic boundary between counties Laois and Carlow. The settlement of Carlow is thousands of years old and pre-dates written Irish history. The town has played a major role in Irish history, serving as the capital of the country in the 14th century.

In 1926, the first sugar beet processing plant in Ireland was established in Carlow, which thrived for almost 80 years, contributing to the economic prosperity of the entire region. The Carlow factory was closed in 2005.

Carlow is a vibrant and developing town, surrounded by a picturesque countryside. It’s not a touristy town, but has some hidden gems. These include the Courthouse, Cathedral of the Assumption, and a quaint Railway Station. Carlow town is fortunate to have some excellent working examples of architecture from the 1700s and the 1800s. Also Carlow has a cultural gem: VISUAL centre – the largest art gallery in Ireland.

Everyone who will have the opportunity to visit Carlow town at least once should see its most important attractions. Below are ten reasons to visit to Carlow town.

Top 10 Attractions of Carlow Town

1. Carlow Castle

One of the most valuable monuments in Carlow are the ruins of a medieval fortified castle. Carlow Castle is the oldest stone castle in Ireland and National Monument of Ireland. It is located on the banks of the River Barrow. The fortress was built in the first half of the 13th century in the place of a wooden fortified stronghold by William Marshal. Today, only two defensive towers and fragments of walls remain from this once impressive fortress.

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Carlow Castle

2. The Liberty Tree

The Liberty Tree in Carlow is ann impressive fountain off Hanover Street in the town centre. The sculpture by John Behan, honours the more than 640 rebels who were massacred 25th May in 1798 in the Battle of Carlow and who are buried in the Croppy Grave in Graiguecullen. It is a prominent and well-known landmark in the centre of Carlow town.

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The Liberty Tree

3. Carlow Cathedral of the Assumption

Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (called Cathedral of the Assumption) – this is a Roman Catholic cathedral, the main temple of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin located in Carlow. The Cathedral is built in neo-Gothic style. It is known particularly for its beautiful high tower, which makes it one of the highest points in the town. The tower is 46 meters high, and its appearance was inspired by the cloth hall in Burges, Belgium.

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Carlow Cathedral of the Assumption

4. St. Patrick’s Carlow College

Carlow College known locally as St. Patrick’s College, is Ireland’s second oldest university-level institution. It has a distinguished history as a college of teaching and research in the Humanities. The college is located in the heart of Carlow on College Street – in the park of the eighteenth century. Saint Patrick’s College was founded in 1782 by Dr. James Keefe, then by the Catholic Bishop Kildare and Leighlin and his co-adjutant Bishop Daniel Delana, opened to students in 1793.

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St. Patrick’s Carlow College

5. Carlow Courthouse

The Carlow courthouse is widely regarded as one of the best examples of ancient Greek architecture in Ireland. It was built on the example of the Llissus temple in Athens. The building gives the impression of a temple with eight Ionic columns set on a high pedestal. It was designed at the end of 1820 by the famous architect William Morrison. Until now it is a judicial facility in Dublin Road in Carlow Town.

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Carlow Courthouse

6. VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art & the George Bernard Shaw Theatre

VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art & The George Bernard Shaw Theatre is the largest exhibition space for contemporary visual art in County Carlow. It covers an area of 3130 m². His rivals in the scale of presenting contemporary interdisciplinary art are Centres in New York, Berlin and Tokyo. The centre whose construction cost EUR 18 million was opened in September 2009.

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VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art & the George Bernard Shaw Theatre

7. Carlow County Museum

Carlow County Museum is the newest County Museum in Ireland, opened in 2012. It is located in a former Presentation Monastery on College Street in the very centre of Carlow Town. The museum’s ever-growing collections already contain over 5,000 exhibits. Among the exhibits is the magnificent nineteenth-century pulpit from the Carlow Cathedral, which has been placed by the Irish Times in “History of Ireland in 100 sites”.

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Carlow County Museum

8. Carlow Town Park

Carlow is Carlow Town Park covers over twelve hectares of open space on the banks of the River Barrow. Park design addresses the history of Carlow through abstract symbolism in the shape of the motte form in the parkland area. Carlow Town Park was opened in July 2003. The most characteristic part of park is the children’s playground whose projekt design was the subject of an international competition.

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Carlow Town Park

9. Carlow Shopping Centre

Carlow Shopping Centre was established on the site of the former “The Old Carlow Gaol” (1700s.) – the Old Jail in Carlow town. The entrance, which now leads to the Carlow Shopping Centre was originally the main gate of the Old Jail. The jail was closed in 1897. And then rebuilt by Thomas Thompson. Centre was opened in April 1994 and it’s located on Kennedy Ave.

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Carlow Shopping Centre

10. Carlow Town Hall

Carlow Town Hall is located on Centaur Street on a Haymarket, which was once one of the town’s major commercial markets. It was constructed according to the plans of the architect William Hague and opened in March 1886. The building has the original old gas lamp to working order which is located over the front door. And which in 1891 was transformed for electric use. Carlow after Dublin and London was then the third city of the British Empire that had electricity.

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Carlow Town Hall

Carlow town is easily navigable by foot. All of the above attractions are located very close to each other. Also you can have here a good time in numerous pubs and cafes or shopping.

Map of Top 10 Attractions of Carlow Town


Blogger. Volunteer. Enthusiast of photography, nature, architecture, and cultural events. Since 2014 living in County Carlow in Ireland.

2 thoughts on “Top 10 Attractions of Carlow Town

  1. Malgorzata
    what a treasure trove your site on Carlow is !
    I am leading a tour of friends there in the coming weeks and the back ground information is invaluable.
    You are a superb artist with your camera.
    Two minor points you may consider :
    (1) The Croppies Grave/ Croppies Hole ( which your write so well about elsewhere ) is perhaps worth getting into a top ten listing due to its historical significance . Perhaps too you can highlight the need for some radical care – surely this site of National Importance should have its paint work and flowers properly attended too ! Are Dead Heroes forgotten unless they have famous names ?
    (2) As an artist , the beautifully decorated building opposite the Catholic Cathedral with its song and the accompanying music score painted on the house is worth capturing with your amazing photography skills !

    Thank you again for a wonderful site- better than any other I have seen -a true work of Love.

  2. I love your Blog/Website. Thank you for all of the beautiful photos, historical content and great directions. In 1973 my American family moved to Borris, it was quite the time!

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