Maganey Bridge

From looking at our Barrow Way route for the summer and splitting it up into manageable stages, it seems that most of our journeys will be around about 8 km (5 miles), some will be slightly longer and some shorter.  One of the shorter ones is the trip from Levitstown Lock to Maganey Bridge, both in County Kildare.  At only 3.5 km or just under 2 miles, it was perfect for a summer evening stroll.  The motivation this time was quite simple.  We were walking to the shop to get an ice-cream.  Of course, before we walked to the shop, we had to drive there to drop off one car to the finish line but that was fine. Being a school day we had to organise something to eat and do homework so it was almost 5 pm when we set off.

Dog Rose Levitstown

Levitstown Mill

Our starting point this time was Levitstown Lock.  Situated right behind the lock, Levitstown Mill was built in the early 19th Century and was used as a maltings until it was destroyed by fire in 1943.  The River Barrow provided both the power to run the mill and also the transport route for getting the malt to the Guinness Brewery in Dublin.  The mill is a beautiful old stone building that looks almost like a castle. In fact, when Michael was younger, the mill was always his castle and he used to sit astride the arm of the lock gate like a knight riding his horse.  The area is also home to a large rookery and each evening at sunset, the rooks can be seen and heard flying homeward over the mill.

Levitstown Mill

Damselflies, Butterflies and Bumblebees

Walking along the River Barrow is special at any time but I really love it on a summer evening when it all seems even more calm and peaceful.  Birds fly over the river and can be heard calling in the adjacent floodplain.  Flying insects are abundant with bumblebees and butterflies flying from flower to flower and beautiful damselflies flying overhead and landing with closed wings on vegetation.  We spotted several Banded Demoiselles, with their metallic blue and green colouring and the characteristic dark band on the wings of the male.  River banks and towpaths can be important wildlife corridors when wild flowers are allowed to grow in the hedgerows providing much needed habitat for our precious Pollinators.

Female Banded Demoiselle

On Home Ground

Being close to home, this is a favourite place of ours to walk but up to this point we have always walked a certain distance and then turned around for home so it was nice to just keep going past the familiar locations and on to new areas.  One place where we often go on our walks is a spot where the small Glasha stream comes down and forms a little pool to the side of the towpath before passing underneath to join the River Barrow.  An old stone seat is almost surrounded nettles but by flattening them down you can sit down and also make your way out to a tiny neck of land with the stream flowing around on three sides.  We sometimes bring a net here to fish for pond skaters and whirligig beetles.

Fishing in the Pool Levitstown


On one of our rest stops I took a closer look at what appeared to be a large spider web on the low branches of a Spindle tree, but it turned out to be a group of Spindle Ermine Moth Caterpillars.  The Ermine Moths are a large group of moths that are generally white in colour with black spots.  Many species have a particular host plant on which they feed and they protect themselves and their wood plant under a large web until they are ready to pupate into adult moths.

Spindle Ermine Moths

Journey’s End

Coming closer to Maganey Bridge I caught a very brief glimpse of what I think was an otter swimming across the river towards the bank, but we waited another few minutes with no other sign.  I’m sure he (or she) spotted us too and wasn’t coming out again until we were gone.  Passing under the left hand arch of the bridge, we then came up onto the road and across to the Three Counties shop for our reward.  Although we were still in County Kildare at this point, it is very close to the Carlow border and Laois is just the other side of the river. Sitting on the bank of the river on a summer’s evening eating ice-cream is such a pleasure.  If it weren’t a school night, we’d have stayed there much longer.

Ice-cream at Maganey Bridge


The Verdict

For us, this was a perfect length for a summer evening’s walk.  As I mentioned before, there isn’t much space for parking in Levitstown unless you are prepared to pull in at the side of the road.  At the Maganey end, there is a small carpark beside the bridge so this section of the Barrow Way could easily be combined with the Athy to Levitstown section making a total walk of 12 km (7.5 miles).  This is longer than anything we’ve attempted so far with Michael but I’ve no doubt he would manage it easily enough if we allowed the whole day for the walk and were in no rush. With many of the walks, along the Barrow Way, parking places can be quite remote especially if you are walking short sections as we are so you do need to be aware that you will be parking at your own risk.

Cloud Gazing

Our next walk was on one of the most popular stretches of the Barrow Way, the short walk from Leighlinbridge to Bagenalstown (although we walked it the other way around).  I’ll be describing it in my next post.  In the meantime, if you’d like to join me and experience some of the magic of the Barrow Way, I’ll be leading a free family walk along the Barrow starting from the Garden of Remembrance in Leighlinbridge on Saturday 25th July at 2 pm as part of the Carlow Garden Festival.  We’ll be exploring trees, wild flowers and insects along the trail.

Carlow Garden Fesival