A bit of sunshine on a Saturday afternoon and a nice cycle along quiet country roads and on the Barrow Track… never fails to surprise.. The network of local roads in this country is tailor made for cycling. Today brought me out towards Ballylinan, Barrowhouse and home via Maganey and the Barrow Track. I estimate that once I left town I met fewer than 10 cars in 35kms and yet was never more than 15kms from Town..
There is a really well kept monument to the Barrowhouse Ambush, just outside the village, which was erected on the 100th anniversary of the Ambush in May 2021. The site was the location of an ambush by the B Company, 5th battalion of the Carlow Brigade of the Irish Republican Army of a convoy of Royal Irish Constabulary officers. Two local volunteers, William Connor and James Lacey, both young men of just 26 years were the only fatalities on that day.
I love the roads around Killeen, Barrowhouse and across to Kilkea. It’s great cycling terrain, good surfaces, quiet roads and flat! There’s always something to see and there’s the Barrow Track to approach Carlow Town from.
Today I had just met Dermot McGrath at Westfield Lock, and we fell into talking about Carlow v Wicklow. I’m tipping Carlow for the revenge in Aughrim tomorrow! Just after I passed Dermot I pulled the bike to a quick halt as I saw this beautiful group of Mute Swans.
Dermot’s dog appeared too and Daddy Swan was on point right away, hissing and making himself big to scare him away.
A lovely loop for anyone looking for a quiet route to cycle.
I had a bad fall on the bike 129 days ago. Multiple fractures of my humerus resulting in the insertion of 3 plates in the arm. The prognosis wasn’t good. It would be at least 8 months before I could cycle again and at that the arm would never be able to extend fully.
Just over 4 months later the picture is much better! Today was my first 20kms cycle since January and I did it along my favourite route, The Barrow Track. It was a slow cagey bike ride but it felt like I was getting my life back!
To be honest I was fearful I might never get back up on the bike given the extent of the break. But full credit to the great people in Waterford hospital, they did a phenomenal job on knitting the bone back together.
Funny how your mood and mind can change! I was resigned to no biking this year at best and now I’m planning ahead for my next bike tour. Coast to Coast. But not the simple Dublin – Galway route. I’ve a much more adventurous and interesting route planned from Blacksod Bay in Mayo to Carlingford in Louth. Hopefully get to it in July, providing rehab continues at the pace it is now.
What a year of joy, cycling north, south, east and west of this beautiful island!
I’ve said it before but we have an unbelievable network of local roads suitable for riding bikes, whether it be an hour loop or a long distance tour. The beauty of the local roads is that it takes you into the heart of rural Ireland, into small villages and off the beaten track. Virtually traffic free the roads are super safe. As rural Ireland declines, eco tourism offers a mountain of possibilities and the growth of hiking trails and bike routes will aid in the promotion of local areas and perhaps keeping them populated with increased economic activity associated with sustainable tourism. With Covid concerns in 2021, we really enjoyed avoiding the ‘tourist hotspots’ over the year and travelling the road less travelled; people have more time to be friendly and it has a more authentic feel to it.
There’s massive potential for off road touring too if routes can be accessed and developed. Any route development needs to be minimal; in most cases all that is needed is some annual maintenance and good signposting.
It’s taken me a while to come to the realisation that a Greenway is definitely not designed as a cycle route. At this stage I’ve now cycled on all the Greenways across the country:
Great Western Greenway, Mayo, 42kms
Waterford Greenway, 46kms
Old Rail Trail, Westmeath, 42kms
Royal Canal Greenway, Longford to Dublin, 130kms
Suir Blueway, Tipperary, 21kms
My experience on the Greenways is that the routes are used more by walkers than cyclists and by families with young children. Consequently most of the activity is typically in the 5 kms close to the hub points, with the mid sections very quiet. As most of them follow the path of old railway tracks they tend to be very straight and boring after a few kilometres. While there is stunning scenery on the Western Greenway and the Waterford Greenway, most of the routes are enclosed by the old banks that bordered the railway line or hedging. I find them a bit soulless and sterile and much prefer the local roads that twist and turn offer up interesting heritage sites and beautiful views. The Greenways are great additions to an area but for cycle touring I would tend to probably avoid them unless they linked specific places I needed to get to.
The majority of our cycling is of course locally and we have got into the habit of cycling all year round. Night cycles on cold winter nights are exhilarating and we have so familiar with our favourite routes close to Carlow Town that the bikes almost steer themselves!
We covered a lot of ground in 2021, most of it local but looking at the heat map, we are only scratching the surface of places to see and visit in the years ahead!. Roll on 2022.
The thrill of riding in the dark is something I’ve come to savour these past couple of winters!
First thoughts about it were that it would be dangerous and boring, with nothing to see in the pitch black of night. How wrong could I be! Nothing compares to being out on a quiet country road or along the Barrow Track on a cold crisp black night, with stars twinkling overhead or occasionally with the Space Station making its way across the skies. Or a clear moonlit night making it easy to pick out familiar landmarks that aren’t so familiar looking in the half light. Especially trees, which take on a whole new shape and appearance. Throw in a few gusts of wind and it can be damn scary!
It’s only possible of course if you have good lights on your bike, front and rear and you pick your route carefully. With 1800 lumens in my front light I can safely get a good 90 minutes of a ride in. Tonight took me out to other worldly Ducketts Grove – is there a more iconic building for the Halloween season?
Another favourite is the along the River Barrow towpath between St Mullins and Clashganny which I did last year, starting out in daylight on the outward journey and coming back by the light of the bike. It can be tricky on the Barrow in winter as the track softens and becomes slippy so you need to be extra vigilant.
And it shortens the winter; being able to keep up the evening cycles is just magic and helps keep a level of fitness up for the following season!
These story boards of the early stages of Turas Columbanus, the latest addition to pilgrimage routes, give a great insight into the life of Columbanus and his journey from Myshall to Bangor and eventually to Bobbio in Italy. Hopefully they will be rolled out soon for the rest of the route to Bangor in County Down for the Irish sections of the route. The route moves to Europe where it crosses through France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. I cycled a version of the Irish route last year and the map of my version of the route follows after the story boards. Credit to all involved in the research and production of the story boards that highlight the life of one of the great saints of Ireland.