Rothar Routes

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

Posts by Turlough

Give Coronavirus the Boot!

Getting out in the fresh air and exploring our natural and built heritage is a great way to relieve the stress of living with the threat of our invisible enemy, the coronavirus! Especially with no football or hurling games or training to keep us Gaels occupied!

Carlow has so much to offer; around every turn or over every hedge row is a sight to behold or a site to explore! It’s amazing what you can visit in a couple of hours.

An exciting project is underway in Drummond, St Mullins. Efforts are underway to preserve and protect the only raised bog left in Carlow and the South East at Drummin.

Drummin Raised Bog

I recall reading about this some time ago on the St Mullins Amenity & Recreational Tourism Group (SMART) website and a recent visit to the Abbeyleix Bog Walk prompted renewed interest in visiting and finding out a little more about the Drummin Project.

“Raised bogs are discreet, raised, dome-shaped masses of peat occupying former lakes or shallow depressions in the landscape. Their principal supply of water and nutrients is from rainfall and the substrate is acid peat soil, which can be up to 12 metres deep. Raised bogs are characterised by low-growing, open vegetation dominated by mosses, sedges and heathers, all of which are adapted to waterlogged, acidic and exposed conditions.

The majority of the Red Bog was acquired by the Bernstorf family, Berkeley House, New Ross, whose objective was its preservation and protection. To this end, Drummin Bog Committee was formed and received grant assistance from the Heritage Council’s Biodiversity Grant Scheme in 2015.

The grant was used to improve access, cut and remove coniferous and birch trees and dam internal drains to allow the Bog to begin to re-establish its biodiversity. Plans for the near future include the building of a pathway to provide safe access to the Bog as a local attraction and amenity for all to enjoy”.

Another website worth looking at to find out more about this wonderful project is The Drummin Bog Project.

Drummin Raised Bog

I did a little more research and came across this magical piece of local folklore which is available on the Dúchas, The Schools Collection website:

Long ago two giants from Kilcrut started fighting in Doran’s bog. They kept on till both sank into the soft soil and were buried in the bog. Passers by the bog assert that, on a moonlight night, the shadows of the giants can be seen in the bog lunging at each other, and on a dark night weird noises are heard from the bog.
In Drummond lived a giant 6ft 8 ins. in height and he weighed 24 stones. It was no bother to him to carry a weight of 5 cut. He used to attend fairs and earn money by performing feats of strength. One day as he was driving a lady to New Ross he was held up by Highwaymen. The giant sprang from the car, seized the leader of the robbers by the neck & kept a grip on him till he collapsed. The other robbers flew away in terror & never again was the Drummond giant interfered with on the public road.


Colonel Egan who fought with Sarsfield at the Boyne, Limerick, Athlone & Aughrim returned broken – hearted to his native district after the Treaty of Limerick. He is buried in Cloneygoose cemetery and a great tombstone marks his grave. Colonel Cloney, the hero of the “Three Bullet Gate” at the Battle of Ross in ’98 resided in Courtnellan for some time – he is buried in St Mullins.
Art McMurrogh is one of
our local heroes. He was poisoned in New Ross by a British Spy. When the van of his funeral cortage was entering the gates of St Mullins cemetery the end of was only leaving New Ross – it was 14 miles long.
Bloody Cromwell passed thro’ Borris after his destruction of Wexford & is said to have left a few of his soldiers behind on the rich lands of Ballytiglea.
About 20 years ago a wicked old man called “Patches” used to frighten school children on their way home.
A similar character was “Sabages”. This latter brandished a penknife. Of course the children were terefied of him. In Spahill lived an old Wizard called O’Neill.
One day a man from Scorth attached him. O’Neill turned him into a goat.

Isn’t that just class!

Drummin Raised Bog
Drummin Bog
St. Peters Church of Ireland, Killedmond, hidden at the end of a short avenue of yew trees. One of the prettiest settings and churches in the county.

When that far south I ventured over to another important but little know site – Templemoling Cemetery which is obviously associated with St Moling. It’s a very peaceful and spiritual setting; this old cemetery has an interesting rock which supposedly features the footprint of St Finnian! It’s always superbly maintained with the outer hedge trimmed back and the grass regularly cut.

