About the river Barrow

Whites Castle and Cromaboo Bridge on the river Barrow in Athy, Co. Kildare

Common questions about the river Barrow

The following are some of the most common questions we get asked while doing our boat trips on the river Barrow. Hopefully they might be of interest or useful in some small way.

Where does the Barrow rise? Where does the Barrow river start? Where is the source of the Barrow?

The source of the Barrow river is in the Slieve Bloom mountains in County Laois at an area called Glenbarrow. Here is a link on Google Maps – Glenbarrow

How long is the river Barrow?

The river Barrow is approximately 192km long or if you prefer miles, it is approximately 120 miles long and rises in the Slieve Bloom mountains at Glenbarrow.

From where/what does the river Barrow get its name?

An Bhearbha, Berba or Bhearú; many argue that it gets its name from an old Celtic word meaning to boil. In the Book of Leinster, there is reference to Berba, a queen or deity of the Tuatha De Danann. Her infant son Mechi had three serpents in his heart which were removed by the Diancecht, were then killed and burned. Their ashes were dumped in the river and it began to boil. Some give this same story over to The Morrígan (Queen/Goddess or War). Since many of Irelands rivers are named after the Goddesses of the Tuatha De Danann, I’d prefer to side with Berba as being the goddess of the river Barrow

How long is the Barrow Navigation?

The Barrow navigation is 64.7km long between Athy, Co. Kildare and St. Mullins in county Carlow.

How fast is the river Barrow?

The river Barrow is the slowest flowing river in Ireland.

What counties does the Barrow flow through?

The river barrow flows through or borders with counties Laois, Kildare, Kilkenny, Carlow, Wexford and Waterford.

Do I need a boat licence on the river Barrow?

If you are boating on the river Barrow/Barrow Navigation between Athy and St Mullins, you will need to obtain a licence from Waterways Ireland. The cost is €50 for small fishing vessels and €127 for larger cruisers or cabin boats

Can I camp along the river Barrow?

While camping is not permitted along the Barrow Navigation track, there are several islands and other locations that you may be able to use. Find a quite field or wood outside of town and most will not even know you are there. And as the saying goes “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission”

How many locks are on the Barrow?

There are 23 locks on the river Barrow but check out How many Locks are on the river Barrow?

How do I contact the lock keepers?

Lock keepers can be contacted by either getting in touch with Waterways Ireland in Tullamore or by checking out this blog post List of Lockkeepers on river Barrow Navigation

Where can I get a lock key?

You can buy a lock key by contacting Waterway Ireland in Tullamore or asking your local lock keeper.

What kind of fish are in the river Barrow?

The river Barrow holds a fantastic variety of fish, including; Bream Rudd Tench, Perch, Pike, Dace, Gudgeon, Roach, Trout, Salmon, Stickleback, Minnow, Eel, and Twaite Shad at St Mullins.

Do I need a Licence to fish?

Only if you’re caught! (only joking) You need a licence if fishing for Salmon. You can get this by contacting Inland Fisheries Ireland. All course fishing is free and doesn’t require a licence. Its worth noting also that all fishing on the Barrow Navigation is catch and release. So all fish caught should be returned to the river alive and unharmed.

How deep is the river Barrow?

The river Barrow varies in depth between its source at Glenbarrow and entering the Celtic Sea. The Office of Public Works, monitors the rivers water level at several locations. The live readings for these levels can be found here at Water Level

Is the Barrow river Tidal?

The river Barrow is tidal up stream as far as St Mullins in County Carlow.

Where does the Barrow meet the sea? Where is the mouth of the river Barrow?

The river Barrow enters the Celtic sea at Waterford/Wexford. Before it enters the sea, it is joined by the river Nore and the river Suir.

Can I canoe/kayak the Barrow?

While I’ve not paddled the entire river Barrow, I’m led to believe that almost the entire river are navigable in a Kayak or Canoe. I understand that it is possible to just pick a location along the system and start paddling. If you plan to take a canoeing trip, it would be best to consult the Irish White Water Guide

Can I walk the river Barrow?

There are a number river side walks in the various towns and counties. The entire Barrow navigate from and Athy to St Mullins can be accessed by foot. If you fancy walking the entire 64.7km, it is worth checking out the Barrow Way

Can I hire a boat on the Barrow?

If you wish to hire a barge and spend a few days on the river, check out Jenniferz Travels

I hope the above is of interest of of use. If you fancy joining us for a boat trip in the river Barrow, just drop me a call. Or if you want to check out an other blog post Questions on the river Nore.


PS If I’m wrong on any of the information above, please let me know so I can correct it. Fair play (Y)

6th November 2022


Clifford Reid

Written by Clifford Reid


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