Rothar Routes

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

Posts tagged ‘Carlow Tourism’

The Old Places

New Years Day and cabin fever at its highest! A day for fresh air and exploring the landscape of County Carlow. Maps intrique me. Old places, long forgotten, apart from some obscure marking on OS maps; like a treasure map, clues to our past.

The brilliant East West Map of the Blackstairs and the Barrow Valley feature a ‘Star Shaped Fort’ at Coolyhune. It has long haunted me. Perched on top of the small hill with great views of Counties Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford, the site is overgrown and is adjacent to a house on private land. During the summer months when trees are in foliage it is virtually impenetrable but there is some possibilities of seeing the layout in mid winter. But still hard to visualise the fort at ground level.

I was delighted today to get permission to access the site and I got some good footage of the site with the star shape clearly visible. These are the only aerial photographs that I am aware of that exist of the Fort.

The following description is derived from the published ‘Archaeological Inventory of County Carlow’ (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1993):

Pentagonal fort with bastions enclosing summit of hill. Walls of drystone construction (ext. max. H 2.2m, int. H 0.6-2m; top Wth c. 1.2m, base Wth c. 1.5-1.8m), with slight external batter. Construction suggests fairly recent origin, possibly connected with events of 1798. (dims. of interior (excluding bastions) 60m x 60.5m; L of bastion 18m; max. Wth of bastion 20m; Wth of opening to bastions 17.6m). Rebuilding in some areas; entrance gap at S probably not original.

Star Shaped Fort
Star Shaped Fort at Coolyhune
Star Shaped Fort at Coolyhune

We are desensitised to our surroundings and to our environment. Urban landscapes. Asphalt roads. Concrete paths. Hard, unforgiving surfaces. Connecting with somewhere or somebody but not connecting with the land we inhabit. Unlike paths of our forefathers.

Since homo sapiens left Africa we have been crisscrossing continents and leaving tracks behind us. When we began herding livestock we created trails to and from pastures – sure isn’t that where the word ‘bóthar’ came from!

Many of our roads were originally animal tracks – no wonder Irish roads have traditionally been windy and twisty and unsuitable for modern traffic!

Pilgrim roads. Famine roads – built in the 1840s by starving peasants to receive a small return to alleviate hunger; the road to nowhere.

I’ve always been fascinated by Green Roads that cross the country – and can only now be seen on waste ground or mountain sides.

‘Green Road’ on the Blackstairs

There are at least three roads showing on ordnance survey maps along the Carlow flank of the Blackstairs. These are the ‘Wexford Road’, ‘The Tower Road’ and the ‘Gowlin Road’. All three meet up at some stage.

There were traditionally feast days where families of either side of the Blackstairs would meet on top of the Cooliagh Gap at The Meeting Point on the last Sunday in July.

Scots Pine Grove 1800s
‘Green Roads’ of the Blackstairs

Presumably the ‘Wexford Road’ was a short cut over the mountain to County Wexford, while the Gowlin Road finished in the town land of Goolin. The Tower Road was so named after the Tower House, now in ruins.

Further south the around Dranagh, the stone wall landscape is reminiscent of the west of Ireland.

Stone Walls of Drannagh
Stone Walls of Drannagh

A good day exploring the land of the 2019 Leinster Club hurling finalists, St Mullins and the 2013 Leinster Champions Mount Leinster Rangers!

Blueways, Greenways, Rivers, Railways, Carlow Dream Way!

Thanks to Pádraig Dooley of Carlow Historical and Archaeological Society for telling me about this fantastic Youtube clip of the now defunct railway line from Bagenalstown to Pallas East! Its a great piece of Carlow history.

The brouhaha has died down about the proposed development of the Barrow Blueway by Waterways Ireland since An Bórd Pleanála refused permission to change the use of the Barrow Track to a cycle route. But is that the end of it?

Borris Viaduct

Surely fresh thinking is now required. Where do we go from here?

The concept itself had great merit; rural ireland is crying out for sustainable development and eco tourism offers some hope to isolated communities that are trying to stay alive and reinvent themselves in a country that is becoming as urbanised and centralised as most developed countries around the globe.

I don’t believe any of the people opposed to the development of the Blueway were anti development but they had the foresight to realise the plan was fatally flawed.

It didn’t mean that they were opposed to developing the national Greenway infrastructure in Carlow, rather that they wished for deeper consultation and the selection of the most appropriate route. The establishment of the Greenway network has been hailed as a major success, developing new places of interest for visitors and increasing employment in tourist related activities along the routes. What was overlooked when it came to developing a Carlow Greenway was the basis on which routes were selected in other counties. Disused railways featured heavily across the network.

Ironically we in Carlow have a disused railway running almost parallel to the River Barrow through some of our most beautiful scenic areas – and it would visit our villages of Drummond, St Mullins, Glynn, Borris and Bagenalstown along its 30kms of pristine natural beauty.

Railway Bridge near Glynn

The difficulty of course is that the lands have gone into private ownership and accessing it presents a challenge. it’s no different to the challenge in Waterford and Mayo. With leadership, vision, consultation, dialogue and goodwill there is no obvious reason why we in County Carlow cannot achieve the same outcome.

