River Barrow – Tales on the Riverbank

CANI Recreational Away Trip – Monday 12th – Thursday 15th August 2013

This four day leisurely paddle ticked all the right boxes for anyone who wanted to experience, stunning scenery, relaxed paddling and great company. Eleven Canadian canoes and two sea kayaks made the sixty four kilometer journey from Athey, South of Nass down to St.Mullins, North of New Ross. We passed through Levistown, Carlow, Mortarstown Lower, Leighlinbridge, Bagenalstown, Goresbridge, Graiguenamanagh and finally to St.Mullins.

The River Barrow forms a major part of Ireland’s inland waterways network, providing an inland link between the port of Waterford and the Grand Canal, which in turn connects Dublin to the River Shannon.

This beautiful river has stunning meandering views and the majority of the journey is seen with a variety of mature trees either side of the bank. The road outside Athy follows the river, but the river quickly winds away from civilization, with evidence of numerous abandoned mills rising out from dense impenetrable vegetation, silent witnesses to past industrialization.

Many weirs were passed and locks negotiated, the informality of emptying these from the sluices and opening gates needed a team effort, but it was enjoyable and effortless to do. A good place to rest for lunchtime and to reflect on the journey, as the canoes and kayaks thereafter descended down into the shaded depths of the stone sided lock.

The tow path follows the river with abandoned gate lodges by its side. Some habitable, with well kept cottage gardens reminding you of this bygone era. Numerous old stone bridges with seven arches or more, straddled the river, testament to them still being used to this day.

Camping out on an island, was a delight, with experienced campers passing on cooking hints and tips to novices. Recipes were noted and swapped and cooking stoves compared. Maureen’s, Rita’s and Deborah’s pancakes were delicious, made on an impressive portable camp stove griddle.

Wildlife included a young otter swimming close to Wilson’s canoe, with numerous deep pools where Atlantic salmon must lie, large humming dragonflies seen overhead and many a kingfisher observed darting alongside the river bank.

This waterway has not been fully exploited from a commercial aspect, which from a canoeist’s perspective is ideal. Its charm and tranquillity can be seen in the weeded areas either side of some canal, a great raft of yellow water lilies follows the same route. The waterways authority were repairing weakness in some banks and evidence of weed cutting was seen too. Nature does have the upper hand here, but because of this it is a gem of a place to paddle and unwind, far from the maddening crowd.

Thanks to Rodger and Ashley for a well planned and enjoyable trip!

Paul Larmour
Intercity Paddlers

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