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In the southeastern portion of the Republic of Ireland, the nation's second-smallest county can be found: County Carlow. Nicknamed "The Dolmen County" because of its ancient attraction called the Brownshill Dolmen, the territory is one of the oldest of its kind in Ireland. County Carlow acted as the governing seat of power for the country during the 14th century.[2] Some of the area's most notable attractions, other than the aforementioned Brownshill Dolmen, include the Carlow Castle, Duckett's Grove, the Carlow County Museum, and the Carlow Courthouse.[3] The city of Carlow itself has temperatures that typically range from -2 degrees Celsius and 24 degrees Celsius throughout the year. The summers of the region are usually described as "comfortable," in contrast to its long, cold winters. County Carlow also experiences a relatively constant, yet primarily light, amount of rain each year, with an average monthly rainfall of 60 mm.[4]

What Carlow is known for

Carlow, more formally known as County Carlow, is one of the various divisions of the country of Ireland. More specifically, the county is one of twenty-six of its kind that comprises the Republic of Ireland and is located in the southeast region of the country. Carlow County is the second smallest division in Ireland and is the third least populous as well. As one would expect, the county inherits its name from the largest city in the area, Carlow, which contains approximately 40% of the territory's population. Apart from Carlow itself, the county is made up of smaller communities, including Southcourt, Ballon, Tullow, and Leighlinbridge.[2]

The city of Carlow is ancient by modern standards, with the settlement dating back thousands of years and pre-dating any written Irish history. Additionally, despite its relatively small size, the town served as the capital of Ireland during the 14th century. The focal point of Carlow's governing presence during that time was Carlow Castle, which has since deteriorated extensively, leaving only the western wall. Today, it remains a defining landmark of the town and is one of Carlow's most notable tourist attractions.[7] However, there are still other features of the area that draw in visitors apart from Carlow Castle. One such attraction is the Carlow Cathedral, which has a Neo-Gothic style and was formally consecrated in 1833. The Carlow Courthouse, the Carlow County Museum, and Duckett's Grove are all additional attractions in the Carlow countryside or city proper that draw in visitors each year.[3]

Over the years, County Carlow has adopted the nickname of "The Dolmen County," which has its basis in one of the most famous attractions in the area: Brownshill Dolmen. Brownshill Dolmen is an Irish National Monument that is estimated to be up to 6,000 years old. Acting as a tomb for roughly 2,500 years, the capstone of the structure weighs over 100 tons.[2]


As the second-smallest county in Ireland, County Carlow is home to relatively few residents. The geographic region of the county is situated in the southeast portion of the Republic of Ireland, though no coastline is present within its borders. The most significant road that passes through County Carlow is the M9 motorway, with roads N80 and N81 being other notable routes of travel. The N80 specifically passes through the city of Carlow, in addition to other communities in the county such as Southcourt, Ballon, and Raheenbuan. 

Like much of Ireland, County Carlow is home to a seemingly endless number of fields used for agriculture. Sheep and dairy farming are some of the territory's most prominent economic factors, with crops such as wheat, potatoes, and barley making significant contributions as well. The development that the country has seen in the past century has allowed its population to increase by a decent proportion. For example, in 1926, the area was home to approximately 34,000 inhabitants, and in the past century, that number has grown to somewhere around 50,000 people.[8]

Temperatures in the city of Carlow are described as "comfortable" in the summer, whereas winters are often long, frigid, windy, and wet. It is uncommon for temperatures in the area to exceed 24 degrees Celsius or to drop below -2 degrees Celsius. That being said, temperatures hover between 2 and 8 degrees from mid-November to mid-March, on average. It is recommended that for warm-weather activities in the area that people visit sometime between late June and late August. The amount of rain that falls in County Carlow is relatively consistent throughout the year, with an average monthly rainfall of roughly 60 mm.[4]

Despite the fact that County Carlow is land-locked, it is home to a variety of plant species and habitats. Some of these environments have been "highly modified by man," though others have seen comparatively little human interaction. Dry heath, bog woodland, agricultural grassland, and conifer plantation are all examples of plant-rich communities in the territory. Regarding specific plant species, the area contains lady fern, bracket fungus, golden rod, and green-winged orchid. Some of these plants have been used for medicinal purposes over the long history of County Carlow.[6]


Although County Carlow is one of the smallest denominations of the Republic of Ireland, the area has a relatively deep history that can be traced back thousands of years to Ireland's Neolithic period. The county has the nickname "The Dolmen County," owing to its oldest attraction, the Brownshill Dolmen. Located only three kilometers from the city of Carlow's centre, the structure is a megalithic tomb that is thought to have the heaviest capstone in Europe, weighing somewhere around 100 tons.[5]

Carlow has seen multiple religious influences over the centuries, with the Early Christian period being one of the largest. Old churches and monastic settlements can be found in much of the county's countryside. A few examples are St. Mullin's (founded in the 7th century) and St. Lazerian's. The name "Carlow" is thought to have been derived from an old Irish location named Ceatharlach, which means either "city on the lakes" or "four lakes."[5] The town of Carlow itself was founded in 1207 by the Normans and the rest of the county saw development shortly thereafter. This makes County Carlow one of Ireland's oldest counties. Additionally, the region acted as the governing power for the entire country during the 14th century, when it was the main establishment for the Kingdom of Leinster.[2]

In the first few centuries of its existence, County Carlow also derived some of its cultures from the Anglo-Norman age. One of the territory's most notable attractions, the Carlow Castle, was one such result of the time period and was built between 1207 and 1213. The castle was preserved remarkably well for centuries, though in 1814, there were attempts to convert it into an asylum by Dr. Middleton that led to much of the structure being destroyed. Today, only the western wall remains.[5]

Regarding its more modern history, County Carlow was the first location for a sugar beet factory in Ireland in 1926. This factory helped to boost the country's economy for 80 years. Golf has also grown in popularity within the county, with the first club for golfing in the territory being established in 1899.[5]