Templemoling. Note the tiny cross beneath the altar slab.
Templemoling Cemetery, Ballinree. The ruins of a church can be clearly seen behind the altar and cross.
St Finnian’s Footprint

I was delighted to include this reference to St Finnian as on my cycle along the Columbanus trail last Autumn, I visited Clonard, Co. Meath where St Finnian founded one of the most important monasteries in Europe in the 6th Century. A great source of information is often the local parish website and the Myshall / Drumphea Parish site is particularly good with lots of information about the history of the Parish.

The story about the Giant fighting in the Bog came from the old national schools dotted across the parishes of the country, many of them sadly long since disused and now in ruins, just like the one at Rathnageeragh:

Rathnageeragh NS built 1883, finally closed its doors in 1967. There are some great photos on the parish website of classes and teachers in this 2 teacher school.
Rathnageeragh (Fort of the Sheep) Castle. Built inn the 1600’s, destroyed by the first virus to hit the country, the Cromwell virus!

St Patrick & Carlow

The first ever St Patrick’s Day Parade was took place in 1601 in ……. St Augustine, Florida!!

It’s become a global phenomena and is now of course celebrated worldwide with world famous landmarks even being lit up green to celebrate St Patrick and Ireland. An amazing impact for a small island off the west coast of Europe.

Sadly COVID-19 has prevented parades taking place in Ireland or abroad.

St Patrick has an association with Carlow and Rathvilly. Ireland’s patron saint baptised the King of Leinster, Crimthann and his family at the well which is located, naturally, in the townland of Patrickswell, Rathvilly.

Patrickswell Rathvilly. Access by road to the left of the cemetery in Rathvilly

To mark St Patrick’s Day 2020 here are some photos of some of our lesser known heritage sites around the county:

Clogh-a-phuill Well, Ladystown, Rathvilly. Turn left at the Moate Cross after leaving Rathvilly

There are a number of interesting sites very close by which include ancient crosses and ogham stones:

Waterstown Cross
Smaller cross at Waterstown, arms damaged.
Ogham Stone at Patrickswell
Haroldstown Dolmen. Featured on the cover of Robert Kee’s book of the BBC series, ‘ History of Ireland’
Ogham Stone at Rathglass, Tullow The translation of the ogham writing reads ‘of Donnáed son of Marianus’. There are two stones standing here.
Aghade Cloch a Phoill – on the Tullow to Bunclody Road, just before the Bang Up Cross.
Stunning example of Rock Art at Rathgeran
Spahill Rock Art
Crosses at Clonmore
Kildreenagh Cross & Well. Hard to spot when the hedges are in full growth
Templenaboe Church & Graveyard
St Mullins
St Mullins Well
Clashganny Massrock
Broken Celtic Cross at Rathmelsh
Rock Art at Crannagh
The Bible…’Archaeological Inventory of County Carlow’

The Spirit of Meitheal

Word finally came down the line that all collective training at county and club level was prohibited until at least 29th March.

A good decision by the GAA.

Carlow were due to travel to London for the last round of the NFL campaign. The result was of no consequence to the divisional outcome. We were anxious that it not go ahead at this time. We viewed it as unnecessary travel that put people at risk – elderly relatives, players with new born babies, individuals in the ‘at risk’ categories whose immune systems are low; a lot of people that could be exposed unwittingly and unknowingly.

The right decision.

I don’t think there is a player, a manager, a coach, an official who could disagree with the decision – and despite the cynicism of some commentators, I don’t believe there is any manager that will try to circumvent the collective training ban.

These are unprecedented times and as a people we are unprepared for the potential impact that COVID-19 threatens the health of all of us – not just the vulnerable.

It puts sport in context – it actually is after all, ‘only a game’.

The impact of the crisis goes beyond those who become infected. The mental health of almost the entire population has been impacted – I have never seen so many speak about anxiety and stress, insecurity and feeling helpless.

What should we do? What can we do?

We have one great thing going for us in this country. We have not lost our sense of community. There is a great tradition of Meitheal – neighbours coming together to help each other with the harvest or other work. It’s great to see so many organisations and clubs putting plans in place to support the vulnerable in their hour of need. It is the greatest strength of the GAA and what makes it unique – it can move mountains when it mobilises.

Let’s hope we continue to see communities rallying around as they have always done.

