Discover Exceptional Places to Visit and Family Activities to Do in Carlow


July 6, 2023

Family activities to do in Carlow

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Carlow in the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East is packed full of exciting adventures for families of all ages to enjoy.

Whether they are crawling, toddling or running, the whole family will love exploring acres of woodland parks, superb playgrounds, visitor attractions, family entertainment venues and a host of outdoor activities suitable for all.

With a superb range of places to eat and stay, it is a great choice for your next family break or for a fun day out. What’s more, Carlow is so easy to get to, only just over an hour from Dublin by road, rail or bus so perfect for a day trip.

We have teamed up with Carlow Tourism to share with you some of the highlights of what you can expect on your next family visit, where a warm welcome is guaranteed.

Family Activities to Do in Carlow

Outdoor Activities – In and On the Water

Family activities to do in Carlow

Carlow is home to the beautiful river Barrow, one of Ireland’s longest rivers. All the family can enjoy getting active on the water by canoeing, paddle boarding, rowing or kayaking. Some of the providers include:

For those looking for a more leisurely pace you could take a boat trip or cruise with:

Many of the hotels in Carlow offer a swimming pool but for those that don’t have one on-site there are these swimming pool options which are open to the public:

Outdoor Activities Walking & Hiking

Carlow Tourism Discover Carlow

Carlow is just over an hour from Dublin but it’s a world away when it comes to getting out into nature!

There are an abundance of lovely trails and hikes to choose from and explore. Looped walks are located throughout the county, all of which are perfectly suited to families with distances varying from 2km to 6km. Some great options to explore on foot include:

  • Oak Park Forest Park and Clogrennane Wood, both close to Carlow Town
  • Kilbrannish North and South Forests on the Blackstairs Mountains
  • Clashganny Forest, south of Borris,
  • Bahana and Gowlin Forests near the village of St Mullins

Flat walking is available along the beautiful Barrow Way and for those with older children or teens, more strenuous hiking can be undertaken along the scenic South Leinster and Wicklow Ways.

You can download itineraries in advance of your visit to ensure you find the most suitable walks and hikes for your family.

Outdoor Activities – Cycling

Family activities to do in Carlow cycling trails

Whether you want to pack your own bikes or hire a bike for a day, there are plenty of options to explore on two wheels.

2 companies who offer bike hire include:

Outdoor Activities – Stunning Gardens, Woodlands and Play Grounds

Family activities to do in Carlow gardens

Carlow has a wealth of gardens and you can enjoy up to 19 different gardens when you take the Carlow Garden Trail. 

Some that are particularly family friendly include:

Delta Sensory Gardens in Carlow Town are just brilliant for the whole family. They are located on the grounds of Delta Centre, a facility which currently supports 117 individuals with disabilities across its services. Originally built for users of the centre, their reputation has grown in the intervening years to be a sought out attraction for all.

Fabulous for kids who love making their way through the sixteen small(ish) gardens, hiding on parents, playing with the giant chess pieces, finding the fish in the pond, discovering water features and much more.

There is plenty for the adults too, with a Sculpture Garden, a Peace Garden, Five Senses Garden and a 1916/2016 Memorial Garden to discover and enjoy. In total there are 2.5 acres of interconnecting gardens alongside a garden centre and Café Thyme.

Duckett’s Grove Walled Garden and Pleasure Grounds near Carlow Town are another great attraction for the family. Here you can:

  • Take guided tours
  • Visit the kitchen gardens,
  • Play in the woodland playground around the ruined gothic mansion
  • Enjoy the tea rooms located in the original courtyard building.  They offer a lovely food experience serving breakfasts, lunches, delicious cake and speciality teas and coffees.

The lawns of the kitchen gardens and large meadows at the entrance also make for a great picnic location. Kids are very safe once on-site and can roam freely.

Carlow Tourism Arboretum Play area

Arboretum Inspirational Gardens in Leighlinbridge are very special. Here families can enjoy exploring the African mud hut, spotting the friendly koi who reside in the Arboretum pond and just generally following the path to discover what’s next around the corner.

For adults there’s a beautiful garden centre with a kitchen store, health and wellness section, fashion shop etc. which is equally attractive for children, as there’s a beautiful playground situated beside the outdoor terrace of Rachel’s Garden Café, which is a godsend as you can enjoy your tea and cake while keeping a watchful eye. And a fun maze for the kids to explore too.

