Rothar Routes

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

The Green Fields of France

I never gave much thought to the First World War. Sure I learned about it in history class but our interest in history would have been Irish history and while we did cover WW1 I don’t remember talking very much about the loss of life suffered by the thousands of Irish men who fought in The Great War.They fought for a variety of reasons – many fought to put food on the kitchen table, others for the promise of Home Rule yet others fought for the Crown and ‘the freedom of small nations’. I guess we were ambivalent about it at best. Yet almost 50,000 Irishmen lost their lives in the most inhumane conditions imaginable.

In 2010 I was fortunate, along with my youngest son Ronan, to have the opportunity to cycle from Canterbury to Rome along an ancient pilgrimage route, The Via Francigena. That was an amazing experience in so many different ways but perhaps the most unexpected was that it brought WW1 right into the present day for both of us. Our planning hadn’t factored in that we would be cycling through areas of France that were in the front line of battle. It was a shock to the system to suddenly come across, on Monday 6th September, small beautifully kept cemeteries along the 60kms of backroads of France between Arras and Peronne.

We stopped and paid our respects at each little graveyard and it was one of the most emotional places and moving things I have ever done. It really brought home the futility of war to walk among row after row of identical white memorial headstones and read the ages of these teenage soldiers who all died in vain, for the nations of Europe were to repeat those mistakes again and again.

I’ve edited out a little video clip at the end of this blog post of our visit to one of the cemeteries as a gesture of remembrance for all the dead on both sides and the civilians who were caught up in this most brutal conflict.

It was lovely to see how well maintained all the cemeteries were.

This post is to mark the one hundred anniversary of Armistice Day and to help us not forget.

Allied War memorial between Arras and Peronne

Respectfully maintained WW1 cemeteries are to be found on the back roads of France. There are many more than the more well known major memorials and serve as a reminder of the futility of war.

Hindu Soldiers honoured

Four years later I was back in France and cycling in the Lyon area and I went astray taking what turned out to be a very long shortcut! But it was very interesting and I came across a WW2 graveyard as poignant as coming across the WW1 graveyards in 2010. But this was even more surprising for this was a cemetery for almost 20,000 German soldiers at a place called Dagneux.

Dangeux WW2

The war graces site at Dagneux was developed by the German War Graves Commission with the permission of the French Authorities during the 1950s and 1960s.

 

Dagneux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hidden Sky Road

Delighted to see Carlow County Council have signposted one of my routes, ‘The Hidden Sky Road’ which features in my book ‘Cycling South Leinster, Great Road Routes’.

Its a beautiful route to complete on a summers evening at just 37kms length featuring a small climb with stunning views across County Carlow.

The route begins in Borris, passing alongside the Mountain River and out of the village under the Viaduct, heading towards Rathanna.

Borris Viaduct with Mary

Wouldn’t it make a great section of a Greenway?

 

The Mountain River

The Mountain River is my favourite river in the County; wild with contrasting colours of brown, gold, yellow and green. Crystal clear water.

Quiet roads with lots of great vantage points to see the Blackstairs Mountains and Mount Leinster as you head east. There are lots of little known gems to stop off and and explore along the way.

With a little searching there are a couple of examples of rock art on the route (you will need permission to access) at Spahill and Coolasnaughta.

Spahill Rock Art

Coolasnaughta Rock Art

Carlow has a brilliant network of local roads that are virtually traffic free and ideal for cycling

Quiet Country Lanes near Rathanna

Views on The Hidden Sky Road

 

Tomduff

There are lots of heritage sites dotted across the county and some worth visiting close to the route not far from Tomduff Cross are

The White Church, Killoughternane

 

Rathnageeragh Castle

St Forthcern’s Well

Templemoling Cemetery

But the best views are from on high along The Hidden Sky Road

The Hidden Sky Road

View from The Hidden Sky Road

Blackstairs Horses in the Morning Mist

Wild horses Blackstairs

The Adelaide Memorial Church of Christ The Redeemer in Myshall is an architectural masterpiece. Worth a visit on its own. There’s a great love story about its construction which was built to commemorate the saughter oand wife of a visiting English man. His daughter had been thrown from a horse while riding and died from the fall. The full story can be read in the Myshall and Drumphea Parish website

Adelaide Church Myshall

Ballynasillogue Banshee Stone is a little off the trail but worth checking out. Incidentally I would advise bringing a good map along with you on any of these routes; the best map by far is actually produced in Carlow by East West Mapping of Clonegal – ‘Blackstairs, Mount Leinster & The Barrow Valley at 1: 25,000 scale, it is full of so much detail and local knowledge.

Ballynasillogue Dolmen

It may be just a small corner of the county but as you can see there’s plenty to look out for and it might take a few trips to visit them all.

Finish up back in Old World Borris and a visit to two of Carlow’s iconic pubs

Joyce’s Bar Borris

 

O Sheas Borris

 

“Stick To Cycling Content” — CyclingEurope.org

Two days ago I posted the text of a speech given by former Prime Minister John Major. He was speaking about the folly that BREXIT. It is sad, and a little ironic, that we live in a world where many current politicians are so terrified of offending the electorate that they refrain from speaking their […]

via “Stick To Cycling Content” — CyclingEurope.org

Dolmens!

Haroldstown Dolmen, Hacketstown Road, Carlow.

There are over 160 Dolmens scattered across the country and there are some great examples in Carlow or close by worth visiting. Haroldstown Dolmen adjacent to the River Slaney is my favourite; it stands proud just off the Hacketstown Road and is an iconic sight on that road.

It featured as the cover photo of Robert Kee’s ‘Ireland: A History’, a book of the TV series that explained Irish History to the English (should be compulsory reading in Westminster).

 

Closer to Carlow Town (and also on the Hacketstown Road!) we can lay claim to the largest Dolmen in Europe with the Browneshill Dolmen. The extraordinary capstone weights in at an estimated 100 plus tons! It rests on two portal stones which flank a door stone and slopes downwards to the west where it rests on a low boulder. It attracts a lot of interest by tourists. What do these massive structures represent? No one can say for sure but they are thought to be possible burial sites or religious sites that were erected over 2500 BC.

Browneshill Dolmen, Hacketstown Road, Carlow.

Down south Carlow there are a further two Dolmens that I am aware of. The first is ‘The Banshee Stone’ at Ballynasilloge, near Borris. Hard to locate and the area is overgrown but worth the effort.

Ballynasillogue Dolmen – ‘The Banshee Stone’.

Kilgraney Dolmen sits in a lovely hollow, close to a babbling stream. It isn’t quite siting on the portal stones but is nonetheless a good example of a portal tomb.

Kilgraney Portal Tomb

These Dolmens have many colloquial names such as Diarmuid and Gráinne Beds, Leabas, Cromleachs and are not unique to Ireland. They are also to be seen in the UK and in France.

 

The tallest Dolmen in Ireland is in south Killkenny and I came on it while completing one of my cycle routes in ‘Cycling South Leinster’. Called  The Leac an Scail, it is Ireland’s tallest dolmen at 5 meters high

Leach an Scail Dolmen, County Kilkenny

Haroldstown

 

 

Haroldstown

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