County Carlow, the 31st largest county in Ireland in terms of size, and 30th in terms of population, is usually marketed as part of the Sunny South-East. Although it is sometimes called “The Celtic Centre of Ireland” due to its range of ancient sites and monuments, many of these are much older than the earliest Celtic influences that reached Ireland.
County Carlow History
Although “shired” as the county of Caterlaugh as early as 1306, Carlow was never within the medieval Pale, and for the most part remained beyond the Crown’s control until the C17th.
In the late C14th, much of the territory was the fiefdom of Art McMurrough Kavanagh, who succeeded to the title of King of Leinster at the age of 16 and ruled for 42 turbulent years, soon becoming the most feared Gaelic chieftain in the country. Married to the Hiberno-Norman heiress Elizabeth Calf, of the important barony of Norragh in Co. Kildare, he attacked urban settlements with frequency, extracted “black rent” (non-aggression payment) from Castledermot and New Ross and demanded an equivalent annual fee from Dublin.
King Richard II came to Ireland personally to resolve the issue in 1394 with an estimated 10,000 men. A treaty was agreed and King Richard returned to England, but he had barely reached home when McMurrough Kavanagh struck again, and a series of battles culminated in an engagement at Kellistown, near Tullow, where the King’s cousin, Roger Mortimer, was routed and slain. In fury King Richard returned to Ireland to defeat the troublesome Gaelic ruler once and for all, but McMurrough Kavanagh inflicted defeat after defeat on the King’s forces.
Richard’s war in Ireland gave his enemies their chance. Bolingbroke usurped England’s throne, the ill-fated Richard returned to his death and Art McMurrough Kavanagh of Borris retained his little kingdom.
Much of the county remained a Gaelic enclave for centuries after this until the Cromwellian confiscations of 1650 and the Penal Laws finally subdued the old ways.
County Carlow is.