The River Barrow is considered one of Ireland's most scenic and picturesque waterways. A voyage down the Barrow is always a pleasurable experience and a must for any inland boat owner.


The River Barrow is a major element of Ireland’s inland waterway network. It links between the port of Waterford and the Grand Canal, which itself reaches west to the Shannon and east to Dublin.


There are three sections to the navigation:

- The tidal River Barrow from Waterford Harbour to St. Mullins, Co. Carlow.

- The non-tidal and navigable waterway from St. Mullins to Athy, Co. Kildare, a stretch of 68 kilometres and featuring 23 locks.

- After Athy, the Barrow Line of the Grand Canal continues northwards for 45 kilometres with 9 locks. This reaches the mainline of the Grand Canal at Lowtown, Co. Kildare.


The locks have all been carefully restored and some of the associated stone work is over 200 years old. Further work has been carried out to clear channels, improve  bridges, and the construction of landing stages below the locks are a welcome addition.


The river was not always accessible. In 1703 the Irish House of Commons put forward a motion to make the River Barrow navigable. Following extensive delays, work finally began in 1761, and by 1800 several lateral canals had been developed.


However, lack of consistent depth in the river caused problems, especially in summer, and commercial traffic was particularly affected by frequent setbacks. In 1935 the Upper Barrow drainage scheme resulted in the lateral canals being affected by silting and finally commercial trade ended in 1959.


Today the river is given entirely over to recreational use. For more information about navigating the Barrow today, see the Cruising page.




Map of Barrow Navigation from Athy, Kildare to St. Mullins, Carlow

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