Rothar Routes

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

Posts tagged ‘Cycle touring Ireland’

Amazing Irish Cycles

The Irish Independent Travel section of Weekender magazine features some terrrific Irish cycling routes. Delighted to have one of my routes included! Nice to be featured alongside Irish cycling legend Sean Kelly! Thanks to @Nicola Brady and @Indo_Travel_ for including me in the feature.

The Hook head loop is just one of thirty routes in my forthcoming book ‘Cycling South Leinster, Great Road Routes, published by The Collins Press

 

Patriot Path

Tuckmill

Tuckmill

Lisnavagh House

Lisnavagh House

Humewood Castle entrance

Humewood Castle entrance

Heading towards the Glen of Imaal

Heading towards the Glen of Imaal

Pedalling around the quiet north east corner of Carlow and into West Wicklow this morning I was intrigued by the fascinating history of local patriots and of the local big houses.
Rathvilly has always been proud of its connection with Kevin Barry who went to school in the village. His parents were from the Hacketstown area and Kevin was immortalised in ballad following his hanging in Mountjoy by British Forces during the War of Independence, following a gun battle on the streets of Dublin in which three British soldiers were killed – the first soldiers to be killed since 1916.
It wasn’t long before I passed the Moate and turned right down to Lisnavagh House, home of the Bunburys since the 1660’s. The house is situated on 600 acres with 200 hundred acres of beech, ash and oak – a beautiful setting. It’s home to Turtle Bunbury, historian and author. Lisnavagh is now a popular wedding venue and I had a great chat with the French visitors before I headed for Haroldstown Dolmen.
The Dolmen featured on the front cover of Robert Kee’s wonderful book A history of Ireland. It is very similar to the famous Poulnabrone Dolmen in Clare and just as important. Located beside a bad bend on the Hacketstown road. That road is too busy for my liking and I quickly slipped of it and across to Clonmore.
Another little village oozing history. Clonmore was a very significant monastic site and there are plenty of reminders of its past in the local graveyard and of course the imposing ruins of the Castle.
The sun was shining on a fine autumn morning and the leaves were turning from green to brown, yellow and gold as I pushed uphill to Hacketstown, home to Kevin Barry’s parents.

After leaving Hacketstown I headed for Kiltegan just over the border in County Wicklow where I hoped to cycle into Homewood Castle to have a look at the restoration of this amazing gothic mansion which was built by the Hume family who settled there in the 15th century. It’s now owned by American billionaire John C M,alone and is strictly off limits. A shame.

No time to linger, I pushed on to the sleepy sráidbhaile of Rathangan and began the climb up to the Glen of Imaal. This is a lovely area with terrific views of Keadeen Mountain and Lugnaquilla. The road winds between the two and the hard graft is rewarded with a great downhill as far as the well signposted McAllister – Dwyer Cottage.
Michael Dwyer was a member of the United Irishmen and fought in the battles of Vinegar Hill, Arklow and Hacketstown. He fought a guerrilla campaign in the region and was forced to move about and use local houses to rest up in. One such house was the one in Dernamuck where he was billeted with a few of his comrades.
Unfortunately for them, they were betrayed by an informer and the house was surrounded by British soldiers. After gaining safe passage for women and children they decided to fight it out against much superior forces. Antrim man Sam McAllister seeing the inevitable, stood in the doorway to draw the fire of the soldiers and Dwyer managed to escape over the snow covered mountains.
He eventually capitulated and negotiated passage to America. However he was instead transported to Australia and while there was sent to Van Diemens Land.
It stuck me that Barry and Dwyer were connected over the centuries of rebellion by the River Slaney which flows down from Lugnaquilla and beneath the cottage and onwards through Baltinglass (where there is a statue to McAllister) and to Rathvilly.

The scenery along this 65kms route is spectacular and would make a great day out for anyone looking for a nice route with plenty of scenery and history. The amount of interesting historical and heritage sites in our county and along it’s borders is incredible and there to be explored.

The Thatched Villages of South Kilkenny

Some more images from the thatched villages of South Kilkenny. Great cycling country with stunning views of the River Suir.
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The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters – The Barrow, The Nore and The Suir three mythical rivers on our doorstep. Lots of legends and history attached to all three and fantastic cycling route alongside all three. I only read recently in John Keane’s ‘Hidden Kilkenny’ of the Thatched Villages of South Kilkenny and cycling through them yesterday was like a journey back in time. Easy imagine an era when all houses were thatched; The villages are located in a curve in the River Suir that juts into Waterford. It really is unspoiled, a parallel universe where time has stood still. Remarkably John Keane mentions that the area even has a dialect that exists nowhere else and a form of English going back to Elizabethan times.

One of the cottages is the birthplace of Bob O Keeffe, after whom the Leinster SHC Cup is named.

It’s a fascinating enclave, off the beaten track; there aren’t as many of the thatched cottages still in existence as in times past and the remaining ones are in varying condition. But these are the real thing – these are not fake folk villages but a living breathing community. The River Suir is an important source for the reeds used to thatch the cottages and in times past, a plentiful source of salmon. Salmon fishing has been banned for the past three years and one local man I spoke to wasn’t to pleased with that!

I continued on towards Waterford, stopping at the impressive ruins of Grannagh Castle before heading onto Kilmacow, Slieverue and Glenmore with stunning views of the Barrow and Nore combined. Nice climbs to Glenmore and across to Mullinavat and onto Pilltown, my starting point.

