Chapter 11: Tourism and Recreation

Closed21 Jul, 2021, 9:00am - 1 Oct, 2021, 5:00pm

Aim: To promote, enhance and maximise the tourism potential of County Carlow, by leveraging regional experience tourism brands and initiatives and by capitalising on and safeguarding the County’s natural and built heritage assets, to support the provision of high quality and accessible recreational facilities, amenities and open spaces for residents and visitors to the County, in recognition of the contribution of all forms of recreation to quality of life, personal health and wellbeing. 

11.0 Introduction

Tourism has become increasingly important as an industry and economic driver for Ireland. Arising from substantial investment in visitor attractions and facilities together with significant promotional campaigns the country has increased in popularity. County Carlow has much to offer given its location proximate to Dublin its rural landscapes, mountains, rivers, tranquil countryside all supported by rural towns and villages. The County has considerable untapped tourism potential which can be supported with policies for the sustainable development of the industry and economic activity generation

11.1 Policy Context

The key policy context for tourism and recreation that informed this chapter includes (inter alia):

  • Tourism Recovery Plan 2020-2023, Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, and Tourism Recovery Taskforce (TRT)
  • People, Place and Policy, Growing Tourism to 2025, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
  • Tourism Action Plan 2019-2021, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTS)
  • Tourism Development and Innovation – A Strategy for Investment 2016-2022, Fáilte Ireland
  • Platforms for Growth – A Programme for Tourism Investment Guidelines, 2019-2022, Fáilte Ireland
  • Development Guidelines for Tourism Destination Towns, Fáilte Ireland
  • Realising our Rural Potential, Action Plan for Rural Development, Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
  • Strategy for the Future Development of National and Regional Greenways, Department of Tourism, Transport and Sport
  • County Carlow Tourism Strategy and Action Plan 2020-2025
  • National Physical Activity Plan for Ireland – Get Ireland Active
  • County Carlow Outdoor Recreation Strategy 2020-2023
  • inCarlow Food and Drink Strategy – The Taste of County Carlow 2020-2025
  • Healthy Carlow County Plan 2018 – 2021
  • County Carlow Local Arts Development Plan 2016-2021.


11.2 Tourism – A National and Regional Context

The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTS) published the government policy statement “Growing Tourism to 2025” in 2019. This is an overarching policy document with broad objectives and headline goals in relation to achieving revenue of €5 billion per year from overseas visitors, growing employment to 250,000, and in increasing overseas visitor numbers to 10 million.  Particular emphasis is placed on the important contribution that Local Authorities and communities have in the development and promotion of tourism. Specifically, and from a land-use planning perspective, the document envisages that Local Authorities will:

  • Continue to act as primary developer of a range of public tourism infrastructure, including outdoor tourism infrastructure and urban and rural heritage.
  • Support community effort in destination development, including assisting communities to align their efforts with the tourism agencies brand architecture and consumer segmentation model.
  • Provide a competitive environment for tourism enterprises through continued focus on high quality maintenance of public infrastructure frequently used by visitors.

The current DTTS Tourism Action Plan 2019-2021 sets out priority actions that need to be progressed up to 2021 to maintain sustainable growth in overseas tourism revenue and employment. There is an emphasis in the Plan on extending the regional and seasonal benefits of overseas tourism, on ensuring a central role for Local Authorities, and on helping to build the attractiveness of some of the country’s less well-known attractions and regions.  

Fáilte Ireland’s Tourism Development and Innovation – A Strategy for Investment 2016-2022, sets out a framework and mechanisms for the delivery of investment to towns, villages, communities, and businesses across the country.  It is outcome based and aimed at identifying the types of projects for investment.   To stimulate innovation and improve international competitiveness, Fáilte Ireland also launched a significant Tourism Development and Innovation Fund.

Until recently the Government remained positive for growth in tourism envisaged up to 2025, having significantly increased revenue between 2013-2018.  It can however, be expected that the extent of growth in the immediate future will be influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit.  It is likely that in the early stages of the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic that the domestic tourism industry will experience earlier opportunities for revival in contrast to international tourism, which may experience a longer-term slump.  Due to its proximity to Dublin, County Carlow has an opportunity to benefit from the domestic market in the short term.

