Rothar Routes

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

Posts tagged ‘Carlow cycle routes’

Carlow’s ‘Boyne Valley’ Revisited!

I love getting a Saturday afternoon to explore a bit of our historic and fascinating county. Today I went down South – again to the Rathanna, Ballymurphy area.

A phone call from Eamon Coleman a couple of months ago to tell me that he had cleared a path to the ancient rock art and holy water wells that are situated on his land had me planning to head down when football commitments allowed.

First port of call was Killoughternane

This single cell Church was built in the 5th Century by St Fortchern. There is a well across the road that has a really interesting history. It was forgotten about until 1880 when the land owner found a bottle with a message inside, written in a foreign language which when translated contained directions to the well! It must have attracted visitors from continental Europe at some point. This obviously created great excitement and the Well became a pilgrimage site with may cures attributed.

Subsequently a lady was cleaning out the well when she unearthed a mud encrusted item from the bottom of the well. It turned out to be a Chalice and Paten – probably hidden in penal times. The Chalice is now in St Andrews Church, Bagenalstown.

 

Headed over to Tinnecarrig Ballymurphy then to meet Eamon Coleman and view the rock art that is well hidden from view in an ancient overgrown graveyard on his land.

Its hard to make out the cups on this stone but if you look carefully you can see many deep cups peppered all over the surface. What did they signify? Who knows at this stage but its great see that rock art many thousands of years old is still present across the county.

Indeed you could say that this area is the Boyne Valley of the South as there are numerous examples close to the foothills of the Blackstairs!

One of the Holy Wells well hidden from view.

Holy wells or water fonts….

Time to head home but a short dash across to Rathgeran and Carlow’s finest example of rock art beckoned.

There are many more ancient heritage sites in this small area of the County – I often think we undersell what we have to offer…

 

Rathgeran

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

 

The Pattern at St Mullins

Pilgrimage is back in fashion.Over 300,000 obtained the Credencial upon completion of the Camino Santiago in 2017, the ancient pilgrimage routes across Spain to the tomb of St James.

 

 

Old pilgrimage routes are being revived across Europe as people try to find a greater meaning in life or maybe just go for a long walk!

The Pattern at St Mullins is a 1300 hundred year old tradition linked to St Moling and St James. It is linked ot St James because the date is set on the Sunday before July 25th, the feast day of St James.I wonder was it ever a starting point for the Camino?

Each year thousands gather here to commemorate St Moling and to visit the graves of this picturesque graveyard and monastic site. The pilgrimage starts with the blessing of the water of the well with pilgrims drinking the water which reputedly has been responsible for many cures down the centuries. The water from the well flows through the mill race that Moling dug out over a period of 7 years Mass is then celebrated at the penal altar in the centre of the graveyard. During the time of the Penal Laws, celebration of mass was outlawed and had to be celebrated in secret and a lookout would have been placed on the nearby motte.

St Moling has attracted pilgrims here for hundreds of years to the monastery he founded in the 7th century; it is Carlow’s Clonmacnoise – the Book of Moling can be seen ion Trinity College, Dublin alongside the more famous Book of Kells.

The graveyard holds many famous remains, from St Moling himself, to Art Kavanagh, King of Leinster who was buried here in 1417 having been poisoned in New Ross. There are many graves associated with 1798 including General Thomas Cloney who died at the age of 24.

With the revival in pilgrimage across Europe, there is surely great scope to develop a Carlow pilgrimage route considering the number of really ancient and important ecclesiastical sites across the county associated with St Moling, Columbanus, St Fiacre, St Laserian and others.

Well worth a visit.

Brandon Hill

Towering over the River Barrow and the town of Graiguenamangh, Brandon Hill offers spectacular views of the Barrow Valley, the Blackstairs and as far south as the Saltee Islands and west to Sliabh na mBan. Often as i cycled alongside the river I had the notion to climb Brandon for the view down into St Mullins. Lat night I went one better and cycled most of the way to the top and pushed the bike over the last few hundred metres. It was worth it! Here is a little clip of the cycle.

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