It would be a major tourist infrastructure for the County and would need the support of statutory bodies to be developed. if we can dream it, we can make it happen. It’s about selling an idea, it’s about promoting our locality, its’ about developing an eco tourism product that will benefit all the stakeholders along the route and one that will not damage the natural environment as the proposed Blueway would have done.

Old Railway Station at Ballyling near Glynn?

Here is a link to what I have marked as the Bagenalstown to Pallas East Railway based on satellite imagery of South Carlow. Could the route become part of the national Greenway infrastructure?

Maps showing line of the old Railway:

Bagenalstown to Poulmounty 1
Bagenalstown to Poulmounty 2

Rush Hour on the Barrow

Carlow Rowers are the true custodians of the Barrow in Carlow Town. Love their dedication and commitment to their sport and their long association with the Barrow, Ireland’s second longest river.

So good to get back on the bike and have a little spin along a true Greenway, the River Barrow.

Looking at the rowers from above, they remind me of the pondskaters that we see skating along the surface along the river bank!

It is really is a true Greenway.

Barrow Greenway

Shrule Castle on the banks of the Barrow

All that remains of the Sugar Factory – the Limekiln

The Barrow Blueway turned down by An Bord Pleanála

One of the reasons cited by An Bord Pleanála for refusing WWI permission for the Barrow Blueway was on grounds of safety.
A lot of people supported the project for very good reasons – improving tourist numbers in the county and boosting the local economy.

However the concept of a cycle path along the banks of the River Barrow had a number of flaws, safety being one.
What many people did not understand was how narrow the Track is over extended distances.
An increase in cycling numbers, of the magnitude attracted to the Waterford Greenway, would have presented a serious safety risk to other users. (WWI mentioned 100,000…)

I was videoing my cycle down the River one glorious summers day in 2018 when I chanced upon a large group of hikers.
As you can see it was impossible to pass the group and that is one of the beautiful things about the Track as it currently is configure. Cyclists have to go slow. It is a slow way.
Lots of people had the vision of opening up the route to cyclists, families with push buggies and wheel chair users. It would have been irresponsible and dangerous.

I hope this video helps people understand one of the many grounds for refusing permission for the Blueway.

It needs to be rethought now so that the Rover can indeed become a major attraction.
What about investing heavily in the river frontage in all the villages, similar to the beautiful linear park in Carlow Town, creating hubs to explore the region and the Barrow Way?
There are so many attractions along the river and close by that good tourist infrastructure and attractive villages could open up to a wider appeal.
We don’t need the crowds of the Wild Atlantic Way, a more authentic Ireland has its own unique attraction!

 

The Barrow Way

An Bord Pleanála have refused permission for the controversial Barrow Blueway. Waterways Ireland have been unsuccessful in their attempt to overturn the decision of Carlow County Council.

The Barrow Track is a narrow green corridor that stretches from Athy to St Mullins., much of it is an area of special conservation. You could say it our National Park.

The proposal was very controversial and was debated passionately on both sides of the argument.

In an era where the checks and balances of democracies are under threat this was a great example of democracy at work. Those checks and balances functioned and I think the proposal received a fair hearing before a decision was arrived at.

There was never any need for the vitriol that polluted so much of social media commentary around the issue; the argument had to stand or fall on its merits and it did.

I don’t believe any of the opponents of the Blueway were anti-development rather they were pro the right development. We all want to promote our County, grow tourism, create jobs and livelihoods and the development of the river should not now be ignored. Let a new inclusive process begin and create an acceptable solution.

The Western Greenway and the Waterford Greenway are the two most successful in the country, there are others that have not achieved the same traction. Both these Greenways took many years to plan and become ‘an overnight success’.

Both are along the route of old disused railway lines. Guess what? We have a disused railway line running almost parallel to the River Barrow. If they can be brought into use elsewhere surely the same can happen here….

Here are some of my favourite photos taken on my many spins along the Barrow Way over the past few years.

Barrow CycleBarrow TrackOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Barrow evening

Near Ballytiglea

2012-09-03 at 14-11-34Evening on the Slaney

Mary at Ballytiglea Lock

Mary at Ballytiglea Lock

Rowing Club

Evening time on the Barrow

Barrow in Flood 2015-12-29 (3)

Swans at Carlow

Barrow in Flood 2015-12-29 (9)Carlow in Flood 2015-12-30 (1)

ballyellin

Peace

bend-in-the-barrow

Perfect for cycling as it is!!

Barrow Cyclists

Barrow Cyclists

Heron Landing

Heron Landing

Grassy weir

Grassy Knoll!

Heron Graiguenamanagh

Heron Watch

Wild FlowersTropical Barrow

One man and his dog3

Not the Rockies, south Carlow

Milestone

2 Ballingrane Lock

Beautiful stone cottage at Carriglead

2 Tinnahinch Lower

Ballykeenan Lock

Cormorants take flight

Comorants take flight

Ballykeenan Lock

Under the Beech Tree

Under the Beech Tree

Barrow and the Blackstairs

Barrow and the Blackstairs

Clashganny Hut

Shelter from the rain at Clashganney

Ballytiglea Lock Gates and the River Barrow

Ballytiglea Lock Gates and the River Barrow

Lower Ballyellin

Lower Ballyellin

Ballytiglea

Ballytiglea

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