Here we go again on the next instalment of #TrailsOfIreland! You guys know the drill! You told us where to go, who to see, where to eat, where to stay everything and this time I was more than ready for the adventure! Getting on the JJ Kavanagh & Sons bus from (Ulster Bank) in Dublin I have a song playing in my head, it’s Willie Nelson’s ‘On the Road Again’ and it’s very apt! This time around we’re off to a place I really knew nothing about beforehand. Carlow town here we come!
Only an hour and a half from Dublin city, drive was short and sweet and arriving in the town, we started the day off in Carlow County museum, where we met John McDarby who would proceed to show us all around the museum and in turn about the rich history of Carlow; most interestingly is the story of Lucinda Sly, the last woman to be hanged in Carlow (definitely look up her story… it’s fascinating!).
John was the perfect host and we were lucky enough to be brought into some hidden corners, back areas and restricted parts of what used to be an old convent! John brought us out of the museum and into the streets for the end of the tour where we were taken to the infamous jailhouse that’s been converted into a shopping centre in the last couple of decades or so.
It was truly chilling and they say the centre is haunted you know… Carlow County Museum is a lovely place and it is absolutely beautiful and turned out to be the perfect way to start a trip in this lovely city; John walked us on to Dublin Street for the next leg of our trip. An absolute gentleman!
On Dublin Street is a fantastic little café and the perfect place for a Saturday lunch! We popped into BeaNice café to meet two absolute legends of Carlow, David (who is originally from Virginia but adopted by Carlow!) and Ken, a local born and bred.
The guys gave me a little lesson in the musical and art scene in Carlow and I have to say it is absolutely THRIVING! For a relatively small place, Carlow is bustling with talented folks. The guys are in no less than three bands and are constantly playing or enabling others to do so; from what I’ve heard, they are absolutely fantastic! I’m looking forward to seeing them in the future with just some of their projects, The Revelators, The Piano’s been Drinking and The David Ayers Quartet! The guys were fantastic fun and were so friendly but what really impressed me was their passion!
After the guys left, I had a chance to take in my surroundings. BeaNice café is a treat to the mouth and the senses; owned and managed by Beatrice, the quaint café is a mecca for coffee and ice cream lovers! Besides that, the menu of healthy foods and salads surprised a meat eater like me; there I was not only eating, but thoroughly enjoying a chicken, ham and brie open sandwich atop a delicious salad base (someone call a doctor, I might have lost it!). The BeaNice is elegant in its simplicity, it’s not overcrowded with Knick knacks or unnecessary things; there are tables of course, with beautiful knitted blankets draped over the backs of the chairs. There are lovely quotes and pictures on the walls, some saying lovely things, some proudly stating the meal of the day. It was our absolute pleasure to lunch here before the next step of the journey.
We’re so lucky to have had the sun shine down the entire weekend and on the next part of the Carlow trail, we would really come to appreciate it! We met with poet, artist and Trinity college lecturer’ Paul Horan who took us on a journey through time and space on a walk around some of the town’s landmarks. We walked for miles that didn’t seem so far as we learned about colourful characters from the town’s past; got to know about many of the pieces of street art that were sort of almost inspired by Paul’s now (in)-famous scrape with the law and waved at friendly faces eager to say hi to Paul; who seemed to know everyone in the town!
The highlight of the walk was sitting on the shores of the River Barrow, watching Paul feeding the swans; it was all going well until a group of very inebriated guys decided it would be a great time to dive… or more accurately, fall into the river, fully clothed for a swim. Yes, the weather was that lovely! If you want to know about the history of Carlow in a fun and engaging way, there’s no better or more dapper man than Paul!
Paul walked us down to our next destination (we got around a bit) Visual Carlow where we came to a special screening of ECHT by Bedwyr Williams. Walking up the grounds of Carlow College on the way into the fabulous Visual is something else altogether. The pristine grounds were simply stunning and the sun pouring down definitely added a touch of grandeur to the experience. ECHT is a short movie that is part social commentary and part hypothetical. It’s a visualisation of a post-apocalyptic world and definitely not for the faint hearted! You walk into a room where a massive coach lays idle; to the rear, all the luggage strewn around the floor. Projected onto the wall from the back of the coach, a man narrates a tale of collapse and decay. We ended up watching it twice (no exaggeration!) Visual Carlow is actually the largest contemporary space in the country and we took our time in perusing the various pieces littered around the foyer… If like me, contemporary art is your thing and you don’t mind having your views challenged, Visual is a must visit.
With an hour to spare until dinner, we decided to take a break and get the weight off our feet. After a short walk we found Tully’s; a bar with a suntrap out front where we sat down with a couple of drinks and watched the evening approach steadily. Reminiscing over the day so far what stood out to us was the creative energy that is bubbling under the surface; every now and again it breaks through and Carlow is all the better for it. It’s full of characters, that’s for sure and everyone was as welcoming as we’ve seen on our trip so far.
It seems like everywhere in Carlow is literally round the corner from everywhere else and it was only a three minute walk to Cantina, a lovely little wine bar on Dublin street. We had actually met Richie, the owner a couple of hours ago in BeaNice and it was no surprise to see Beatrice having her dinner with a few friends at one of the tables, “eat local, shop local” is what she said and I wholeheartedly agree! We were greeted by Maurice who was not only the sharpest of waiters (I use waiter very tentatively because he was so much more!) he was the nicest and most sincere man I think I may have ever met!
We had a lovely dinner of a few different tasting plates, a couple of glasses of wine, then a bottle… because why not right? Well, we somehow managed to find ourselves having drinks with Richie, Sarah, Nicoletta and Sarah out the back of the bar! We got to know the guys and they all have amazing stories from all over the world. Funny enough, Cantina is only a few weeks’ young yet they are always so busy; that says a lot about the people running it and Cantina is run by genuine folk. If you like food, people, wine and a friendly atmosphere, you can’t do better than Cantina. That’s a fact.
Much later and much less sober than we anticipated, we made our way back to the hotel to check in and get ready for Sunday. So much to do in so little time, but isn’t that the way of it all…
Keep an eye on the blog for day two in Carlow on #TrailsOfIreland!
You can experience all of what Carlow has to offer from only €16 return?