Rothar Routes

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

Posts tagged ‘Browneshill Dolmen’

Forget 5K & Remember C = π r2 & how I am coping in a time of Covid!

The Spréach sculpture by Niamh Sinnott erected when the new Bennekerry NS was built

On a day when thousands are marching in London for the right to kill their Grannies, it was a tonic to get out on the bike today and take in the wonder of Autumn. People find the Covid guidelines stressful and restrictive, especially the 5k limit. But if you think of it differently it can actually help you to enjoy your local area so much more. When we were in school (many years ago..) we learned that the circumference of a circle is measured as π (3.14) multiplied by two times the radius. And so instead of the limit being 5km it is more like 31kms!!

Today we cycled 40kms – all inside the 5k limit, and it was magnificent. At a time of pandemic there is a real threat to our mental well being and we can be stressed out by worry, fear, restrictions and lack of contact with others. Its important we look after ourselves and the good news is there are simple measures we can take to not only cope with Covid but to thrive in a time of Covid.

Gretchen Reynolds had a great article in the Irish Times last week and it dealt with the benefits of walking compared to the benefits of walking with your eyes open to the wonders of nature and our heritage. Studies have been conducted on this which prove that ‘awe walks’ are really good for our mental health. Highly recommend you read this article!

Browneshill Dolmen

So much to take in today! Our route took us out past the Browneshill Dolmen, which has the largest capstone of any megalithic tomb in Europe, Urglin Church, around by Oak Park, across to Graiguecullen and the Cruachán, over to Lanigans Lock on the River Barrow, back into Town, visiting Carlow Castle before heading out the Blackbog Road to Tinryland, Staplestown, Kernanstown, Bennekerry and home by the Browneshill Road. 40kms along mostly quiet local roads, virtually traffic free with lots to stop and photograph. The stops are as important to me as the cycle and there is so much to see, if we only open our eyes and take time to admire the beauty and remember our past!

Urglin Church
We popped into Oak Park Forest Trail to see the autumn leaves
Oak Park Gate
One of the Autumn sights of Carlow that I look forward to each year.
Lanigan’s Lock
Gatekeepers House at Lanigan’s Lock
Cycling The Barrow Way, despite the best efforts of WWI is always worth the effort
Rain shower at the weir at Mickey Webster’s Lock
I said I better take this photo of the Castle before it tumbles completely…
Mile marker on the railway line. 58 miles to Dublin from the level crossing at Blackbog
Staplestown Church, kinda Halloweenish…
The River Burren

After a good cycle I like nothing better than a hot bath and a good book! I avoid reading too much about Covid etc and prefer to read something positive, interesting, funny and hopefully that involves epic journeys by bike or any other means for that matter! I’d highly recommend Bill Bryson and the one I am reading at the moment is ‘Neither Here nor There’, an ode to an American Anglophile travelling in Europe. It’s hilarious!

Here’s a funny piece of him travelling in Paris with a friend of his…. you probably need to read the full chapter to really get it… but I was hugging laughing!! Laughter truly is the best medicine.

I’ve gone on a bit, but the gist of my post today is to recommend exploring your neighbourhood, 5k gives you much more latitude than you might think, keep your eyes open as you go on your walks or cycles. There’s a lot to be said for fresh air, exercise and stimulation, followed by a hot bath and a good book! I hope this might help anyone struggling with Covid worries at this time and If anyone wants to join myself and Mary at any stage, please get in touch!


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





All in a Morning’s Cycle

Headed out this morning for Tullow with the intention of taking in a training session of a visiting county but that didn’t materialise. But the journey proved rewarding in other ways!

Travelling by bike makes it so much better for sight seeing, stopping and observing and today was a short route that packed in a lot of interesting views and history!

The first stopping point was at Grangeford to photograph the memorial to the 2006 World Ploughing Championships held on the Nolan farm. I remember it well. It was combined with the National Ploughing Championships which drew massive crowds as always.

Not much further down the road is a very important location in Irish history. How often do we pass Leamaneh Graveyard at Castlemore without realising the significant history attached with this area? For it is was along this road that Fr John Murphy ‘of old Kilcormac’ was captured by yeomen in 1798 and to then face a barbaric death and treatment after a military court-martial. Fr Murphy was ordained n secret during the Penal times and went to Seville for further studied. On his return he took part in the United Irishman rebellion in 1798. His last journey in County Carlow was after the Battle of Kilcumney (on the road to Goresbridge from Bagenalstown). The rebels were surrounded and outnumbered and eventually retreated in the direction of the Scullogue Gap. Fr Murphy branched off on a different route that took him through Kiloughternane, Ballymurphy, Rosedelig. He celebrated his last mass in Myshall before moving on towards Castlemore, Tullow where he was captured by yeomen. Brought to Tullow, courtmartialed and executed. His body was subject to horrific mutilation with his head placed on a spike on a railing and his body burned. He is immortalised in the ballad of Boolavogue:

‘And the yeos at Tullow took Fr. Murphy
And burnt his body upon the rack
God grant you glory, brave Fr.Murphy
And open heaven to all your men
The cause that called you may call tomorrow
In another fight for the green again’

Continued into Tullow, crossing the Slaney, Carlow’s second river and turning left in the square just before the statue of Fr Murphy. This road passes out by Fr Leo Park, which had been my initial destination, but I continued on out along the lovely quiet road through Ballymurphy and on to the Hacketstown road. A left turn took me back down to the Slaney

and back in the Carlow direction. Taking a right turn at Killerig for Castledermot I diverted to Ducketts Grove. Whether you approach Ducketts Grove from Castledermot side or Carlow side the Castle dominates the landscape. One can only imagine what to must have been like in its heyday. The family home of the Ducketts who held a mere 20,000 acres in the 18th and 19th century. Unfortunately it was destroyed by fire in 1933 and fell into ruins. It was acquired by Carlow County Council some years ago and they have done extensive works on developing the gardens and the centre as a visitor attraction.

I was on the home leg now with one final stop off point – Europe’s largest Dolmen at Browneshill. The capstone weighs in at a considerable 100 tonnes! How did they erect it? It’s now a major tourist attraction for visitors in the area.

Here is the link tot he route:

A nice spin on a Sunday morning.


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