11.3 Failte Ireland Strategies  

11.3.1 Ireland’s Ancient East

To provide a coherent tourist centric offering and to promote Ireland nationally and international Fáilte Ireland developed regional tourist experience brands (See Figure 11.1).

Figure 11.1 - Source: Platforms for Growth – A Programme for Tourism Investment 2019-2022, Fáilte Ireland

County Carlow is located within the ‘Ireland’s Ancient East’ (IAE) brand. The vision for the IAE brand is contained in Fáilte Ireland’s 2013 ‘Path to Growth’ document; “IAE will be an immersive experience of living culture, breath-taking landscape and hidden history made remarkable by vibrant communities, local lore and the authentic character of the real Ireland”.  IAE encompasses the rich heritage and cultural assets that Ireland has to offer with a focus on the “Culturally Curious and the Great Escapers”. Fáilte Ireland recognises that County Carlow is home to a significant and important wealth of cultural heritage and attractions e.g. Huntington Castle and Gardens, Brownshill Dolmen, Carlow Museum and Altamont Gardens, all of which form an important part of Ireland’s Ancient East.

Logo - Ireland's Ancient East

11.3.2 Tales of Two Worlds Visitor Experience

In Carlow, Fáilte Ireland has commenced work on the ‘Tales of Two Worlds’ Visitor Experience Development Plan.  This Plan brings together Ireland’s historic houses and gardens, and the period in Ireland’s history of famine and emigration.

11.3.3 Great Houses and Gardens Experience

Fáilte Ireland’s Great Houses and Gardens Experience Development Programme looks at the house and garden experiences available across the County, including ways to develop guiding, events, cost, revenue management and sales distribution. 

Fáilte Ireland Strategies – Objectives

It is an objective of the Council to:

FI. O1: Support and facilitate Fáilte Ireland initiatives for the development of tourism experiences in the County which deliver on the Ireland’s Ancient East brand.
FI. O2: Engage and collaborate with Fáilte Ireland on their ‘Tales of Two Worlds Visitor Experience Development Plan’ and support the making and implementation of their ‘Great Houses and Gardens Experience Development Programme’ for the County.   

11.4 Tourism in County Carlow

The Council has a direct and indirect role in delivering tourism related developments. The Council’s enhanced role in economic development will see a focus on tourism product development, and co-ordination and facilitation of the tourism industry within the County.  As part of this role the  Council works with a variety of key tourism co-operatives and development organisations to develop key economic activities in the County.  This includes Carlow Tourism which is part funded by the Council under its Economic Development Function.

As a primarily rural area, Carlow has significant natural resources, rural environment, local cultural and social landscape on which the attraction of the County is built. Carlow’s strategic location on the M9 affords easy access to Dublin,  the midlands, Waterford and the entire South East region.

Tourism has the potential to contribute to the vitality and sustainability of a wide variety of local enterprises, particularly in rural areas contributing to the diversification of the rural economy with increased potential for the regeneration of towns and villages.  There is an emphasis in County Carlow on sustainable tourism development, ensuring that negative impacts from tourism are minimised including impacts on the County’s heritage assets, infrastructural capacity (water, wastewater, waste and transport) and communities, while maximising positive impacts from tourism. With a goal of more responsible tourism development many destinations at a local, regional and national level are placing an emphasis on revenue growth from visitors over volume growth. Fours maps highlighting the key natural, built and cultural heritage assets for tourism in the County, in addition to key transport and access options, are included in

11.4.1   Carlow’s Tourism Economy

Fáilte Ireland have estimated that County Carlow generated €45 million for the local economy in 2017. The County however, is very dependent on the domestic and Northern Ireland market.   There is a requirement for the County to focus on attracting increasing numbers of overseas visitors, which provides greater economic return.

The County has the significant benefit of having two 3rd Level educational institutions, Carlow College, St Patricks, and I.T. Carlow. This presents potential opportunities for the development of educational tourism in the County by attracting international students to locate here.  In this regard, a study by the Irish Universities Association in 2019 indicated that international students contribute €386m to the Irish Economy annually. 

11.4.2   County Carlow Tourism Strategy and Action Plan 2020-2025

County Carlow Tourism Strategy and Action Plan was commissioned by Carlow Tourism, and has been prepared in the context of Ireland’s Ancient East. The purpose of the strategy is to:

  • improve the profile of Carlow as a holiday destination;
  • maximise the economic outputs for tourism;
  • grow tourism related employment; and
  • improve the product offering and visitor experience.

