If you’ve missed out on exploring the cultural delights of the continent this year, why not discover what’s on offer right here in Ireland’s Ancient East? Carlow county is full of history often overlooked, but ever-present. From modern art museums to ancient castles telling the stories of yore, and from mysterious megalithic portal tombs to awakening sensory gardens; a stay in the heart of the Ancient East will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the region.
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Here are some places to visit during your trip:
1. For the Curious: Visual Carlow & George Bernard Shaw Theatre
VISUAL is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary art spaces situated in the heart of Carlow town, with four world-class gallery spaces and a 335-seat performance space. Check out their website for current exhibitions and shows. The Visual is also home to Lennon’s Restaurant open for lunch from 12pm, Friday to Sunday.
The Visual is open Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 5:30pm and Sunday from 2pm to 5pm. Last admission is 30 minutes before closing.For more information visit the website or call 059 91 72400.
2. For Peace and Tranquillity: Delta Sensory Gardens
Described as “An Oasis of Peace and Tranquility”, Delta sensory gardens are set on a 2.5 acre site with 16 interconnecting gardens located on the outskirts of Carlow town. The gardens have so much to offer the visitor during all the seasons of year, from the bright and beautiful daffodils and tulips in Spring to the breathtaking colours of the autumnal foliage. A famous feature of at Delta is the Kugal sculpture – one tonne of pink marble floating on a cushion of water.
Delta Centre also runs a busy garden centre with a wide range of planted containers, pots, seasonal bedding, shrubs, plants and gardening accessories. There is a restaurant and cafe on site, serving from breakfast to lunch and right through to afternoon tea.
Visit the website or call 059 91 43527 for more information.
3. For the Ancient East: Browneshill Dolmen
Close to our hearts is the Brownshill Dolmen near Carlow Town. Brownshill Dolmen near Carlow Town.
The magnificent capstone has excited the interest of many antiquarians and tourists through the years and it is thought that religious rites, possibly even human sacrifice, were performed there for four and a half thousand years (2500 BC). Its capstone weighs over 100 tonnes (the largest in Europe) and rests on two portal stones flanking a door stone and slopes downwards to the west where it rests on a low boulder.
4. For a Garden Stroll: Altamont Gardens
Altamont Gardens are an enchanting blend of formal and informal gardens with riverside walks covering over 40 acres (16 hectares). Lawns bisected by sculpted yews, slope down to a lake surrounded by rare trees and rhododendrons and lead in turn to a very different garden featuring exotic shrubs and trees. Take a fascinating walk through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen with its canopy of ancient oaks and huge stone outcrops.
Altamont Gardens can be found at Eircode R93 N882.
5. For the History Buff: Huntington Castle
Originally constructed in 1625 by Sir Laurence Esmonde, Huntington Castle is a must-see for history-buffs and garden-lovers alike. The castle boasts some impressive features, including Georgian terraces and castellated Victorian extensions. Enjoy a 45-minute tour during your visit and experience the Victorian kitchen, Jacobean hall, 17th century pond and even a spooky temple in the basement of the castle. Afterwards, visit the surrounding 500 year-old gardens to explore.
Castle, Gardens and Tearooms are open daily from 11am to 5pm. Castle Tours are at 2pm, 3pm, 4pm and 5pm daily. Eircode: Y21 K237.
Author Bio: Katie McGarr is a resident writer for Woodford Dolmen Hotel Carlow, a charming hotel in Carlow set in the beautiful banks of River Barrow, renowned for their wedding-perfect location. When she’s not taking vibrant street photos, you can find her writing articles about travel, food, and lifestyle.