Whether we like it or not Covid restrictions are with us in the medium term and we need to adapt or we will all crack up! With the long summer evenings now is the best time of the year to really get to know your own locality.
I’m going to post up some my favourite local routes using Carlow Town as the starting and end point for my evening routes. The routes will follow the local road network and mostly avoid regional and main roads.
We had a terrific easy 24kms cycle this evening on traffic free roads all within 5kms of Carlow Town Centre!
I’m a firm believer that the local road network is not promoted enough for safe cycling; there should be some investment in good signage and in identifying loops that can be connected up to provide an extensive safe network of dedicated shared cycle routes – it could be done at a fraction of the cost of developing greenways!
Just so good to be able to get back down south along the Barrow Track and surrounding area. With the stretch in the evenings it’s important to take advantage of any opportunity after being locked up for so long.
Not wanting to reopen the whole Blueway Debate but look at how pretty the natural path is on the Barrow.. hope to see the old railway line developed as a greenway and an imaginative use of current infrastructure to bridge the gap to Carlow.
I struggle with the logic of travel within your own county given the disparity in sizes between the smallest and the largest but at least it gives us a little more freedom! Today after months of 5kms restrictions today was the first day to seek out new horizons and to get out into the south!
What a joyful 30kms cycle in the Deep south of Ceatharlach! We really have a beautiful little county and we don’t even know it too well ourselves.
If you want to spend an afternoon or a day away from crowds, in splendid isolation, look no further than Rathanna as your base. I always approach it coming from Killoughternane side and the view that hits you as you round the bend at Tomduff matches anything in Ireland. It compares favourably with the views across to the Three Sisters from Slea Head in my books. Its a patchwork of 40 shades of green underneath the heathered slopes of The Blackstairs Mountain Range.
Its always nice to know the local place names; each county has its own unique landscape and the descriptions are often in the place names. Irish place names are so poetic – Ballyglisheen, Rathgeran, Slievedurda, Rosdellig, Rathanna, Ballymurphy, Knockymulgurry, Knock, Gowlin…
Traffic free narrow lanes make this route a smashing cycle route with a nice bit of climbs along the way to keep you honest… nothing major but a few nice pulls. And did I mention the scenery? Ah my God…
Or the hurlers? Down every by road are the famed Rangers and St Mullins camán wielders, territories marked out by red and black or green and white flags.. there must be great banter here around County Final time…
The more I cycle the more convinced I am that instead of investing millions in greenways, we should concentrate instead on creating dedicated cycle routes using the extensive local road network that links our isolated villages and parishes. It would cost an awful lot less and would not entail further damage to our biodiversity or result in the creation of more hard surfaces than we need.
What else would you be doing on a Bank Holiday Monday only going for a ramble. Seeing as we can’t leave our 5kms zone, we decided instead to indulge in some time travel. What was the town like in previous centuries?
I wonder can you identify where we were? If I have wrongly identified old names forgive me! Most of the detail here was from some articles my father had put together while researching the location of the old walls of Carlow Town..
I’ll pop in some visual clues as we make our way to help identify where we went.
We confined ourselves to the Town Centre, starting in Tullow Street with our first place of interest, a licensed premises and hotel since 1768, still bearing the same name! Formerly known as ‘The Farmers Inn’.
Across the road is the premises, ‘The Plough’, only in existence since 1829! There was a hotel in Tullow Street called the Plough Hotel, presumably on the same site.
I’ve often been in Lowrys Lane without realising it as I called to the family run hardware opposite the ‘Beehive Hut’ ….any takers?
Passed quickly by the Old RIC Barracks and then tried to book a room in the Commercial Hotel but couldn’t find the entrance! Anyone got an idea where this hotel was once to be found? Served as a famous ballroom for many years in a later life..
We took a small u turn to bring us around to Cockpit Lane….
In 1986 Éire Óg produced a great local history ‘Friends and Neighbours’ that researched over 500 families that lived along a number of streets in Carlow Town. At the heart of it all was Bridewell Lane and Brewery Lane. Bridewell Lane, so called because it led to the Gaol, was largely demolished and sadly there is no trace of Brewery Lane. But folk memory is great and thanks to interviews with many of the families a great picture of the area can be ascertained from the descriptions and family photographs.
All the houses were whitewashed and had half doors with lots of music and singing.
We are now in the heart of old Carlow; Bridewell Lane was formerly known as Somers Lane.
Leaving Bridewell Lane we pass by the Sessions House – used to be the Crown and Record Courts and we slipped onto the Strand!
From the Strand we strolled down Coal Market , where once coal was sold …. and much more besides; Swans Electrical started out down here..
The Moneen was an area between the old Town and the Castle, prone to flooding at the time of the building of the Castle. In more recent time and, for many years, locals visited John Flynn for a cure for warts on this laneway which brought us towards Skinners Lane and Wellington Quay..
Leaving the east bank of the Barrow we crossed over Wellington Bridge
and continued onto Batchelors Walk…
It was a short hop onto Barrow Street and Morrins Lane
When Cromwell came to Ireland he ordered the Irish to ‘hell or to Connaught’… I wonder did he mean Connaught Lane?
Back on the east side of the Barrow we made our way up North Cotts Lane towards Dublin Street…
We retraced our steps back to South Cotts Lane and Fairy Lane / Templecroney Lane…Templecroney commemorates Naomh Croneybeg..
Surely the most unusual name of any street in Carlow must have been ‘Labour-In-Vain Lane’, which took its name from a sign on a tavern representing a person trying to wash a blackman white….I kid you not! From there we made our way back onto Dublin Street where we sought to find The Bear Inn which was located at no 64 Dublin Street. The Red Cow Inn which was located across the road at no 2 Dublin Street…
Further up the street we sought out the Blackamoor Inn, 58 Dublin Street and the Crown and Sceptre, 59 Dublin Street – taverns from the 1700s….
It was time to start making our way back home and we took a peek at the house where The Globe Inn was located in the 1600s and where, wait for it, King James stayed briefly after the Battle of the Boyne.. a wall plaque displayed the initials of WJR (though it looks like WIR to me) 1699 which reference the then owners Jonathan and Ruth Watson..
We then went via Cuckoo Lane, or should I say Hunt Street, and tried to get a meal in the Imperial Hotel but there was no one serving..
A right turn on to Mass House Lane and back into Tullow Street to finish a lovely afternoon walk with a difference..
I referenced the ‘Friends and Neighbours’ Booklet earlier. Sadly it is out of print but it is a brilliant example of local history which was complied by a FÁS teamwork scheme back in 1986. The Committee overseeing the publication was Dermot & Kathleen O Brien, James Brady and Nancy O Brien. Researchers were Adel Delaney, Karen Doran, Nuala Foley, Joan Gaffney, Robert Hayden, Sandra James, Jo Kirwan, Esther Moore, Karen O Hagan and Eithne Ware. I wonder could it be reprinted? I’m sure lots of people would like to have a copy.
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!
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!
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!