Key strategic principles for tourism development identified, include (inter alia):

  • The natural and built heritage of the County as a primary tourism asset.
  • The requirement to align with Ireland’s Ancient East.
  • The long-standing need to develop a flagship attraction for the County.
  • The opportunity for experience and product development.
  • The imbalance in the County arising from location of tourism product in the north of the County and areas of attractive scenery which are generally located toward the South of the County.

Product development themes identified in the Plan include:

  • Megalithic, Ecclesiastical and Normans (Built Heritage) – A Journey Through Time
  • Houses and Gardens - Big Houses and Beautiful Gardens
  • Activities and Places (Natural Heritage) – Valleys Views and Vales
  • Cultural Heritage – Inspired by Carlow

Tourism Development – Policies             

It is the policy of the Council to:

TD. P1: Support and collaborate with relevant agencies and bodies such as Carlow Tourism, Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and The Arts Council, and key stakeholders and local communities, to develop, promote and maximise the tourism potential of the County. 
TD. P2: Promote the development and strengthening of the overall value of Carlow as a tourist destination by favourably considering and facilitating the expansion and/or upgrading of existing tourism related development, facilities, and infrastructure, as well as the development of new such facilities and infrastructure, subject to appropriate siting and design criteria and the protection of the environment.  
TD. P3: Promote and support the development of educational tourism by attracting  international students to the County. 
TD. P4: To support sustainable travel in the tourism sector by the promotion of public transport use and by facilitating, where appropriate, proposals to improve access for existing tourism sites and facilities and visitor attractions throughout the County.
TD. P5: Direct tourism-based development where appropriate, into existing settlements where there is adequate infrastructure to service activity and where it can contribute to the maintenance of essential services and the vibrancy and vitality of these settlements. 
TD. P6: Consider tourism related developments outside of settlements where there is a clear sustainable need for the specific location, and where the benefits to the local community are balanced with the potential environmental impact of the development.
TD. P7: Facilitate the erection of standardised signage for tourism facilities and tourist attractions as part of national and regional initiatives.

Tourism Development - Objectives

It is an objective of the Council to:

TD.O1: Support the implementation of the County Carlow Tourism Strategy and Action Plan 2020-2025.
TD.O2: Support the Tourism Sector in the County in terms of the key actions in the inCarlow Business Support and Economic Recovery Action Plan 2020, the Local Enterprise Development Plan (LEDP), and any subsequent revisions of these documents.

11.5 Heritage Tourism

The natural and built heritage of Carlow are the foundations that attract visitors to the County.  The opportunity lies in ensuring this heritage is protected for current and future generations while facilitating and providing for sustainable tourist experience.

Heritage Tourism - Policies

It is the policy of the Council to: 

HT. P1: Work with key stakeholders, including Carlow Tourism, Fáilte Ireland, the OPW, the Arts Council, the Heritage Council, and key stakeholders, businesses, and local communities, to support the sustainable development and promotion of heritage tourism in the County.
HT. P2: Protect and conserve the natural and built heritage of the County upon which the tourism industry is based, including landscapes, designated sites, habitats and species, water quality, archaeology and historic buildings and structures.  

11.5.1    Carlow’s Castles

County Carlow is an historic county, with its foundation dating back to the late 12th and early 13th Centuries with the arrival of the Normans. Almost 100 castles are to be found in the County, the vast majority of which are now in ruins.  They are significant relics of Carlow's historical past and represent important aspects of the County’s heritage tourism product. Some notable examples of castles in the County include:

  • Carlow Castle
  • Black Castle
  • Clonmore Castle
  • Ballymoon Castle
  • Ballyloughan Castle

11.5.2   Carlow’s Historic Houses and Gardens

Until the early decades of the 20th century, as many as sixty gentry houses dominated the architectural landscape of the county. The stories surrounding some of these houses are interesting and recount a rich variety of personal and historic events.  Principal houses of interest whose grounds or the houses themselves are presently open to the public include:

  • Altamont House and Gardens
  • Duckett's Grove, Walled Gardens and Pleasure Grounds
  • Mount Wolseley House Tullow
  • Lisnavagh Estate Rathvilly
  • Hungtington Castle, Clonegal
  • Ballykealy Manor, Ballon

Both Duckett’s Grove and Altamont House are in public ownership. Carlow County Council took formal ownership of Duckett’s Grove in 2005.  In recognition of its historic and tourist potential  works have been carried out  including reviving two old walled gardens and the pleasure grounds area together with stabilising the ruined gothic mansion.

