Rothar Routes

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

Posts from the ‘Hill Walking’ category

Aghaviller revisited.

Saturday night National League games are great! A big crowd in Netwatch Cullen Park to witness the opening game between Carlow and Wicklow which ended with honours even. That left Sunday free and a chance for a walk in the woods and plenty of fresh air! Christopher Somerville wrote a lovely book titled ‘Walking in Ireland’ with 50 walks scatttered across the country. Many of them featured in the Irish Independent and I was always taken with his beautiful sketch maps incorporating some lovely detail of things to watch out for.

The last time I was in Aghaviller was when I cycled through on an 80km loop out of Inistioge; I had a rest stop here and I was taken with the beautiful church ruins and Round Tower of this ancient site. Today I was out walking and I took the purple route through Castlemorris Woods which was a gentle 8kms with 170 metres of ascending.

Starting point

It was a bit of an experiment today- I recently purchased a set of trekking poles to get my arms working more and assist with rehab. Although I’m still getting used to them they were great! I could really feel the benefit of the pushing action to activate my triceps and it’s a great way to get more from a walk than just leg exercise. The poles take pressure off the hips and knees. I’ll keep them in the car for future walks and handy for fending off any hungry dogs!

Every walk is different and while most of this route is encased in the forest, it’s a nice change of scenery, the surfaces are good and there’s a nice uphill pull in the middle section. This part of Kilkenny has some interesting heritage sites and makes for a good day out of you like to delve into our ancient past. Aghaviller has a terrific church ruin with a tricky staircase that you can climb to the roof which affords a fabulous view of the round tower.

Áth an Bhiolar (Field of the Watercress) was mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters

Inside Aghaviller Round Tower
Aghaviller Church ruins
Tomb with wreath in Aghaviller Church ruins

I took Christopher’s suggestion on the way home and had a short stop off at Gáirdín an Ghorta, The Famine Garden. It’s so easy fly pass these little places and I was glad I did. The Great Famine was such a tragedy that decimated this country, sending millions to early graves or onto coffin ships looking for new beginnings in far off lands. Its a worthy memorial to our dark history.

Gháirdín an Ghorta
Gháirdín an Ghorta
Gháirdín an Ghorta

2022 – The Year the Wheels Came off the Bike

… or at least I did!

This time last year I had completed over 7,000kms on my bike around the country. As I faced into 2022 I had ambitions of covering even more ground on my trusty steed. I won’t forget the date of the 29th January. Kilcoo were due to meet St. Finbars in the All Ireland Senior Club Football Semi Final in Portlaoise and Carlow were playing London in the NFL. Tickets bought online at 9am and I planned an early cycle in beforehand to make a great day of it! Unfortunately I never made it to either game as I had a bad fall from the bike only 800 meters from home- it was completely my own fault. It always helps to watch where you are going… instead of O Moore Park it was Waterford Regional Hospital for me with a mangled arm requiring 3 plates and 10 pins inserted.

The consultant told me I’d be lucky to be back on the bike in 10 months. He did an incredible job on reconstruction and my rehab started almost immediately. Slowly but surely movement and strength returned and while I couldn’t cycle I could walk and I got an opportunity to do some nice rambles near and far from home.

Near Askamore, County Wexford, being watched over by the Boss herself..

Trips to National League games always included a walking route to keep some semblance of fitness and mobility.

Heading for Temple Stadium with Tommy Wogan, we had a lovely 6kms loop walk at Grange, just over the Tipperary border

Viewing point on Grange Loop Walk

The Blackstairs

I think my favourite walk is Shannons Lane. It’s a terrific access route for Mount Leinster and Knockroe. So many incredible views, so much history from ancient rock art to the Second World War…

This way to the cross on Knockroe

Hiking to Knockroe Cross with an intercontinental cast of my cousin Sineád (Germany), my uncle in law Peter Kearney (County New South Wales) and Sinead’s boyfriend Gaym (Eritrea).