The vast majority of people will be fine. There will be others who will become ill and recover. Sadly others may not. Hopefully the brilliant medical people in our hospitals will ensure the impact is minimal. Keeping a sense of perspective is vital. Hard not to worry; when we are self isolating anxiety and worry can become overwhelming. We need to stay connected though we are keeping our ‘social distance’ – a phone call or a text were never more important. Leave nobody behind. The spirit of Meitheal.

While we try to reduce our interactions, don’t forget that we live in a beautiful country and this morning it was nice not to be heading to training but to be able to go for a walk along the beautiful trail of Abbeyleix Bog Walk. It was stunning! Fresh air, space, nature. all free! Its easy forget that inter county players have a life away from the game and sometimes its hard for them to fit it all in – so this break in many ways may freshen a lot of players up.

Abbeyleix Bog Boardwalk
Abbeyleix Bog Boardwalk

The doom and gloom of the saturation coverage in our newspapers, tv and radio and worst of all social media is enough to get anyone down. The constant focus causes all but the most resilient and strongest to lose perspective. It’s important to get good advice and equally important to block out the fake news and hysteria.

Speaking of the GAA and community I am sure former Laois footballer Niall Donagher and his wife Aisling are in everybody’s thoughts at this time as they face the massive challenge of getting the medical treatment for their son Dan. They need to raise €2,000,000 to access the only medical treatment that will give Dan a chance to overcome his rare illness. They are off to a great start and you can help and show the spirit of Meitheal is alive and well by contributing to their GoFundMe campaign.

We face a major challenge; some among us haven’t grasped the importance of individual responsibility for the greater good. How important it is that we do everything to prevent the spread of the Corona virus. Let’s hope it has dawned on everyone now and that Ireland lives up to its reputation of good neighbourliness and pride in our communities and place.

Do get out and enjoy our beautiful countryside too. It will put a smile on your face and do you good!

The Boardwalk
Abbeyleix Bog
Abbeyleix Raised Bog

The Old Places

New Years Day and cabin fever at its highest! A day for fresh air and exploring the landscape of County Carlow. Maps intrique me. Old places, long forgotten, apart from some obscure marking on OS maps; like a treasure map, clues to our past.

The brilliant East West Map of the Blackstairs and the Barrow Valley feature a ‘Star Shaped Fort’ at Coolyhune. It has long haunted me. Perched on top of the small hill with great views of Counties Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford, the site is overgrown and is adjacent to a house on private land. During the summer months when trees are in foliage it is virtually impenetrable but there is some possibilities of seeing the layout in mid winter. But still hard to visualise the fort at ground level.

I was delighted today to get permission to access the site and I got some good footage of the site with the star shape clearly visible. These are the only aerial photographs that I am aware of that exist of the Fort.

The following description is derived from the published ‘Archaeological Inventory of County Carlow’ (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1993):

Pentagonal fort with bastions enclosing summit of hill. Walls of drystone construction (ext. max. H 2.2m, int. H 0.6-2m; top Wth c. 1.2m, base Wth c. 1.5-1.8m), with slight external batter. Construction suggests fairly recent origin, possibly connected with events of 1798. (dims. of interior (excluding bastions) 60m x 60.5m; L of bastion 18m; max. Wth of bastion 20m; Wth of opening to bastions 17.6m). Rebuilding in some areas; entrance gap at S probably not original.

Star Shaped Fort
Star Shaped Fort at Coolyhune
Star Shaped Fort at Coolyhune

We are desensitised to our surroundings and to our environment. Urban landscapes. Asphalt roads. Concrete paths. Hard, unforgiving surfaces. Connecting with somewhere or somebody but not connecting with the land we inhabit. Unlike paths of our forefathers.

Since homo sapiens left Africa we have been crisscrossing continents and leaving tracks behind us. When we began herding livestock we created trails to and from pastures – sure isn’t that where the word ‘bóthar’ came from!

Many of our roads were originally animal tracks – no wonder Irish roads have traditionally been windy and twisty and unsuitable for modern traffic!

Pilgrim roads. Famine roads – built in the 1840s by starving peasants to receive a small return to alleviate hunger; the road to nowhere.

I’ve always been fascinated by Green Roads that cross the country – and can only now be seen on waste ground or mountain sides.

