The Suir Blueway runs 53km from Cahir to Carrick-on-Suir via Clonmel. It is comprised of kayaking , walking and cycling trails and, of course, the River Suir water sports amenity. Indeed, the river-based element is what makes it a blueway rather than a greenway.
The Suir Blueway is open for visitors all year round in Co Tipperary and it features a fantastic cycling route taking in Carrick-on-Suir; the home town of world renowned cyclists Sean Kelly and Sam Bennett.
Cycling is the perfect way to explore the river trails and view wildlife along Suir Blueway Tipperary. A 21km marked cycle route runs from along the river towpath from Clonmel to Kilsheelin and on to Carrick-on-Suir. The route is divided into four stages and is ideal for leisure cyclists of all abilities, with excellent picnicking spots along the way. Bring your own bike or hire one at Blueway Bike Hire. You can pick them up at either end of the trail – at Hotel Minella in Clonmel and at Treacys Feul Centre in Carrick-on-Suir.
The blueway includes the Butler Trail ,an incredible 800 year old story of one of Ireland’s most influential families .The Butler Trail is fantastic journey through time that takes you around Cahir, Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir in the south-east of Tipperary, A downloadable app includes three audio trails (available in English, French and German) and a travel guide of Ireland’s Ancient East. These trails will guide you around the ancient towns of Cahir, Clonmel, Carrick-On-Suir
See Cahir’s Swiss Cottage and the new white-water canoe slalom course in Clonmel, the Irish team’s national base & continue onto Carrick on Suir , home to the Ormond Castle which includes Ireland’s only Elizabethan Tudor Manor House. This medieval market town is where the Butler family grew to power in the 13th century. Visit the Ormond castle with its Tudor Manor House Thomas “Black Tom “ Butler built for the anticipated visit of his cousin Elizabeth I of England. The castle is one of 10 Butler trail stops in the town and includes the beautiful stained glass and Kilkenny marble columns of St Nicholas’s Church. Also well worth a visit is the Tudor Artisan Hub, an Aladdin’s Cave of creative treasures and ‘one-off’ products hand-crafted the eclectic collective of more than 50 local emerging and established artists in the Hub. Directly across from Sean Healy Park ( access point to the Blueway) is a statue of Maurice Davin – founding member of the GAA. Visit the Heritage centre on Main Street & find out more about the rich history of Carrick on Suir & learn about Carrick on Suir’s other famous sons – The Clancy Brothers. There’s no better way to end your Suir Blueway Tipperary experience than to stay the night at the Carraig Hotel or The Arch and savour Carrick-on-Suir’s thriving hospitality. Stop for a bite to eat in the Junction Bar & Bistro , O Ceallachains traditional Irish pub or stop for a coffee in Café West or Martys Pantry both located in Sean Kelly Square – named after one of Irelands sporting legends & another one of Carrick on Suir’s sporting heroes.
The pathways on the river and access points to it have been improved and upgraded. Signage has been installed to bring the route together, with maps also available to guide you.
There is so much to see in terms of beautiful landscapes, fascinating cultural and historical sites and stories, and some of the best food produce in Ireland all along the route.
The access points are located at: Inch field in Cahir; in Ardfinnan, Sandybanks at Marlfield; Suir Island in Clonmel; Denis Burke Park, Clonmel; Kilsheelan; and Sean Healy Park in Carrick-on-Suir.
Suir Blueway Tipperary is the perfect escape for all the family to savour some of Ireland’s most beautiful countryside and fascinating history. Approximately 21km of the 53km of the blueway is accessible by bike or foot, where visitors can follow the towpath from Clonmel to Carrick-On-Suir. Visitors to Cahir can walk from Cahir Castle to the Swiss Cottage and vice versa which consists of a 4km walk.
Enjoy a paddle on flowing waters, go for a cycle along river banks, take a hike up nearby mountains or a more sedate stroll in the bustling medieval towns and villages from Cahir to Clonmel and on to Carrick-On-Suir.
The majority of the trail from Clonmel to Carrick-On-Suir is wheelchair accessible and toilet facilities exist at certain parts of the route.
- Car Park
- Disabled Access Services provided at certain points
- Stand Up Paddle Boarding
It is the perfect way to sample Ireland’s beautiful countryside and rich cultural heritage in this part of Tipperary.
