Save the Barrow line



“This is special: we have to guard against copycat ideas that would make it ordinary; just like any suburban canal track. We have to save the grassy magic of the Barrow Line” - Olivia O'Leary


The Barrow Line is the local name for a unique natural grassy tow-path along Ireland's second longest river taking in the towns of Monasterevin, Athy, Carlow, Leighlinbridge, Bagenalstown, Goresbridge, Graiguenamanagh and St Mullins. It is currently used by walkers and cyclists alike who have the opportunity to enjoy nature and the area's outstanding scenic beauty.

The authors of Hiking in Ireland have described the line ...

"The route meanders along a peaceful green corridor a world away from distractions of the modern world. The towpath is grassed almost the whole way and the views change constantly as the river winds through farmland, woodland and a cliff-lined valley. On the water you should see swans, herons and ducks, and perhaps a lively otter, whose wonderfully agile displays will imprint the route in your memory for a long time to come” 

The Barrow’s grassy line has been described by environmentalist and film-maker Dick Warner as being of inestimable value and of huge beauty: “It’s a treasure incredibly rich in wild-life”.

Waterways Ireland currently has plans to transform the grassy surface of the approximately 113km route (see the FAQ page for more details) which we believe will irreversibly destroy the fabric of this unique amenity.

We believe that the Waterways plan is fundamentally flawed on multiple grounds which include the following:

  • The Waterways Ireland proposal does not have the support of the local community. The Save the Barrow Line petition to save the grassy sod surface has approximately 5000 signatures. In addition, when Waterways Ireland submitted their Blueway planning application to three local authorities earlier this year it was met with unprecedented levels of objection. Of the 440+ submissions received by Carlow County Council, less than 3 per cent wrote in support of the application. The vast majority do not share Waterways Ireland’s opinion that the towpath and its tourism potential would benefit from being urbanised in the manner proposed.
  • The development (which will likely cost somewhere between 8-12 million euro) is unmaintainable, situated as it is on the bank of a river which floods almost every year.
  • Multiple tourism research studies have shown that the reasons tourists find Ireland unique is the green landscape and the unspoilt nature. Removing the grassy surface of the towpath is actually removing its unique selling point and risks alienating the very tourists it seeks to attract. We believe developing and promoting the towpath as an Irish Camino has much greater potential to attract tourists (Santiago de Compostela attracts millions of visitors each year) and can be done without compromising the areas’ natural beauty.
  • The proposed development will create health and safety difficulties. This point is confirmed by Kildare County Council engineer Mr Gerry Dornan who has said that a 2.5m-3m shared use trail would “create conflict with pedestrians as a result of inadequate space for cycling.”
  • The Barrow towpath is a candidate Special Area of Conservation and as such is protected under the EU Habitats Directive. Many environmental and sustainability experts such as Eanna Ni Lamhna,  the late Dick Warner and Mary White have indicated that they are against the proposal. Specifically, Ms Ni Lamhna has said that “introducing a composite surface with limestone dust will have a negative impact on the environment both of the bank and the river, and on the wildlife there.”

Please take a minute to  sign our petition and to view our informational video. Please visit our news page for latest updates.