‘Green Road’ on the Blackstairs

There are at least three roads showing on ordnance survey maps along the Carlow flank of the Blackstairs. These are the ‘Wexford Road’, ‘The Tower Road’ and the ‘Gowlin Road’. All three meet up at some stage.

There were traditionally feast days where families of either side of the Blackstairs would meet on top of the Cooliagh Gap at The Meeting Point on the last Sunday in July.

Scots Pine Grove 1800s
‘Green Roads’ of the Blackstairs

Presumably the ‘Wexford Road’ was a short cut over the mountain to County Wexford, while the Gowlin Road finished in the town land of Goolin. The Tower Road was so named after the Tower House, now in ruins.

Further south the around Dranagh, the stone wall landscape is reminiscent of the west of Ireland.

Stone Walls of Drannagh
Stone Walls of Drannagh

A good day exploring the land of the 2019 Leinster Club hurling finalists, St Mullins and the 2013 Leinster Champions Mount Leinster Rangers!

The GAA’s Berlin Wall

It’s early morning after Éire Óg’s great win in the Leinster Club Championship Semi Final over Portlaoise.

Carlow Clubs will this year contest a 7th Leinster Club Senior Football Final since 1980 and a second Leinster Club Senior Hurling Final. 

Éire Óg first appeared in the 1980 Final when losing to Meath’s Walterstown. Éire Og were trained by Dan Carbery at that time. Dan was from an athletics background – he had ran in the historic first sub four minute mile to take place in Ireland, the first occasion five men had run sub four minutes in the same race. He was a lover of all sports and life long student of sports performance. Dan always claimed the reason they lost the Final was they never truly believed in their ability.

In other words they expected to lose.

Roll on to the glorious 1990s and Laois legend Bobby Miller, arrived into Páirc Uí Bhriain where he instilled that self belief and structures which enabled Éire Óg to transform from an underachieving club from a success starved county into the dominant club team of the decade. 

Five Leinster Club titles. Two All Ireland Final appearances.

They expected to win.

Fast forward to 2000, Éire Óg’s cross town rivals O Hanrahans (100 years old this year) picked up on that self belief and in a changing of the Carlow mindset went on to Leinster glory when defeating Na Fianna of Dublin 1-7 to 0-5.

Mount Leinster Rangers Hurlers fed off this new found self confidence in Carlow club to claim an historic first Leinster Senior Hurling Club title when beating Oulart-the-Ballagh 0-11 to 0-8 in 2013.

Last week St Mullins emulated Rangers by qualifying for this years Leinster Club Final having taken the scalp of two time All Ireland winers Cuala in the opening round and Rathdowney Erill in the semi final.

Two Carlow Clubs contesting the two provincial Senior Club finals in the same year.

There are four senior hurling clubs in Carlow and eight senior football Clubs!

Carlow Senior hurlers and footballers have also achieved ‘above their station’ in recent times.

Despite the great progress of the senior hurlers, they were relegated unnecessarily out of the Leinster SHC. The same fate possibly awaits Laois in 2020. It shouldn’t.

And now the GAA are intent on football apartheid by denying Division 3 and 4 Counties the opportunity to play for the Sam Maguire. Second class citizens of a supposedly community based sports organisation.

Where we all belong’ Yeah right. Slick marketing campaigns may be catchy but are meaningless and insulting.

A genuine dual county. A tiny county.

I compare it to the Berlin Wall. 

An artificial man made barrier dividing the same nation. 

The super powers (GAA HQ) sometimes complete a prisoner exchange and allow a limited number through Checkpoint Charlie. The top 2 teams in Division 3 escape and the bottom 2 in Division 2 are incarcerated.

But the masses have little chance of penetrating that barrier. 

For years we knew little about life in East Germany. It will be like that in the Tier 2. Forgotten. Out of the media spotlight. No opportunity to promote the game. We will become a wasteland.

The sad part is that some of our counties have voted for this.

In the words of the great Jim Larkin, ‘The great appear great because we are on our knees. Let us rise’.

The reason some counties voted for this ludicrous proposal is because their expectations are at an all time low. They have stopped believing.

Dan Carbery was right. 

Bobby Miller was right. 

Henry Ford was right. 

‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right’.

Thank you Éire Óg. 

Thank you O Hanrahans. 

Thank you Mount Leinster Rangers. 

Thank you St. Mullins.

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