River Barrow

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River Barrow (An Bhearú)
River Barrow at Muine Bheag, County Carlow
Country Ireland
Counties Laois, Kildare, Kilkenny, Carlow, Wexford, Waterford
Part of Three Sisters
 - left River Nore, River Suir
Source Slieve Bloom Mountains
 - location Glenbarrow, Laois
 - elevation 350 m (1,148 ft)
Mouth Celtic Sea
 - location Waterford Harbour, Waterford
Length 192 km (119 mi)
Area 3,067 km2 (1,184 sq mi)
 - average 37.4 m3/s (1,321 cu ft/s)

The Barrow (Irish: An Bhearú) is a river in Ireland. It is one of The Three Sisters; the other two being the River Suir and the River Nore. The Barrow is the longest of the three rivers. At 192 km (120 mi), it is the second-longest river in Ireland, behind the River Shannon. The catchment area of the River Barrow is 3,067 km2.[1] The river's long term average flow rate is 37.4 cubic metres per second.[2]

The source of the River Barrow is at Glenbarrow in the Slieve Bloom Mountains in County Laois.

Among the towns that the River Barrow passes through on its way to the sea in Waterford are Portarlington, Monasterevin, Athy, Carlow/Graiguecullen, Muine Bheag ( i.e. Bagenalstown,) Graiguenamanagh, and New Ross.

The river also forms a natural border between parts of counties Kilkenny and Carlow and Kilkenny and Wexford.


The earliest recorded name for the river is Berbha, from an AD 996 entry in the Annals of the Four Masters.

Sloighedh la Domhnall ua Néill co Laighnibh co ros-indir o Bherbha siar go fairrge, & do-bert bóromha mhór lais, & do-rad forbhais for Ghallaibh, & for Laighnibh co cenn da mhíos. As don chur-sin torchair Fionn, mac Goirmghiolla, Dunghal mac Dúnghaile I Riagáin, & Ronán, mac Bruadair, mic Duibhgiolla, & aroile saor-chlanna do Laighnibh amaille friu.[3]


An army was led by Domnall ua Néill into Leinster; and he plundered from the Bearbha eastwards to the sea; and he carried off a great prey of cows; and he laid siege to the foreigners and the Leinstermen for two months. On this occasion were slain Fionn, son of Goirmghilla; Dunghal, son of Dunghal Ua Riagain; Ronan, son of Bruadar, son of Duibhghilla, and other nobles of the Leinstermen along with them.

The name Berbha is believed to refer to a river-goddess. Later spellings include Berba, Birga, Baruwe and Berrowe.[4]

There was a proverb quoted by Sir John Davies that “whoso lives by west of the Barrow, lives west of the law.”[5]

Barrow Navigation[edit]

The River Barrow forms a major part of Ireland's inland waterways network, providing an inland link between the port of Waterford and the Grand Canal, which in turn connects Dublin to the River Shannon. There are three sections to the navigation:

  • The tidal River Barrow, which together with the tidal reaches of its tributaries the River Suir and River Nore constitute 88km (55 miles) of tidal river navigation.
  • The non-tidal river navigation featuring 23 locks, continuing 66km (41 miles) inland from the tidal limit of the Barrow at St Mullin's to Athy.
  • The Barrow Line of the Grand Canal connects to the river at Athy and continues northwards a further 45km (28 miles) with 9 locks, connecting to the mainline of the Grand Canal at Lowtown.


  1. ^ South Eastern River Basin District Management System. Page 38 [1]
  2. ^ South Eastern River Basin District Management System. Page 38 [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ [4]
  5. ^ Falkiner, Caesar Litton (1904). Illustrations of Irish history and topography, mainly of the seventeenth century. London: Longmans, Green, & Co. p. 117. ISBN 1-144-76601-X. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Barrow Valley Guide website

Coordinates: 52°14′N 6°58′W / 52.233°N 6.967°W / 52.233; -6.967