Going to games always provides an opportunity as a spectator to add in a ramble and there is a really beautiful walk on Forth Mountain Wexford which I did on the day of Wexford v Dublin in the Leinster SFC.

Love the pink hew on these rocks at Carrigfoyle trail on Forth Mountain.

Often on my travels on match days I’m accompanied by my great friend Tommy Wogan. We go back a long long way; we have covered the country by bike and on foot, from the top of Carrauntohill to Rathlin Island. Great memories and more to come.

Tommy at the Lia Fáil stone on the Hill of Tara. The vibes were good & we were confident of an upset v Louth. It wasn’t to be.

Traipsing across the Wicklow Hills with Mary!

The Plains of the Curragh on the way to Conleth Park for Kildare SFC double header

All the walking and rehab work began to pay off and instead of being off the bike for 10 months I was back on the bike after less than four months. I was very cagey but delighted; I really thought the year was a write off and I could see that a big tour would be possible if I could continue to recover at the same rate.

The Barrow Track is my default route when getting back on the bike after time off. Loved the colours of this barge.

Probably the best Stones Concert of all time…

A great little hike to the Devils Chimney Waterfall, County Sligo

My plan from last year was that having completed Malin to Mizen in 2021 I wanted to cycle Coast to Coast (west to east) in 2022 but I didn’t want to take the flat and straight Galway to Dublin route incorporating the Grand Canal.

I wanted a route with lots of scenic views and historical sites to visit. I poured over ordnance survey maps and plotted a magical route – to start at Blacksod Bay, taking the north Mayo coast around to Ballina, crossing Leitrim, Fermanagh, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth to finish in Carlingford. The drumlins nearly killed me on those local roads! It was shorter than Malin to Mizen but I found it harder. The constant up and downs with some serious gradients and a possible lack of fitness made it a true test of character. I loved it.

The added bonus was meeting Unison MacCraith agus a bhean chéile Treasa Ní Ghearraigh in Glenamoy County Mayo. We had a marvellous few hours walking and talking along the cliffs above Portacloy. I got a lovely surprise when I got home as Vincent had posted me copies of his local history books and guides for the area. In 1983 Vincent lined out in goal for Rathvilly (and captained them) against Éire Óg, winning their first ever SFC Final.

At the Céide Fields

Despite Robbie Molloy’s request, Vincent didn’t push me over the edge and into the North Atlantic…

The Caves of Keash, County Sligo

Before heading into the clouds on the Ox Mountains … what a network of local roads we have for cycling…

Walking and cycling are a tonic and the combination of exercise, fresh air, fantastic sights, sounds and smells give a natural high. I love getting out, especially to new places – and there are loads of them still to be explored..

I didn’t go anywhere near the distance travelled in 2021, managing just over 3,000kms but 2022 turned out to be a great year between the hiking and the cycling and it has filled me with a burning desire to get moving again from today and explore more of the hidden corners of this grand little country. Any suggestions for routes in Ireland – on local roads or off road? I’m thinking about following the River Blackwater from source to sea as one..

Happy New Year all!

Sligo

So much to see in Sligo, so little time to do it! I had but a fleeting visit and I took in a couple of beautiful enchanting sights – I have to get back and do a cycling tour of this underrated county. So much beauty, history and folklore.

Carrowkeel Passage Tombs above Lough Arrow

The first destination was the Passage Tombs at Carrowkeel in the Bricklieve Hills. Its’ a grand easy 3kms walk in along a well defined path with breathtaking views. The approach is along a narrow gap with towering cliff edges on both sides. This is along the popular Miners Trail Walking route. The hill tops around here are adorned with cairns and mounds, all impressive sights and they mark megalithic burial chambers. No wonder WB Yeats was so influenced by mythology, legend and fairies – it was everywhere around him here in Sligo.

