It has been called Ireland's best kept secret and is a veritable treasure trove of varied scenery, ancient buildings, canal boating, river and hill walks, restaurants, crafts, traditional pubs and much more.
Graig na Manach, meaning "Village of the Monks" is considered to be one of the most beautiful areas in the southeast of Ireland. It is located on the River Barrow at the foot of Brandon Hill. It is home to Duiske Abbey, the largest and perhaps the finest of the thirty-four medieval Cistercian abbeys in Ireland. With its remarkable combination of mountain views, lush rolling hills, forest and river valleys, Graignamanagh offers nature lovers a plentiful feast as well as countless amenities for those keen on outdoor activities. Add to these the rich heritage of historical monuments and an abundance of leisure facilities and Graignamanagh presents itself as an enormously attractive venue for tourists.
Graiguenamanagh expanded beyond the Abbey as a market town, aided by the development of the Grand Canal and the navigation of the River Barrow, which ultimately connected the town with Dublin, New Ross, Waterford and Carlow. The production of wool was historically important to the town’s economy and sheep rearing remains a predominant agricultural activity in the hinterland.
Waterways Ireland has begun the formal process of developing a 'slow tourism' and public amenity River Barrow Blueway through Laois but the project has already drawn controversy in Carlow. Waterways Ireland is applying to Laois County Council for planning permission to develop the Barrow Navigation taking in the Grand Canal - Barrow Line and River Barrow through various townlands on the border with Kildare and Carlow.
"The proposal consists of the development of a multi-use shared leisure route (Blueway) approximately 115kim in length on the existing navigation towpath, which is a National Waymarked Way," said the public notice.
The route commences in Laytown, Co Kildare passes through Laois and finishes in St Mullins, Carlow.
However, there is already opposition to the project. Broadcaster and journalist Olivia O'Leary is among the members of the Save the Barrow Line Campaign group. It has objected because of the plan to make pathways along the river accessible for cyclists. The public notice which advises the public that planning applications will be made to three local authorities says that 'tailored surface finishes' will be part of the project.
"The Save the Barrow Line Campaign group opposes Waterways Ireland’s proposal to get rid of the towpath’s quiet grassy surface and replace it with a gravel track for cyclists. The existing grass surface, which is so beautiful, accommodates cyclists, walkers, anglers and joggers alike. It ensures a pace which is consistent with the calm beauty of this riverside way and we believe it is this unique beauty which offers the best option for developing the route as a Camino type tourist destination. The committee will do all we can but we can’t do it alone. Now is the time to have your say!" said a statement.
The agency says the trail will follow through the towns of Rathangan, Monasterevin, Vicarstown, Athy, Carlow, Leighlinbridge, Bagenalstown, Goresbridge, Graiguenamanagh and St. Mullins. "Once the work is complete on the 115km route, Waterways Ireland will work with the local business and tourism providers to develop the route into a Blueway, a 'slow' tourism product, focusing on leisure activities," says it's website.
The agency has organized a series of consultation meetings.
The Graiguenamanagh Regatta and Rowing Festival features two days of rowing, swimming, diving, cot racing (traditional fishing boat), Iron Man Competition plus novelty events i.e. rope across the river, diving for plates, children’s activities and live music in the local pubs. The events are open to everybody.
Find out more here
Barrow River Arts Festival will not be taking place in 2016 due to funding cuts. The next festival will take place from 21 - 23 April 2017.
Find out more here
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