All along the Suir Blueway are dotted centuries old castles, tower houses and churches. Discover their history of drama, romance, intrigue and deadly rivalries. Stay a while and sample the sensational local food produce, arts and crafts – it’s matched only by the local hospitality.
From Cahir through the picturesque villages of Ardfinnan and Newcastle to the medieval town of Clonmel , the picture postcard village of Kilsheelan and on to historic Carrick-on-Suir, this Blueway will open your eyes to the world of natural wonders in Ireland’s Ancient East.
Carrick-on-Suir’s Ormond Castle
A Selection of Heritage Buildings on the Carrick on Suir to Kilsheelan Towpath Blueway walk.
Ormond Castle was built in 3 distinct phases with the original castle existing at 1309 to which the fortified towers were added in 1450 followed by the Manor House in 1565. Thomas Butler, aka Black Tom, 10th Earl of Ormond and cousin of Queen Elizabeth added the Manor House which includes a magnificent long gallery and outstanding decorative plasterwork. The Manor House is the best example of an Elizabethan manor house in Ireland.
St Molleran’s Church on the south side of the river at Carrickbeg stands on the site of a friary built in 1336 possibly on the site of a former castle. Fragments of the medieval ruin are incorporated into the present building. The Earl of Ormond gave the land to the Franciscans who occupied the site until the suppression of the monasteries under Henry VIII. The bell tower is part of the medieval structure and is a unique architectural feature that looks like the tower reaches its foundation in a corbel stone midway on the north facing wall. The front wall at Abbey Height was built 1840s as a Famine relief scheme .
The Old Bridge in Carrick on Suir may have been started as early as 1306.However, it was in the year 1447 that it was upgraded to its present form under the Ormond family. This is one of the most handsome stone bridges in Ireland and it pre- dates the voyage of Columbus to the New World. For some 300 years, this was the only bridge over the river between Clonmel and the sea. This conferred further economic potential to the area by linking Co. Waterford with counties Tipperary and Kilkenny. The bridge is steeped in history. Cromwell’s army crossed the bridge with 5,000 foot soldiers and 2,500 on horseback on the way to Waterford in 1649. Ireland’s biggest inland drowning tragedy took place here in 1799 when 91 souls were lost including 50 children, 34 women and 7 men, when a boat carrying the families of soldiers coming from Clonmel failed to berth and crashed against the bridge. Men were hanged from the bridge including Maurice Quann who was hanged in 1811 for raiding a house in Tinhalla. The arch on the southern side was blown by Republicans during the Civil War.
Davin’s Weir and Tower. It is said that the science of constructing fishing weirs similar to this one at the very height of the tidal stretch of the river was brought to Ireland by the Franciscans. The tower on the Waterford bank overlooking the weir was built by Lord Waterford in 1820 ‘s and the fishing rights later transferred to the Davin Family. It is more of a decorative folly than a deterrent to salmon poaching at the weir.
Dove Hill Castle is a 14th century tower or keep, erected by the Normans to keep watch on the river which was the main access route at that time. It was in the possession of Connel O’ More, a native Irish Chieftain in 1348.In 1542 it was garrisoned by Sir Thomas Butler of Cahir,but later taken back by the Earl of Ormond. A century later it seems that its 6 occupiers were massacred after failing to understand and surrender to Lord Inchiquin who was marching on Carrick after it had been captured by Cromwellian troops.
Churchtown Burial Ground .The remains of the ancient church on the south side of the river stand forlorn above an immaculately maintained burial ground of the former Parish of Dysart, one of 3 former parishes that now make up the Parish of Carrickbeg and Windgap. Herelies the remains of Colonel James Roche of Glyn Castle; the “Swimmer Roche” one of the foremost Williamite heroes of the Siege of Derry in 1689. In a corner facing the river is the gravestone of Maurice Davin, Carrick on Suir’s famous athlete and co-founder and twice former president of the GAA.
Glyn Castle .The house known as Glen (or Glyn) Castle was built by the Everard family whose lands were later confiscated and granted to Colonel James Roche in recognition of his role at Derry and who is buried in nearby Churchtown. In his final days it is said that he caught salmon whilst fishing from his own window sill. he house is built on the site of a more ancient castle, the partial remains of which can be seen from the Blueway Towpath.