Altamont House and Gardens are owned by the OPW and have been subject to refurbishment work following receipt of capital funding as part of the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (Ireland 2040).

The Council will continue to identify, encourage and support the development of such houses for tourism development.

11.5.3 Carlow Garden Trail

Some of the historic houses in the County also contain impressive gardens which form part of Carlow’s Garden Trail.  The garden trail offers visitors the opportunity to discover and enjoy some of the manor houses that once dominated the cultural and agricultural life of the county.

Carlow’s Castles, Historic Houses and Gardens Policies

It is the policy of the Council to:

HT. P3: Promote Carlow’s castle’s, historic houses and gardens as tourist attractions in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland, the OPW and relevant stakeholders, and to facilitate sustainable proposals to enhance their visitor experience through the provision of improved access, signage, and associated infrastructure, as appropriate and as resources allow.
HT. P4: Support appropriate conservation and restoration works to castles, historic houses, and gardens in the County, in order to safeguard the future of these heritage assets and in recognition of their significant role for Carlow tourism. 
HT. P5: Support the conservation of historic estates and demesnes through the facilitation of appropriate development that contributes to their conservation and economic viability.

11.5.4 Pre-Christian Heritage

While the foundation of the County dates back to the 12th century, there is over 6,000 years of earlier settlement evidence to be found.   The OPW Archaeological Survey and Record of Monuments and Places for County Carlow (1995) lists some 807 sites, that range from bronze-age settlements, dolmens, ringforts, hillforts and standing stones.  A number of these sites are of significant importance to merit both national and international attention.  Examples of particular note include:

  • Brownshill Dolmen
  • Haroldstown Dolmen
  • Cloch-a-Phoill
  • Rathgall Hillfort

Pre-Christian Heritage - Policies

It is the policy of the Council to:

HT. P6: Promote the archaeological sites of the County as tourist attractions in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland, the OPW and relevant stakeholders, in particular those sites of national and international importance, and to develop proposals to enhance their visitor experience through the provision of improved access, signage, and associated infrastructure, as appropriate and as resources allow.

11.5.5 Religious and Ecclesiastical Sites

Carlow is a County with an exceptionally rich, spiritual and ecclesiastical heritage, with a number of sites of national significance. These include the monastic site at St. Mullins, the medieval Cathedral of St. Lazerian Old Leighlin, the eighteenth-century College and nineteenth-century Catholic Cathedral in Carlow, and the Adelaide Memorial Church at Myshall.   Monastic settlements at St. Mullins and Clonmore, and the medieval Cathedral of St. Lazerian Old Leighlin, comprise significant early ecclesiastical sites dating from the 6th and 7th centuries. 

11.5.6 Carlow – Trails of the Saints

Carlow – Trails of the Saints, features some 51 ecclesiastical attractions.  These attractions include sites of national significance as referred to, but also less well-known sites which have an equally important place in the religious and ecclesiastical heritage of the County.

Religious and Ecclesiastical Sites - Policies

It is the policy of the Council to:

HT. P7: Promote the religious and ecclesiastical sites of the County as tourist attractions in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland and relevant stakeholders, and to develop proposals to enhance their visitor experience through the provision of improved access, signage, and associated infrastructure, as appropriate and as resources allow.

11.5.7 Historic Towns and Villages

Riverside towns with medieval bridges, old stone-built estate towns such as those at Nurney and Borris, and hillside villages, all add their own individual character to the County’s landscape. Their layout, geographic positioning and interesting architecture, combine to create considerable tourist appeal.

