Rothar Routes

Cycle routes & pilgrim journeys in Ireland and Europe …..

Archive for ‘January, 2018’

Bringing Old Railway Lines to Life


Old railway lines find a new use – why can’t the Bagenalstown – Pallas East line not do likewise?


One of the biggest innovations in Irish tourism in recent times has been the creation of the Greenways along disused railway lines. They have worked in Mayo, Westmeath and Waterford bringing serious economic benefit to these areas.

That is the reason and the logic supporters of the proposed Blueway along the River Barrow advance in supporting the  development. It is a compelling argument when you see the success of the Greenways elsewhere. Yet this planning application has seen the highest ever number of planning objections lodged with Carlow County Council. Hundreds of people have attended public meetings in opposition to the development.

How can a project with such potential be a source of so much concern? I imagine everybody living along the Barrow corridor would favour a stronger local economy with the potential for more jobs and prosperity but instead they are mobilised and agitating against this proposal.

In his brilliant book, ‘The Wisdom of Crowds” James Surowiecki espoused the theory of collective wisdom and that it should not be dismissed too easily. I feel the same principle should apply in the decision of the planners in this case. It should not be swayed by the body of experts who have been employed to promote this project. Local knowledge must be central to the decision making process.

One question that has to be asked is why has the old disused railway between Bagenalstown and Pallas East not been considered for development as a Greenway just as the aforementioned railway lines in other parts of the country? It could link up with the Waterford Greenway as part of a national route just as the Blueway is to be part of that trail infrastructure.

Borris Viaduct

One of my concerns is that our public representatives do not understand the disastrous consequences should this proposed development fail and they have not familiarised themselves sufficiently with the differences between the proposed Blueway and the Greenways around the country. They are like chalk and cheese.

Lets assume the proposal gets the go ahead.

The grass bank will be removed.

Trees and hedging will be removed.

A hard grit like surface will I understand be installed.

The Barrow will continue to flood on multiple occasions annually.

Will we now have 140kms of this potholed surface instead of a grassy bank:

St Mullins Track 2018-01-06 (1)

If my fears are misplaced and Waterways Ireland can provide a trail that meets all our needs then of course it would be an amazing route. Unfortunately they have not yet, as far as I know, provided detail on how this surface will be maintained in the future. users of the Barrow Track are all too well aware that WWI struggle to fund the maintenance of the current surface – surely this will be an even bigger cost?

Constant flooding washes away these grit surfaces – causing pollution problems in the River itself.. and with climate change the extent of the flooding has been getting worse and will get even more challenging  in decades ahead…


Barrow in Flood

Barrow in Flood

Barrow in Flood

Barrow in Flood


All Roads Lead to Rome

The three great pilgrimage routes in Christendom are Santiago de Compostella, Rome and Jerusalem. In 2010 myself and Ronan set out from Canterbury on the ancient Via Francigena, crossing south east England, France, Switzerland and Italy on our bikes, edging ever closer to the Eternal City.

Just discovered my old video files tonight!

The culmination fo that great pilgrimage was arriving into St Peters on our bikes!

Ronan is in Dubai now but there’s is no way I’m joining him to cycle to Mecca!




I can safely say some of my best memories were cycling the Camino with each of my three young lads, Cian, Darragh and Ronan just after they finished primary school. 12 years age and it was no problem to them! Ronan then cycled the Via Francigena with me in 2010. Only Jerusalem left to complete the three great pilgrimage routes of Christendom! Some nice memories here – have lost a lot of the video footage but these clips give a flavour

St Mullins, Ecclesiastical Village of south Carlow

Wedged in between counties Kilkenny and Wexford at the very southern tip of County Carlow and located between the Blackstairs and Mount Brandon on the banks of the River Barrow, St Mullins is a national treasure.

‘Tigh Moling’ as it is more properly called in Irish, was founded by the great Irish saint, Moling.

The monastery was founded in the 7th Century and thankfully substantial sections are still clearly evident today.Trinity College Library is home to the priceless ancient Book of Moling in which there is a plan of the monastery – the earliest known plan of an Irish Monastery. The ‘Gobán Saor’, a legendary Irish craftsman is said to have assisted in the building of the monastery which consisted of four churches, a round tower and numerous crosses. It was a very important early Christian site that was twice plundered by the Vikings travelling inland along the River Barrow in their long boats.

The graveyard contains the graves of many United Irishmen who died in the 1798 rebellion which are often marked with green shields.

Just below the Church on the eastern side is St Moling’s Well and people came here for a cure during the Great Plague.

St Mullins also has a most impressive Norman Motte and Bailey which would have used for protection of the village below.

St Mullins is traditionally on of the great pilgrimage sites in Ireland and people came here on the annual Patter Day which is the first Sunday before 25th July to take of the waters’. There used be two pattern days, 17th June and 25th July (feast of St James). The Pattern still attracts huge crowds and pilgrims drink the healing waters of the well after the blessing by the priest and then a procession to the cemetery for mass at the Penal Altar. It’s a great social occasion too and there are many stalls and amusements to entertain the visitors.

Leaving the village and heading in the direction of Carrigleade is another important site associated with St Mullins that celebrates one of his great achievements, Teampaill na Bo. It was a small church built in thanksgiving to Moling who freed the Leinster men from paying an unjust tax, The Borumean Tribute, to the High King of Ireland. This was an oppressive tax consisting of 5,000 cows, 5,000 hogs, 5,000 sheep, 5,000 vessels of bronze and to cap it off 5,000 ozs of silver! The site has a sad past too as it was used to bury unbaptised children. It is a very spiritual place to drop in to and say a prayer for those poor unfortunate children. 

St Mullins is  one of my favourite cycling destinations and I usually reach it by cycling along the Barrow Way. I have included a route from St Mullins in my book, ‘Cycling South Leinster’ called ‘On the Trail of the Saints’ which starts in St Mullins and visits Inistioge, Graiguenamanagh, Ullard and Borris. St Mullins is also on the longest route in the book, ‘Follow Me Up to Carlow’!

Here is a link to a great local history that i have just come upon: St Mullins a Local History

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