Sketching Ireland #5

Carlow – A Must Stop

Why? Well, Carlow is just off the M9 and is a fair size town to just pass by. According to Wikipedia, the settlement of Carlow is thousands of years old and pre-dates written Irish history. The town had played a major role in Irish history, serving as the capital of the country in the 14th century. Besides, read what Carlow Tourism wrote on their site and tell me that you would not drop by as well.

Immerse yourself in the story of Ireland’s Ancient East in County Carlow. Get off the beaten track to see, hear, touch and feel the imprints of the millennia of settlers in this county. Take your time to discover it all – Stone Age artifacts, monasteries, medieval castles and large country houses and estates.

google-maps-oakpark-w.jpgUnfortunately, I’m just making a quick exploration. But I did save some provided photos for later ‘Sketching from the Neck Up’ projects. Meanwhile, Carlow Tourism said that ‘Carlow is a treasure trove of wonderful gardens to visit. Some of the best in the country are here and the county also contains what is regarded as the best garden centre in the country – Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven, which has been continuously awarded a coveted 5 stars in the Bord Bia Garden Centre of the Year Awards.’ One particular park I found is just on the outskirts of the town.

Oak Park Forest Park

There are few locations which could rival the beauty and tranquillity of Oak Park Forest Park. Ideal for leisurely strolls and walks, a visit here is a relaxing and pleasurable experience and a must for any visitor to Co. Carlow. Colour coded circular walkways of varying lengths with excellent accessible surfaces and easy gradients make a visit here an enjoyable experience for young and old alike.

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The park is a mature, mixed species woodland of over 120 acres with a predominance of beech, oak, scots pine, silver fir, larch and sycamore. The proximity of the walkways to the extensive collection of ferns, mosses and woodland flora provides the visitor with an ideal opportunity to interact with nature. Boasting a rich diversity of wildlife, the lakes and their surrounds provide a habitat for swans and ducks, while the islands shelter many wild and game birds. The Woodland Looped walks extend over 4km.

The park also features a picnic area, informal leisure areas and seating at regular intervals. For us who are physically challenged, the Looped Board Walks have anti-slip surfacing and are wheelchair accessible. You can read more in this PDF brochure link -> Carlow-Garden-Trail

After a vicarious visit in the forest, I’m heading in for town. My first stop – the River Barrow and the rowing club.

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I love watching a rowing team pulling on their oars, slicing through the water.

Downtown Carlow

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So, from the river, using Street-View, I went exploring down narrow streets. Just a block from the river, I found the ruins of the Carlow Castle which is today facing a modern apartment complex called the Water Front. I decided not to sketch the castle and continue my touring. I decided to check out Carlow College.

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On the way there, as I was passing the court house, I had to stop and sketch an 18th century canon which sat on a strange carriage. I say strange because as a historical student of this period, if this canon was fired, well… I can just imagine it flipping back and crushing the gun crew. But I think this canon carriage, in-front of the court house is more for display.

The college campus reminded me of my own college days. Because I was a Theatre major, I always look for the campus theater; in this case, VISUAL Carlow.

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VISUAL is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary art spaces situated in the heart of Carlow Town, with four world class gallery spaces and a 320-seat performance space. It receives national, international and regional touring productions as well as presenting locally produced work. The theatre itself comprises of one performance space and associated workshop space. It is the home venue for a number of Carlow based amateur and professional groups who can use it for workshops, rehearsals and presentation of their work. [content by http://www.visualcarlow.ie]

For my sketch subject, I chose a beautiful, chrome shining, modern art piece which stood about 3-storeys high and fronting Visual. After the college, we go shopping.

Five blocks south is Carlow’s shopping district and if this was an actual physical vacation, my wife will really be enjoying it. Meanwhile, since I’m not really a shopping type, I have to hunt for something to sketch. And in a small circular park surrounded by boutiques, shops, restaurants and tourists is the Liberty Tree.

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At first sight, the Liberty Tree is a bronze sculpture with a tree shaped outline. It stands on a circular base at the centre of a large fountain. I almost ignored it, until I looked closely at the tree’s trunk and found several emaciated human images hanging from the trunk; like they were cruelly tortured to death.

This almost gruesome sculpture actually commemorates the 1798 Irish Rising that started here in Carlow.

After the shopping, it is time to look for somewhere to eat. There are many recognizable restaurants in Carlow’s commercial area. I found McDonald’s and even a Burger King (by the river). But I went looking for a hole-in-the-wall type restaurant that’ll surprise me. In a narrow street, right across from the Cathedral is a Spanish restaurant, Mimosa.

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If you looked at the outside, it didn’t seem special. Now, look at the framed door of my sketch and you’ll see a star and 4 discs. Mimosa may seem a hole-in-the-wall, but it is an award winning place. So, I hope for future travellers, please eat there and write to me about it.

For more about Carlow, GUIDE TO CARLOW & CARLOW’S ADVENTURE TRAILS.

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