Carlow County Council in co-operation with local communities, businesses and other relevant stakeholders are seeking to improve the physical presentation and appeal of many towns and villages throughout the County, both through the planning process, initiatives such as Pride of Place, and through funding from the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

Historic Towns and Villages - Policies

It is the policy of the Council to:

HT. P8: Develop and enhance the tourism potential of towns and villages by enhancing the public realm and by supporting, as appropriate, schemes to improve their physical presentation and appeal, including those funded as part of the Town and Village Renewal Scheme and the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (Ireland 2040) or any funding stream that becomes available during the life of this plan.
HT. P9: Facilitate the development of a variety of high-quality tourist attractions, accommodation and services in towns and villages, subject to compliance with good quality design criteria, normal planning and environmental criteria.  
HT. P10: Develop and maximise the tourism potential of the County by facilitating the appropriate expansion of existing facilities and the provision of new universally accessible and sustainable tourist attractions, facilities, and infrastructure in towns and villages, while ensuring the protection of the environment and subject to compliance with normal planning and environmental criteria.

11.5.8 Natural Heritage and Amenities

Throughout the County, there are a wide variety of landscapes, including mountains, beautiful river valleys, navigable waterways,  forests and woodlands all of which provide a range of interesting and diverse visitor experiences.

Blackstairs Mountains

The Blackstairs Mountains are located along the south and east of the County boundary. They form a mountain chain that runs in a northeast-southwest direction for approximately 22 km with Mount Leinster the highest peak at 796 metres.  They represent one of the most important natural attractions in the County as they provide a backdrop for much of the its landscape and constitute the principal touring route in the County.

Waterways and Lakes

The main rivers flowing through the County are the River Barrow and the River Slaney and their associated tributaries, which provide both angling and leisure facilities to visitors. The largest catchment area is drained by the River Barrow and its tributaries including the Burren, the Black, the Mountain, the Aughavaud and the Aughananagh. The eastern portion of the County is drained by the River Slaney and its tributaries including the Derreen, the Douglas, the Clashavey, the Derry and the Clody.

The River Barrow is Ireland's second longest river system running for 192 km from its source in the Slieve Bloom Mountains to the sea. It is navigable for 69 km between Athy and St. Mullins and this stretch is known as the Barrow Navigation.  Some of the most attractive visual stretches of this waterway flow through County Carlow. The River Barrow constitutes one of the most significant industrial heritage monuments in the country with bridges, corn-mills, locks and lock-houses and its history alone is an important tourism resource. The Barrow remains a bustling river accommodating many activities including walking, cycling, fishing, boating and canoeing.

Carlow Tourism’s publication entitled ‘Carlow – Through the Waters of Time’, provides a heritage profile of the County that is set against the backdrop of its rivers. 

Logo - Carlow through the waters of time

All lakes in the County are man-made. There is a shallow lake located at Oak Park Forest Park, which is bounded almost completely by woodlands. Eight small islands bear coniferous and deciduous trees, and the lake is a popular location for bird watchers.

The lake at Altamont House and Gardens was constructed during famine times and forms a focal point for one of the County’s top visitor attractions.

Forests and Woodlands

Coillte is the statutory body responsible for the management of Ireland's public forests. Coillte's "open forest" policy allows visitors to access and enjoy these forest and woodland areas.

The most interesting and diverse forested areas within the County are situated at Bahana, Ballybeg, Ballycrinnigan, Clashganny and on the slopes of Mount Leinster. One of Europe's largest nurseries and Ireland’s National Seed Centre is located at Ballintemple. While no specific tourist facilities exist at any of these sites, they nonetheless present important opportunities for a diverse range of tourism activities in the future due to their variety of plantation species and scenic appeal. The forested areas immediately surrounding Mount Leinster and the Blackstairs Mountains and southwards of Clashganny, form both a pleasant backdrop and central focus of the South Leinster Way and Barrow Way long distance walking routes.

Natural Heritage and Amenities - Policies

It is the policy of the Council to: 

HT. P11: Maximise, enhance and support opportunities for the use of the County’s uplands and waterways, including the Blackstairs Mountains, the River Barrow and the River Slaney, as tourism and recreational amenities, and engage with relevant agencies, bodies, and key stakeholders in this regard, including Fáilte Ireland, Waterways Ireland, National Parks and Wildlife Service, and local communities, to develop the infrastructure, quality and amenity of these natural assets.
HT. P12: Support the provision of ancillary infrastructure and services that enhance the user experience of the River Barrow, such as water access, bike and boat storage, rest areas, shelters, toilets, changing and other facilities, where appropriate and feasible to do so subject to normal planning and environmental criteria.
HT. P13: Continue to work closely with Fáilte Ireland, Waterways Ireland, and neighbouring Local Authorities, to promote and enhance the tourism and recreational potential of the River Barrow.   
HT. P14: Facilitate, where appropriate, increased access to the County’s waterways from towns and villages where visitor services are located, subject to the protection of the environment.
HT.P15: Facilitate infrastructure to enable increased tourism activity associated with water-based activities on the County’s waterways, such as boating, cruising,  kayaking, angling, and other sustainable water-based interests.

