Had a great day on the bike today seeing some of the great scenery in our county and visiting some of our well known and lesser known heritage sites. The intention had been that we would both spend a few days cycling in Carlow but a back injury knocked that on the head for Mary.
Yesterdays rain meant postponing the cycle for a day – what a difference 24 hours can bring!
First stop was on the road to Knockbeg at the ruins of Sleatty Church and its unusual High Cross. The ruins are located on the right hand side just after the graveyard on the left.
St Fiacc is closely associated with Sleatty which was founded in the 5th century. There are two crosses remaining on the site from that time, both are plain crosses. There’s a replica of the larger cross in the grounds of St Patrick’s College.
It’s a short skip across to the better known Killeshin Romanesque Doorway. Built much later than Sleatty, in the 12th century, the doorway is remarkably well preserved and the detail is stunning. The stone carvings are really worth examining closely and there is an inscription that refers to Diarmuid McMourragh King of Leinster – the lad who brought the Normans to Ireland.
Its a steep pull immediately after, heading up towards Rossmore so its always inviting to take another stop at the Waterworks for the lovely view – especially after heavy rain as the water cascades over the steps.
The cycle to the top at Rossmore is a tough one. especially near the Waterworks where the gradient is 8 degrees. The view out to your left though over Carlow Town and across to the Wicklow Mountains and Mount Leinster make it easy to ignore the difficult climb. The reward is a stunning view from the top and a great descent to look forward to.
It doesn’t take long to hit Ballinabranna and rather than go down to the Barrow at beautiful Milford I went cross country to Old Leighlin. Old Leighlin was home to St Laserian or Molaise. The holy well is a very important link with tradition, one that is alive and well in modern Ireland. It attracts a lot of visitors. It’s a sacred place and there is a story about a famous yew tree that once grew here – one of the five sacred trees in ancient ireland. Sadly it got damaged and was replaced by three yew trees. There is a rag tree here beside the well and cross on which people leave offerings for intercessions.
Heading back down hill I turned sharp right in the village into St Laserians Cathedral where there are guided tours between 12 noon and 4pm every day. Well worth a visit to this the smallest Cathedral in Ireland. And one of the most historic, for it was here at a synod of bishops in 632 A.D. that the date for Easter was agreed with the Irish Church. The Church here was destroyed by the Vikings and rebuilt. The building is beautiful and the east window contains beautiful stain glass depictions of St Laserain, St Moling, St Fiacc, St Brigid, St Paul, St John and St Canice. Highly recommend a visit.
Down into Leighlinbridge and onto my usual haunt of the Barrow Track. Today was a little different as I was delayed by dredging works near Fenniscourt where the drawbridge was up and I could not proceed!
Thanks to the help of the workmen I wasn’t unduly delayed and made my way south towards Borris. by this stage the sun was beaming and the Barrow was chocolate brown after last night’s heavy rains.
It being the 15th of August, the Borris Fair was in full swing and I headed up into the village to round of a great day’s cycling. Richie Kavanagh wrote a song about the Fair and it provides a great image of the Fair day of old:
On the fifteenth day of August, as everyone is there
They come from miles around to the Borris Fair
There’s all kinds of tinkers, dealers and conmen
And even three card tricks, a game that’s hard to win
It’s there you’ll see the faces of the friends from long ago
Some of them have changed so much, begor you’d hardly know
Ah, when you started talking, the memories, they come back
Of great fairs now in Borris, the dealing and the crack
The imigrants, they come home from far across the sea
Ah, Borris on the fifteenth, that’s the place to be
A great day for the children, ice cream and the like
Me Daddy used to bring me on the bar of the bike
If your looking for a jackass, a puckán or a pony
The tinker man, he has them all if you have the money
CD, tapes and videos and loads of bricker-brack
Your sure to get a good deal if you have the dealing knack
Not a bad way to spend a day of the holidays.
Here is the route I travelled today.
55kms, 629 metres climbing, 20kms off road.