The Hidden Ireland waiting to be explored on our doorstep.

The Barrow and The Nore

The Barrow and The Nore

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Slea Head Loop

Slea Head

The beauty of the Dingle peninsula is best experienced on foot or by bicycle; it’s largely missed by those coach loads of tourists and hire cars that now snake around the winding roads of West Kerry.
The branding of the Wild Atlantic Way has been so successful the roads have become much busier and the road network is not designed for the volumes of traffic. Maybe vehicular access should be curtailed!

And as that is hardly likely I’d recommend cyclists travelling counter clockwise when travelling these roads as the majority of vehicles travel out through Ventry and clockwise back to Dingle. Far better to see what is ahead of you than worry about what is behind! There is little difference in the views going in either direction as the landscapes are panoramic and breathtaking with every turn of the wheels.The Loop I completed is only 45kms approx; it can easily be extended back the other side of Dingle but my purpose wasn’t the physical challenge, it was to see and enjoy as much as possible and not have the head down bursting a gut!
West Kerry is full of reminders of our long and ancient history and there are many examples from pagan and early Christian civilisations, and by taking the R559 be sure to stop at the old burial ground of Kilfountain on your right after about 1km, and marvel at the impressive standing stone. The ogham stone consists of the inscription St Finian and a Chi-Rho cross.

Resuming on the road there is a gentle up hill pull and you reach the top in 3kms. That’s the highest point of the cycle over and done with and in truth only a gentle hill.
It’s now the views begin to open up and before you is Smerwick Harbour. The downhill is welcome; Cosán na Naomh, the pilgrimage walking route to Mount Brandon, crosses over the road, and our first stop is at the Gallarus Oratory.

Gallarus

Gallarus

No one is too sure when it was built but it is certainly over 1200 years old. No mortar was used in it’s construction, yet it it bone dry. It looks like an upturned boat.
We back tracked slightly to take the road to Baile an Fheirtéaraigh and made a mad dash for it as the clouds swept in off the Atlantic dumping rain for the only time during the week on top of us. The museum in Ballyferrietr is worth a visit as it has many examples of ogham stones and other interesting artefacts.

This is the heart of the Gaeltacht Corca Dhuibne with magnificent panoramic views of The Three Sisters and Ceann Sibéal. Well worth a visit on another day to climb to the top of these imposing cliffs.

The Three sisters

The Three Sisters

The shower passed and we weren’t long drying out in the breeze before this impressively framed view of ‘An Fear Mairbh’ came into view, beyond Cloichear Strand. This is a magical place to watch a winter storm as the massive swell fills the small bay.

Cloichear Strand

Cloichear Strand

It’s hard not to be giddy so stunning are the views and the hills had no impact as we pushed on to see the next exciting coastal view.
It isn’t long until the views of Inis Tuaisceart, Beiginis and An Blascaod Mór come into view.

Mary admiring the Blaskets

Mary admiring the Blaskets

The Blaskets have given us so many great writers Peig Sayers, Tomás Ó Criomthain and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin, not to forget the Englishman Robin Flower. It’s worth taking a boat trip out and walking the island; it is appreciated all the more if you have read some of the books. And who hasn’t read Peig!
The coastal drive along here is probably the most scenic route in Ireland. Every turn brings an even more breath taking view and it’s no surprise that cars are constantly stopping and creating traffic jams!

Mary cycling past the Blaskets

Cycling past the Blaskets

The area shot to international fame with the filming of Ryan’s Daughter in 1969. I was 8 at the time and remember it well as it was our first holiday in Ballyferriter. So a visit to the schoolhouse with the greatest view in Ireland was a must, and we took our bikes along the walking path to pay it a visit.

Mary on Cliff path

On the Cliff path

Path to to Schoolhouse

Path to to Schoolhouse

Mary admiring the Blaskets

Admiring the Blaskets

The colours on the headlands of pinks and purples showed up brilliantly against the turquoise ocean colour below.

The road drops down into the ancient village of Dún Chaoin and and the Pier is probably one of the most photographed in the country, often featuring in calendars.

Dún Chaoin pier

Dún Chaoin pier

Just when you think it can’t be any prettier a turn in the road has you cycling above Coomenoule Strand with the view of the Blaskets beyond. Truly magical country. The beach here is quite dangerous but very popular with surfers and paddlers and a good place for a picnic and a refreshing paddle!

Coomeenoule from headland

Coomeenoule from headland

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There are a lot of beehive huts and old stone buildings scattered along here and later on too at Fahan

Dunmore Head and the Blaskets

Dunmore Head and the Blaskets

Ruins and Blaskets

Ruins and Blaskets

The road clings to the cliff side all the way around Slea Head and Fahan with the views across the bay to the Iveragh Peninsula and the Skelligs – a danger to drivers who can be so easily distracted!

Blaskets

Blaskets

Mary at Dunmore Head

Mary at Dunmore Head

A mountain stream crosses the road at one point just before Fahan where there are numerous beehive huts which can be visited on the road to Ventry.

Mountain Stream

Mountain Stream

No visit to Ventry is complete without dropping into Páidí Ó Sé’s pub at Árd a Bhothair. The late Páidi was one of a kind and I had the good fortune to know him quite well and for many years I had a photograph I took on the Blaskets on display in his massive collection that adorns the walls of the pub, now run by his children.

It’s short run into Dingle from Ventry and the completion of one of the most enjoyable cycling routes I’ve been on, home or abroad.

Highly recommend it!

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