11.6 Greenways and Blueways

Greenways and blueways provide multi-activity recreational trails for use by residents and visitors and encourage and promote walking, cycling and water-based activities in a safe and controlled environment.  They can be developed along abandoned rail lines, utility corridors, other natural linear open spaces such as riverbanks and canals.  Blueways can be provided as standalone sites for water-based activity infrastructure, which are strategically located along rivers based on the eat, stay, play principle.

The recreational trails greenways and blueways are key tourism infrastructure assets, playing an important role in Irish tourism. They add value to the existing tourism offering and support the development of rural communities and job creation in the rural economy and can contribute to the protection and promotion of natural assets and biodiversity.

Internationally activity tourism continues to grow in popularity and has the potential to grow further, subject to appropriate siting and compliance with environmental considerations.

11.6.1 Barrow Valley Greenway

Under the Carbon Tax Fund 2020 and as part of a Barrow Valley Greenway Initiative, the Council received funding in 2020 to investigate the feasibility of developing a greenway in the County utilising the route of the disused Carlow to Wexford railway line.  The old railway line runs south from Muinebheag to Borris, where it crosses the Borris Railway Viaduct and then continues south to Wexford.  The development of such a greenway if viable would significantly boost the appeal of tourism in the County and provide possibilities for linkages with similar infrastructure in adjoining counties.

11.6.2 Borris Railway Viaduct

The redevelopment and adaptation of the Borris Railway Viaduct Project as a civic amenity and walking/cycling route by the Council in 2020 was supported by the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF). The viaduct is a 16-arch limestone viaduct constructed between 1859-1860 situated at the southeast end of Borris village and is a Protected Structure (RPS Ref. CW57).  The redevelopment and adaptation of the former railway viaduct as a civic amenity and walking/cycling route has been sensitively carried out in accordance with best conservation practice.  It incorporates new landscaped universal access paths at its northwest end, a new path surface and new guard railings across its length, with interpretation panels to enhance the visitor experience. 

Greenways and Blueways - Policies

It is the policy of the Council to:

GB. P1: Facilitate engagement with relevant stakeholders including Waterways Ireland to promote the development of greenways and blueways at appropriate locations in the County, through the utilisation of disused transport links and routes and/or existing linear open spaces such as riverbanks, as well as opportunities to integrate and link such routes with towns, villages, and communities in the County and existing/proposed such routes outside of the County, subject to compliance with planning and environmental criteria.  
GB. P2: Support the provision of small-scale complementary facilities and businesses along greenways and blueways which would enhance the user experience, such as water access, bicycle hire and storage, boat storage, rest areas, changing facilities, cafes and craft shops, where appropriate and feasible to do so and subject to compliance with normal planning and environmental criteria.
GB. P3: Support the development of a tourism masterplan for the River Barrow which sets out an integrated framework for tourism development along the River Barrow.

Greenways and Blueways - Objectives

It is an objective of the Council to:

GB. O1: Support and facilitate the delivery of a greenway route(s) in the County where deemed feasible, including necessary supporting infrastructure, subject to compliance with planning and environmental criteria. 

11.7 Carlow Town – Destination Town

In 2019 Fáilte Ireland launched its ‘Destination Towns’ initiative, which included a €15.5 million funding programme from which €500,000 was allocated to each Local Authority in two rounds (in 2019 and 2020).  The aim of the funding was to boost the attractiveness and appeal of destination towns nationwide, as they are recognised as key motivators for overseas holidaymakers coming to Ireland.  For the purposes of tourism, Fáilte Ireland defines a destination town as “a town in which a visitor can spend an overnight, and in which a cluster of products, services, activities and experiences are offered. It incorporates various stakeholders and intangible elements, such as its character, image and identity, and can function as a touring base for visitors”.   The Council was successful in its application to Fáilte Ireland for this funding for Carlow Town, which will contribute towards enhancing public spaces together with wayfinding in the town in a way that develops tourism by engaging visitors and enhancing their experiences.   