Poulakerry Castle .This is more accurately a tower house rather than a castle, commanding a sharp turn and crossing point in the river. It is an example of a fortified gentleman’s dwelling from the period 1540 – 1600 and it was built by the one of the extended Butler family – Butler Fitzwilliam. The Butlers were tried on a number of occasions for extortion and seizing goods in transport from Waterford to Clonmel. On his way from Kilkenny to Clonmel Cromwell sent a Lieut Col. Sadlier to Poulakerry and he took the tower house and killed all of its defenders. It was in ruins until the 1970’s when it was repaired and remains in use as a residence.
Kilsheelan Old Church and Graveyard Kilsheelan (Síolán) … the church of Sillan–an early Irish saint who was abbot of Bangor Abbey, Co. Down and died in the year 608 or 610. The church ruins date from the 12th century and features an Irish Romanesque carved stone doorway. The attractive wildflower area between the graveyard and the river is a lesson from the local Tidy Towns group that Japanese Knotweed can be eliminated with perseverance and hard work.
Kilsheelan Norman Motte .This is a typical example of the earthwork and timber keeps or mottes of the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland that were used to hold the country down during the military phase of the campaign in the 11th/12th Century. The “motte” is a Christmas-pudding-shaped mound of earth constructed from the up cast from the excavation of the fosse around it, reaching in height to almost 10 m. The Grotto was created in 1948.
De La Poer Castle. Gurteen Le Poer, a large Baronial house built in 1863-66 by Samuel Roberts for Edmund,18th Baron le Poer and Curraghmore on the site of a Georgian mansion of 1826 which itself replaced an even earlier building, is set on the southern bank overlooking the River Suir. The Gurteen De La Poers lost out on a claim to be the rightful heirs of Curraghmore but the monument on the back road to Carrick defiantly records them as “De Jure” Lord Waterford. The castle is owned by the controversial Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein and was the venue for Marilyn Manson’s marriage to burlesque artist Dita Von Teese in 2005.
Nature & Biodiversity on the Suir Blueway
The Towpath between Clonmel & Carrick on Suir is one of the best places in Ireland to see nature in action. Below is just some of what you can expect to encounter along the way.
Carrick on Suir – Home of the Otter ….and the odd Dolphin!
Along the riverbank at Carrick on Suir is one of the best places in Europe to see otters in their wild natural environment. The Eurasian otter has vanished from most of Europe and Ireland remains a stronghold of this usually secretive and beautiful animal. The normal density is 1 otter per 5km of river but at present they are in much higher density on the Blueway. In Carrick on Suir, the otters are more tolerant of the onlookers on the riverbank than in other known locations and locals have got some terrific photos and memories. They love to play and can travel up to 15km in one night. They are very graceful in the water and can stay totally submerged for 4 minutes during which time they can travel 400m. Carrick on Suir has been designated as one of the most important places in Europe for observing otters in their natural habitat.
Otters in Carrick have a very varied diet that includes eels, flounder, trout and perhaps the very abundant dace. In the upper stretches of the Suir River the main component of the otter’s diet is the white-clawed crayfish. A genuine concern is that the significant reduction in eel and trout numbers and the sudden decimation out of the native crayfish due to a plague in May 2017 has taken away much of the otter’s natural food supply and that this will impact on the success of future generations of this loveable animal. We might well be watching the last of the otters! When otters are disturbed they let out a hissing sound.
Our Dolphin visitor in 2017 & 2018
Wildlife on the Blueway
The River Suir is renowned for its game angling, holding both salmon and brown trout .The river also hosts flounder ,Shad & the invasive Dace. The River Suir once held a huge population of eels , but there has been a significant reduction in the population in recent years. A recent plague has also decimated the White-clawed Crayfish , Ireland & the River Suir have held some of the best stocks in Europe of this species , but recent plagues have seriously affected the River’s population. The record for the largest salmon ever caught in Ireland has stood for more than 130 years caught in1874 by a Mr M Maher , a 25.9kg (57lb) salmon in the river Suir.
There is a huge selection of birds to be observed along the River Suir both in & on the outskirts of Carrick on Suir. Swans , Egrets , Kingfishers , Herons & Cormorants can regularly bee seen going about their lives along with many more species of birds along the Blueway.