There are 14 passage tombs dotted around Carrowkeel and nearby are the Caves of Kesh which I visited on my Coast to Coast cycle during the summer. The passage tombs are linked to the legendary Moytura, battleground of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the ancient Gods and the Fomorians and their leader Balor of the Evil Eye! I still have Lady Gregory’s ‘Gods and Fighting Men’ on my book shelf so it was great to do this little hike and feel the ancient lore of this inspiring landscape..

A short hike takes you up to the passage tombs at Carrowkeel with stunning views across Sligo and Leitrim..
The walk in towards Carrowkeel
Bricklieve Hills, the passage tombs are on top
Entrance to Passage Tomb
Carrowkeel view
Taken using a selfie stick – I didn’t access the tombs

The next destination on this all too brief visit was Glencar. As you leave Sligo with Benbulben in front of you, take the Manorhamilton Road down through glacial Valley that cuts into Dartry Mountain Range with Benbulben on one end and Glencar at the other end. What a beautiful valley – it’s outstanding! Glencar Lake comes into view and it isn’t long until you reach Glencar Waterfall.

Glencar

Glencar Waterfall is part of the inspiration for the Yeats poem ‘The Stolen Child’.

I think we all yearn for a return to innocence, especially in today’s world! T

he landscape here is still much as it was in Yeat’s time and its easy drift back to when he wrote these words..

Where the wandering water gushes

From the hills above Glen-Car,

In pools among the rushes

That scare could bathe a star,

We seek for slumbering trout

And whispering in their ears

Give them unquiet dreams;

Leaning softly out

From ferns that drop their tears

Over the young streams.

Come away, o human child!

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand,

For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

WB Yeats
Glencar Waterfall
The Devil’s Chimney – Ireland’s highest waterfall.
Glencar Lake looking back towards Ben Bulben
Yeats was enchanted by the fairy woods…

Walking is the new Cycling … for the moment!

Someone once said “I do the same things I did when I was 12 years old: I ride bikes, I read books, I walk in the woods. And I listen to music”.

For the past 11 weeks and for the foreseeable future I won’t be riding bikes but I will be doing everything else and I can add going to the training field!

A walk on The Wicklow Way..


John Muir, father of the American National Parks, talked of ‘washing the spirit’ and whether it be on two wheels or two feet there’s a great sense of freedom to be out in untamed nature, to be on your own with your thoughts or none at all..some like to golf but I prefer to seek out new places to visit, new hills to climb and that elation of reaching a peak or covering a distance…

Along the boardwalk..
Climbing back out of Glenamalure
Looking across towards Ballinacor Estate and Mullach
Giant Timber Stacks
Beautiful undergrowth in the forest
Looking down towards Drumgoff
Finally it was time to hang up the boots..

2020 Hike & Bike

The strangest of years in living memory saw us rediscover our own country in 2020. Fear, worry, stress, anxiety were all our bedfellows as we wondered where the invisible enemy would strike next. Travel was restricted, social contacts likewise and to get away from it all we sought out the quiet places.

We escaped into nature. It’s amazing how much the most popular trails have deteriorated during lockdown as people took to the outdoors for exercise, fresh air and their sanity. Luckily we have lots of green spaces on this beautiful island of ours.

As soon as lockdown was lifted I found myself heading away almost every evening to somewhere new.

I’ve covered over 1500 kilometres since March on my bike. All of it on quiet country roads or off road along the Barrow Way, the Grand Canal, the Royal Canal and a myriad of cycle trails. Counties cycled in this year were Carlow, Laois, Kildare, Wexford, Kilkenny, Offaly, Westmeath, Longford, Meath, Galway, Roscommon, Clare, Tipperary, Cavan, Fermanagh, Monaghan, Armagh and Down, 18 counties in total! All beautiful and all equipped with that network of rural roads that are safe and a joy to cycle on. I’ve donned hiking boots to visit Máméan in Connemara, the Devils Bit, Slievenamon, the Blackstairs, Ballycumber and Askamore to name but a few.

I’ve made a short video above of some of the sights we saw in our travels. Many thanks for following my blog during 2020 and I hope it brought you some enjoyment.

Happy New Year to all!

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