Destination Town Objectives

It is an objective of the Council to:

DT. O1: To support, promote and maximise the role of Carlow Town as a designated Ireland’s Ancient East ‘Destination Town’, and to engage with Fáilte Ireland in developing and promoting future tourism initiatives in the town, including enhancement of public space, the development of a way finding project and welcome signage, in order to capitalise on the potential benefit of the funding for the town.   
DT. O2: To examine the potential of Tullow as a designated Ireland’s Ancient East ‘Destination Town’, and to engage with Fáilte Ireland in developing and promoting future tourism initiatives in the town, including enhancement of public space, the development of a way finding project and welcome signage, in order to capitalise on the potential benefit for the area.

11.8 Culture, Arts and Entertainment

Cultural, arts and entertainment facilities are wide ranging in the County and include museums, galleries, theatres, cinema, libraries, museums, buildings and spaces of important artistic and cultural significance, halls for meetings, community and arts centres and music venues. Such facilities contribute towards the intellectual, artistic and social quality of life for people in the County. They can also encourage people, tourism, businesses, and jobs to an area and enhance the image of a local area, helping to create a sense of place, enforcing local distinctiveness and contributing to the regeneration of the urban environment.

Funding and support schemes for arts in the County include:

  • Individual Artists and Community Groups Arts Acts Grants Scheme
  • ArtLinks
  • Per Cent for Art Scheme

11.8.1 The County Carlow Local Arts Development Plan 2016-2021

The County Carlow Local Arts Development Plan 2016-2021 sets out strategic objectives and actions aimed at leading, nurturing, and sustaining the arts sector in the County.  This includes (inter alia) objectives and actions to maximise opportunities for arts, funding, address artists’ working space, provide commissioning opportunities for artists, and nurture professional development. The VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art and George Bernard Shaw Theatre located n Carlow town facilitates contemporary and traditional productions. 

Culture, Arts and Entertainment - Policies

It is the policy of the Council to:

CA. P1: Promote and support the role and continued expression of local culture, arts and entertainment in the County, and to facilitate and where appropriate to encourage the use of public spaces in towns and villages for art events and performances.
CA. P2: Promote and support local arts development and funding opportunities, and increase public awareness of, participation in, and access to the Arts, in line with the objectives and actions of the County Carlow Local Arts Development Plan.
CA. P3: Continue to promote and support the role of the VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art and George Bernard Shaw Theatre as a regional and County arts asset venue of national significance. 
CA. P4: Encourage and support the creation and display of works of art in public areas, including appropriate locations within the streetscape, provided no unacceptable environmental, amenity, traffic or other problems are created.  


Culture, Arts and Entertainment - Objectives

It is an objective of the Council to:

CA. O1: Support the implementation of the County Carlow Local Arts Development Plan 2016-2021, and any updated version of this Plan, as a means of promoting the development of culture, arts and entertainment in the County.

11.9 Events and Festivals

Events and festivals are an important means of attracting additional visitors to the County thereby increasing expenditure, attracting visitors during the off-peak season and encouraging repeat visitation. The County hosts numerous events and festivals, which make an important contribution to the tourism and economic development of the County. 

Events and Festivals - Policies

It is the policy of the Council to:

EF. P1: Support and promote existing events and festivals to increase the tourism, heritage, and cultural profile of the County, and where appropriate, promote and facilitate the development of new events and festivals, and venues to host same.

11.10 Carlow Food, Drink and Craft

Food plays a major part in the contemporary tourism and visitor experiences and provides a platform for supporting and expanding local economic development.  Within the wider County Carlow area, a range of indigenous producers operate, inspired by the unique landscape and people of the County.

Some notable establishments include Carlow Brewing Company and Royal Oak Distillery both located in Muinebheag / Royal Oak.  The Carlow food sector is supported by the Carlow food festival ‘A Taste of Carlow’. The Carlow Farmers’ Market is recognised as one of a few authentic farmers’ markets where producers are all local, produce their own products and sell mainly their own produce. Carlow also has an abundance of original, traditional, handmade crafts including woodturning, pottery, ceramics, ironwork and textiles, that have obvious appeal to visitors.  The Council will continue to support the further development of the food, drinks and craft sectors in the County and its important role for tourism.