Foxes , rabbits , hares & deer are often seen along the banks of the River Suir between Clonmel and Carrick on Suir.
Under the New Bridge in Carrick on Suir a clump of riverbank vegetation might be looked on by some as just another bunch of weeds…but each has a purpose and a little story of its own!
Take the white flowering and beautifully scented Meadow Sweet (Queen of the Meadow) used extensively long ago as a floor covering as it was warm underfoot and overcame smells and infection. A sacred herb to the Celts and favourite herb of Queen Elizabeth 1.It was used in the production of the sweet alcoholic drink ‘mead’ and its botanical name is Spiraea from which the drug Aspirin derives. Also in bloom along the banks is the Common Fleabane. These were gathered and burned to smoke out rooms so as to eradicate the scourge of fleas. Finally, the tall beautiful upright stands of the Purple Loosestrife were used by herbalists for the release of stress. It is home to 5 specialist insects and has a unique reproductive mechanism.
All these native plants provide the biodiversity, the range of moths and insects that provide food for birds, bats and fish further up the food chain along the riverbank. Indiscriminate dumping and over trimming causes loss and destruction of the native plants and consequent loss of biodiversity all along the food chain.
Another other great challenge is to stop the rapid spread and then to tackle invasive species already present along the Blueway such as the Japanese Knotweed and particularly Himalayan Balsam which is spreading rapidly and will crowd out and supplant local native wildflowers. Other nasty invaders such as the Giant Hogweed are trying to get established but if caught early they can be removed easily.
Many Thanks to Carrick on Suir Lions Club , Tipperary County Council , Tipperary Tourism & Heritage Ireland for some of the material used in this article.
Carrick on Suir Lions Club have strived for many years to protect the Biodiversity of the river Suir in ad around Carrick on Suir & below is a sample of one of their current projects that we are sure will bear fruit in the near future & will provide a huge enhancement to the Suir Blueway in the town of Carrick on Suir , by linking the south bank of the River Suir to the Blueway which runs along the North bank of the river.
The Bog Field Carrickbeg
The Lions Club are committed to the creation of a really good quality public amenity space and the protection of the riverbank and natural habitat at Carrickbeg. The views of the river and the countryside are truly beautiful from here and the degradation in recent years has been somewhat reversed by the Lions Club’s environmental activities and regular clean ups. Much more remains to be done however. In 2017 they provided 3 marble seats for public use at Tobar na gCrann to mark the Centenary of Lions Club International. Each seat has a different inscription “as Gaeilge” designed to inspire our thoughts:
- “Ar bhóithrín na Smaointe in aice le Tobar na gCrann” Beside the historic well, Tobar na gCrann (the well of the trees), where locals came to draw water and where countless meetings and conversations took place. Ar bhóithrín na smaointe is simply ‘down memory lane’ and people are invited to reminisce on people and times past.
- “An Charraig – don Laoch agus don Mhadra” A translation of ‘Carrick for a man or a dog’ interpreted as meaning that Carrick is the best place for a hard working man and for a good dog. Nearest the river, this seat has views of the Bridge, the Castle and the Navigation.
- “Tóg go bog é agus lig do scíth” The word bog in English is derived from the Gaelic word bog meaning soft and this is the ideal seat for a family picnic on a spot where you are invited to ‘Take it softly and rest yourself a while’.
The Way Forward
The Lions Club will continue to work towards the development of a riverside amenity at Carrick-beg that will make us all proud of the most visible and meaningful space in the heart of our community. Other agencies and property owners will have to engage in the process but the Lions Club are willing to build on the foundations already in place and to lead the way on the fulfilment of a long awaited dream. It can and it will be done. A recent clean up in the area uncovered one of the last stone piers used for tying up boats along the banks of the river in the town when the industrial heart of Carrick on Suir was centred along the river.
The Lions Club have cleaned the riverbanks and promoted an Environmental Charter for the Blueway as part of the Anti-Illegal Dumping Initiative in 2017 and 2018. Almost 40 organisations in Carrick signed the Charter to pledge support to keep the riverbank clean and tidy. Such widespread support inspires us to continue with our planned environmental projects for the benefit of the town and those who visit us. We would ask all visitors to make sure you bring your litter away with after you visit to our beautiful Suir Blueway.
Planned area of development on South side of River Suir in Carrick on Suir Town Centre