Source of the Barrow

A hole in the ground, through the heather on a mountain.

Start of the Barrow

The actual source of the River Barrow is above Glenbarrow on Barna mountain in the Slieve Blooms, County Laois. The second longest river in Ireland, the Barrow for most people begins at the Clamp Hole Waterfall in Glenbarrow. However, its actual or true source is about 5km above/upstream of this point on Barna mountain. If you want to reach the true source of the river, the best way is on foot from a location known locally as The Cut (Google Map). Leave your vehicle at the car park here and turn right onto the road and head south/east direction. Walk about 300 meters along the road while trying to find an easy path or animal track up onto Barna mountain through the heather. You are heading for these coordinates 53.089639401866165, -7.53658333056062. Marked on Google maps here Barrow Source. Make your way through the heather as best you can using the animal tracks to make life easier. Technology in this area is often limited so you may have to search around for the exact spot. I’ve included some pictures below to help.

A hole in the ground, through the heather on a mountain.

A Rowan Tree Marked the Spot

Look for an old fence post. This use to have a Rowan Tree / Mountain Ash planted here. Sadly its now gone, but the post remains(at least for now). Just below this post, there is a small hole filled with water. For me, this is the exact location of the source of the Barrow. It is the highest spot of the boggy landscape from which a number of tiny pools form and water drains downhill.

A fence post or tree post among purple heather

Folklore of the Barrow

There are many legends about the origin of the river Barrow and its name. One story involves Connla’s Well from which flows all the great rivers of Ireland. Around this well were the Hazel trees and when the hazelnuts fell into the well, the Salmon ate them, gaining a spot on their side for each nut and infinite knowledge. Most school kids are familiar with the Salmon of Knowledge story, with the Boyne being the river in which it was caught. However, often not mentioned was that many believe there was a great Salmon for each of the great rivers. The Barrow’s Salmon of Knowledge may stall be running the river each year, yet to be captured.

A lone Rowan tree on a purple heather covered mountainside

The Enchanted Well

Another story I like about the Barrow is that it began in the centre of Ireland at an enchanted pool at the summit of the Slieve Blooms, overlooked by a Rowan Tree. It is said that a red berry from this Rowan Tree dropped into this pool causing it to overflow and forming the river Barrow as it rolled downhill from the mountains. I particularly like this story because as you ramble through the heather covered boggy landscape of Barna mountain you will undoubtably spot several Rowan/Mountain Ash. In times past, these trees, like Hawthorn, were held in high regard and associated with the fairy folk.
While there is no pool or well in this area, or at least not visible to my mortal eye, you will see how the entire hillside of spongy bog, leaks out tiny streams that eventually collide to form a steady flow towards Glenbarrow.

Small stream of water surrounded by heather.

Hiking on Barna Mountain

I hope you found this little blog of use, and that you enjoy your search for the source of the Barrow. I’ve marked the location on Google Maps to make life a little easier, however, phone signal in this area is not great so it might be best to bring a back up map and compass.

Happy Hiking!

If you fancy reaching the source of the river Nore, check out Source of the River Nore

Cliff Reid with a blue hat on, in a heather covered landscape of a grey day wet looking day.

27th May 2024


Clifford Reid

Written by Clifford Reid

1 Comment

  1. John Domond

    Been up in the Heather a few times looking but didn’t discover the spot.

    But it’s well worth the journey just to see the waterfall and water cascading over the rocks along the way that bit is an easy walk to enjoy.


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