Aoibhlinn Steger (9) and her 11 year-old sister, Ailbhe, try the stargazing with Mary White of Blackstairs Eco Trails in Co Carlow. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Aoibhlinn Steger (9) and her 11 year-old sister, Ailbhe, try the stargazing with Mary White of Blackstairs Eco Trails in Co Carlow. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Mary White in one of her new Shepherd’s Huts at Blackstairs Eco Trails, Co Carlow
Canoeing on the River Barrow
Ailbhe Steger (11) and her 9 year-old sister,Aoibhlinn, examining the night sky as part of the new Stargazing in the Blackstairs experience. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Brownshill Dolmen in Co Carlow
Snowdrops at Altamont Gardens. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

Pól Ó Conghaile

Burned-out? Looking to skip the city and recharge in a slow tourism paradise that doesn’t involve a trip to the airport?

Carlow could be the county for you.

“Our guests are coming from all over the world to switch off,” says Mary White, former Green Party Minister and owner of Blackstairs Eco Trails near Borris.

“We had people here recently from New York and Berlin. One man came to us, just before he left, to say he hadn’t slept as well since he was 10 years of age.

“It simply is that peaceful, that restful here.”

“If you want to get off the treadmill, this is the place to come,” says Charlie Horan of Go With The Flow River Adventures, which runs canoe trails on the River Barrow.

“Knock off early on a Friday so you miss the mad rush of traffic, and within an hour you can be on the most incredible natural corridor – whether you choose to cycle, walk or paddle it… and the most stunning bits are in Carlow.”

“You can literally change your week by getting down here and taking a deep breath.”



Graiguecullen, Co Carlow. Photo: Fáilte IrelandGraiguecullen, Co Carlow. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

Graiguecullen, Co Carlow. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

The message is a tempting one in a world of 24/7 connectivity.

In 2016, an ESRI study found that 18pc of absences in the Irish workplace were down to stress, anxiety and depression – and growing numbers of businesses are offering opportunities to switch off and reboot, from “slow travel” sustainable tourism offerings to wellness getaways, digital detoxes and burnout breaks.

Can Carlow compete? As one of the least-visited counties in Ireland, with just 79,000 overseas visitors in 2017, according to Fáílte Ireland, you may not think so.

In a world of overtourism, however, that could also be an advantage.

“The Barrow is still such an undiscovered gem,” Horan says. “As far as I’m concerned, it deserves the status of the Cliffs of Moher or the Giant’s Causeway.”

“It’s mindfulness at its best. You’re just there.”



Mary White in one of her new Shepherd's Huts at Blackstairs Eco Trails, Co CarlowMary White in one of her new Shepherd's Huts at Blackstairs Eco Trails, Co Carlow

Mary White in one of her new Shepherd’s Huts at Blackstairs Eco Trails, Co Carlow

“The motorway infrastructure means we’re also within easy commuting distance of Dublin, but can offer a totally different experience to the normal hustle and bustle of everyday life,” adds Kieran Comerford of Carlow County Council, which supports many tourism providers across the county, including Blackstairs Eco Trails.

“Carlow is fast becoming the chill-out capital of Ireland,” Mary White says.

This week at Blackstairs Eco Trails, she and husband Robert are launching a new ‘Stargazing in the Blackstairs’ package – a digital detox that combines B&B in one of their cosy shepherd’s huts together with hand-carved Viking reclining chairs, a comfy rug, cocoa and calendar of the night sky from €75 per night.

“When it’s time to leave, we’ve even had people asking if we might consider adopting them, the stay is that transformative,” she quips.

Exhausted executives and jaded millennials, take note.

Read more:

Revealed: The Irish counties most (and least) visited by tourists

Online Editors

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