Huntington Castle and Gardens in Clonegal features a woodland playground and plenty of animals that children enjoy looking at – peacocks, pot bellied pigs, sheep and lambs. For slightly older children the tour of the house, delivered in the main by a family member is fascinating.

Rathwood Home and Garden World near Tullow is a firm family favourite attraction for visitors to the county and for those who live in Carlow. Features include:

  • Family friendly train rides aboard the Rathwood Express
  • A children’s playground
  • The Maze of Ireland, a real delight with each county of the country represented for children to travel around the country in one go!.
  • A fabulous indoor play centre

Rath Wood Forest is immediately adjacent providing great walks for all ages and is also the location of the “Big Top” where there are seasonal events including a Teddy Bear’s picnic during the summer, Easter Train rides and Santa visits.

A Garden With a Difference – Ireland’s Chocolate Garden

Things to do in Carlow

The Chocolate Garden of Ireland is home to an artisan chocolate and ice-cream making factory! You can visit throughout the year and enjoy some of the tasty treats on offer!

They also run seasonal chocolate making workshops for children and adults at different times throughout the year including summer, Halloween, Christmas and Easter. There is a lovely playground on-site too which has recently been refurbished, that children of all ages will enjoy.

Discover Carlow

Wander off the track and uncover the hidden gems that make Carlow a truly special destination for your next family break.

Carlow Tourism

Carlow County Museum

Family activities to do in Carlow Carlow County Museum

The Carlow County Museum is perfect for children aged from 5+. Children love completing the “Museum Detective” where the clues lead them and their parents on a journey around the museum.

The exhibits are very visual and a number can be touched! These include:

  • The old style children’s desk that your grandparents sat at
  • A culm crusher, unique to Carlow, Kilkenny and Laois
  • The 16th century effigy of Robert Hartpole,  Constable of Carlow Castle
  • And beware of the gallows trapdoor from Carlow jail!

Heritage Attractions – Borris Viaduct and Brownshill Dolmen

Carlow Tourism

The Borris Railway Viaduct is another fascinating place to visit. It’s one of Ireland’s best examples of pioneering 19th-century railway engineering and one of the most admired and celebrated railway structures in the country.

This historic landmark rises to 60ft high and spans the Borris and Mountain River Valley. Families can enjoy the looped walk and stunning scenery of the Blackstairs Mountains and the town of Borris. Great interpretation signage is in place showing the history of the railway project.

Another heritage site that children love is the Brownshill Dolmen. They are fascinated by how it got there and how much it weighs.

The giant capstone alone weighs in excess of 100 tonnes, making it the largest of its kind in Europe. The Dolmen is thought to have been there since 2,500 BC making it almost 5 thousand years old!

VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art and GB Shaw Theatre

Family activities to do in Carlow Visual

The stunning VISUAL Arts Centre building in the centre of Carlow Town is the largest space in Ireland for the display of visual art.

There are many activities for all ages to enjoy including:

  • Family art workshops
  • Youth theatre, talks and workshops
  • A stunning range of exhibitions on show
  • The 320-seat theatre George Bernard Shaw theatre which offers a packed programme of drama, film, dance and comedy.

Indoor Play Centre and Pottery School in Carlow

The Dome Family Entertainment Centre offers bowling, state of the art laser tag and a giant 8,000 square foot play area, Congo Quest, suitable for children up to the age of 12 including:

  • soft play
  • ball pools
  • play frames
  • crawl tubes
  • slides
  • soccer court

The facility is open 7 days a week and caters for all ages from toddlers to grandparents and everyone in between!

For those looking to be challenged, the Mount Brandon Pottery School in Graiguenamanagh offers pottery classes and workshops for kids and adults of all levels and abilities.

Create your very own masterpiece to take home and enjoy for years to come!

Rathwood Train Rides

Family activities to do in Carlow Rathwood Train

Explore the grounds of the stunning Rathwood House and Forest by taking a unique train ride. Open year round the train is themed for certain times of the year including Christmas!

We hope you have enjoyed finding out about all that Carlow has to offer. To plan your trip you can stop by the Carlow Tourism website and find more family friendly:

Carlow Tourism

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