Rothar Routes

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

Via Appia Antica

Winter has well and truly arrived and the only cycling I am doing is in my dreams of fine summer days and bike touring! Here is a great shared memory from 2010 on the VIa Francigena with Ronan. Maybe there is another book to follow on from #CyclingSouthLeinster with the Collins Press!

Having cycled from Canterbury along the Via Francigena, we had one more hurdle to negotiate before our flight home. Getting to the airport at Campino with our bicycles.

We decided to depart from the Colliseum and pick up the historic Via Appia Antica, in the hope it would lead us in the general direction of the airport.

It was an incredible last day of cycling. We had the Via Appia to ourselves. It was easy imagine Roman Legions marching up and down this paved road, the earliest of the main arteries to service trade routes across the Empire and transport troops to the front lines. The forced march of prisoners back to the centre of the Empire, the roadside crucifixions of Spartans….out past the catacombs – was this the road the Apostle Peter, first Bishop of Rome, followed back to Rome and his eventual crucifixion?. Staggering history along every kilometre of this road.

Appia longarum… regina viarum“- the Appian Way the queen of the long roads”

As we made our way along the treelined lined cobbled road, a shepherd with his dogs herded his flock of long eared sheep over the roadside ditch and past us on his way to pastures new…. magical memories!

Hard to believe it was 2010 and my plan was to come back and continue to Brindisi with the final destination Jerusalem. One of these days I will get to take up where I left off and resume my pilgrimage to the Eternal City.


Autumn Photo Compilation

Great views from Ulster and Connaught; there is so much to see in this little country!

Hike Cycle Ireland

I thought I’d add a ‘quick’ post pulling together some photos from my hiking and cycling excursions over the past couple of months.

First up is an image from a cycle back in September.

DSC_1018c.jpgThis was taken quite close to home, along the southwest shore of Lough Neagh at Brockagh, County Tyrone. I regularly cycle along the lough and never tire of the expansive views, which change as you move around the shore. This is looking across Counties Armagh and Down to the distant Mourne Mountains, about 60kms away. Slieve Donard, the highest point in the province of Ulster, is on the left.

Next up are a couple of images from a hike in the Castlegal Hills of north Leitrim

DSC_1099b.jpgDSC_1112bab.jpgThis line of craggy summits face the main Dartry mountain range across the Glencar Valley, and I’ve often gazed over at them from my oft-travelled back route…

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Gods Country!

Ballytiglea – Graiguenamangh – Ullard Loop

A blue sky heralded ideal conditions for a jaunt along the Barrow this morning; unfortunately by the time all the chores were completed it had clouded over somewhat. But then again there is no bad time for a jaunt along the River Barrow!

Today’s route was a short loop, just 19kms, starting at Ballytiglea Bridge. We – my 59 year old good friend Tommy Wogan (recently reacquainted with the benefits of cycling) and myself, continued on as far as Graiguenamanagh where we crossed the bridge and visited Duiske Abbey. Headed uphill along a quiet back road that passes the ruins of Ullard Church, not far from our starting point at Ballytiglea. The Church at Ullard was founded by St Fiacre in the sixth century, patron saint of Gardeners and Taxi Drivers! Fiacre was one of our great missionary saints who is revered in Meaux and Brie in France There is a handball alley created off the back of the Church! Ullard is a beautiful Church ruin, worth stopping at.

I would highly recommend this for an autumn cycle; the trees along the river are a feast of browns, yellows and reds. The Track was in good condition, though we did suffer a cloud burst and the surface became soft but passable.

The road out of Graigue climbs a little but the views over the river and towards the Blackstairs are immense.

Barrow and the Blackstairs

Cycling the Barrow Track

Ballykeenan Lock

Meandering River

Approaching Clashganny

Under the Beech Tree

Borris Lock

Boat Wreck

You never know what you will see out on your Bike!

One of the great advantages of cycling is you see so much more detail and have the chance to converse with people you bump into on your route.

Today was interesting.

Warning signs have been erected along the Barrow about the presence of crayfish plague in the river

Warning – Crayfish plague present

I got speaking to a couple of anglers, up past ‘the Sugar Factory’, and asked them had they any luck. They had caught a lot of pike – one of them 10 1/2 lb weight! What was interesting was they said the heads of the pike were scratched and they had ‘boils’ on the faces. They reckoned this was caused by the crayfish plague. It’s a serious threat to the native white clawed crayfish and the ecology of the Barrow system.

The fishermen were very concerned about it; it is probably too late now that the invasion has begun.

A little further on I met a guy with a big plastic sack and a paper picker. He was telling me he brings the dog for a walk and always picks up any discarded rubbish. Should have got his name. He’s a Dub judging by his accent who moved here 20 years ago and loves the Barrow Track.

In their own way all are guardians of this great resource.

Heron at Knockbeg

There seems to have been an explosion in heron numbers in recent years; every heron seems to have its own territory beside the many weirs along the river. Lovely elegant birds.

Autumn is a great time to visit the river – the banks of the river are lined with trees and are a feast of colour this time of year.

Autumn colours on the Barrow track

My route home took me through New Oak Estate and some lovely decorative gardens caught my eye! Well done to the residents of New Oak who have the area in tip top shape.

Flower Head

Flower Power

Fairy Garden

Carlow Wheelers


Sunrise Cycle along the Barrow Track

An early morning cycle, starting at sunrise, along the Barrow Track between Goresbridge and Clashganny was a great start to County Final Day!

Joe Sheppard, now domiciled in Manchester, a keen cyclist on UK towpaths and Sustrans routes, was looking forward to cycling along a riverbank as distinct from the linear towpaths that criss cross the UK.

Of good GAA stock, the conversations were wide ranging – from Ruislip to County Final Day; from Mental Awareness to Social Housing and Brexit; from Mary Teresa Kelly’s newsagents to out of town developments!

We don’t appreciate how much it means to ex pats to see Carlow doing well on the inter county scene. Joe and his son drove from Manchester to Rusilip to cheer on the Scallionaters in the Qualifiers during the summer. It was his sons’ first game of gaelic football and he was hooked. He marvelled at Brendan Murphy’s performance in particular – ‘ like a ballet dancer’ was his description of his movement and his agility.

Joe has been following the debate about the Blueway from afar, and he was initially all for it until he began reading up on the debate going on around the proposal. His position was changing before he came over based on first hand accounts of those who utilise these wonderful green linear nature reserve that we have hidden away so well in south Carlow.

After his cycle today Joe compared the route with what he has experienced in the UK. The UK routes benefit from hubs where bike repair / hire shops and coffee shops dot the routes attracting cyclists out into the countryside. The Barrow obviously does not have those key facilities but he maintained there was nothing to compare with the Barrow in the UK. He considers it a unique trail and would strongly be an advocate for minimal development. he found the route very passable – even though the grass was wet and long in places this morning. Interesting to hear the views of a very experienced touring cyclist from across the pond.

Here are a few photos of this morning:

Comorants take flight

How many Cormorants?

Neck and Neck!!

Cormorants on the Barrow

Dermot and Joe at the Mountain River

Cycling at Clashganny

Does anything taste nicer than a sambo on a cycle / hike?

Cormorant Rock

Heron in flight

Joe Sheppard, Manchester and Dermot along the Banks of the Barrow

Dermot at Mountain River

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