The turnpike road (toll road) connecting Dublin to Kilkenny city via the town of Carlow, Ireland was completed in 1731. The road had been built in two parts, Dublin through Naas to Kilcullen (1729) and Kilcullen to Kilkenny (1731). The road was part of network of routes that spread throughout Ireland connecting with roads developed by the Grand Juries (County Councils). The development of the turnpikes improved travel time for passengers and they were used by the Irish Mail Coach when it was introduced in 1789.
The Turnpike Acts for the first time, introduced a planned system of roadbuilding in Ireland. Up until then, roads in Ireland mainly built in medieval times, were of very poor quality. It was one of the drawbacks of, unlike England, not having been invaded by the Romans. The improvement in Irish roads had begun with the opening of the 45km (28 mile) turnpike road from Dublin to Kilcullen in County Kildare in 1729. At the same time as the road to Kilkenny was being built, roads such as Dublin to Navan and roads leading out of Belfast, Cork and Limerick were also being built.
During the following decades the road network began to radiate from the major urban centres. Eventually there were five turnpike roads passing through County Carlow. Many of the roads in existence today were built during this era. The turnpike along the eastern corridor linking Dublin to Belfast and the road to Cork were completed by the middle of the 18th century.
The improvements in roads introduced a significant improvement in travel times and the development of more regular services. By 1737 coach services were available from Dublin to places such as Drogheda, Kinnegad and Kilkenny twice a week. However long distance journeys involved overnight stops. In the early 1740’s the journey from Dublin to Belfast took two days in Summer and three in Winter. Inns which had been opened along the routes of the new roads were the stop-off points for the coaches. The stop-off point in Carlow town the ‘Great Inn’.
The mail-coach system was first introduced to Ireland in 1789. The initial service was on routes from Dublin to Belfast and Dublin to Cork. The system was gradually extended countrywide. The first mail-coach service from Dublin to Waterford took place in 1790.
The Irish Mail Coach on its first journey from Dublin to Waterford made a stop in Carlow town in the year 1790 On This Day.
Image from page 441 of “The choice works of Thomas Hood, in prose and verse” (1881) by Internet Archive Book Images on 1881-01-01 00:00:00