With a quiet week on the football front, it was nice to get out and do a bit of wandering around the Rathvilly area. I was delighted to see two medieval crosses that I have never visited before at Waterstown, Rathvilly.
The site is marked as a graveyard on the Ordnance Survey Discovery Series no 61 map. It is easy find – head out of Rathvilly as far as the Moate. Turn left at the cross road and continue for 600 metres or so. There are two small granite posts on the left, that provide access to the field. (You may need to seek permission to enter). The crosses are located on top of a small mound which appears to be an old disused graveyard ( how can a graveyard be disused!)
I was delighted to see and photo the crosses; the large cross is about 2 metres high, it is a plain undecorated cross while the smaller cross has a clear crucifiction motif but the arms of the cross are broken. It’s a very atmospheric site with mature trees hiding the crosses from view.
It isn’t very far across the fields to St Patrick’s Well and closer to the Moate there’s an ogham stone located in the middle of a field which I also photographed. I think the inscription forecast ‘ Rathvilly for the 2018 Championship’! We will wait and see! Credit to landowners who are guardians of most of these sites and farm around them when I am sure it is an inconvenience to do so.
For the week that’s in it, I am putting up a really lovely cycle along country lanes in beautiful East Carlow. An unspoilt green oasis of tranquility, with lots of interesting historical and heritage sites along the trail.
Home to the clubs of County footballers Darragh Foley, Daniel St Ledger, Liam Roberts and Jack Kennedy who will all be part of the Carlow Squad playing in the NFL Division 4 Final v our great rivals, Laois.
This is a seldom visited part of the county – why not make a day trip this summer and sample it’s delights!
Height gain: 611 metres
Duration: 2.3 – 3 hours
Start / Finish
Park in the town car park opposite the municipal buildings in Tullow.
The roads on this route are exceptionally quiet and the only sound is the sound of bird song as you travel along The Slaney Valley down to Clonegal and onward to Clonmore.
It’s beauty will surprise you in this quiet backwater that really should be a tourist mecca.
Turn left on leaving the car park and leave Tullow behind as you head towards the village of Ardattin 6kms away. The road is good and flat and you will speed along this early section.
Take a right in Ardattin followed by a quick left. You are now onto a very small boithrín that will take you through the townland of Ballintemple and the Coillte nursery. This was once the home place of Pierce Butler, signatory of the American Constitution.
The road runs parallel to the River Slaney here and on the far side but out of sight from here is Altamont Gardens, one of Ireland’s most important gardens – well worth a diversion if you are so inclined.
The further along the road you travel, the grass centre increases in size and the hedgerows crowd in from both sides. It’s enchanting.
You will eventually meet an equally small road and you turn right and continue to climb a little more.
The views now become spectacular across the Slaney Valley towards Mount Leinster. Kilcarry Bridge is also in view below but take care going downhill here as the road surface deteriorates on this section.
These are views few people see of County Carlow and the route is a real treat.
The road meets the L2024 which will take you into Clonegal when you turn left. But first a quick diversion to Kilcarry Bridge which is 50 metres away on your right. A lovely resting place on the Slaney.
Clonegal has been described as ‘The Switzerland of Ireland’ because of the surrounding mountains, valleys and rivers. The Slaney and the Derry rivers meet close by at this meeting point of Counties Carlow, Wicklow and Wexford. The village has twice been awarded the accolade of Ireland’s tidiest village in 2014 and 2015. The displays of flowers every summer are a sight to behold and a great indication of community pride.
A visit to Huntington Castle is a must – the Guardian newspaper voted it one of Ireland’s top 20 hidden gems in 2015. Guided tours are available which include The Temple of Isis, located in the old castle dungeons. The castle is still lived in by descendants, the Durdin Robertsons, of the original owners, the Esmondes who were also involved in Duncan Fort and Johnstown Castle Wexford. A fascinating place.
Retrace your steps to the top of the village and take a right onto the L6049, following signs for the Wicklow Way. This renowned walking route finishes in Clonegal where the South Leinster Way begins. After 4 kms take a left, again following the signs for the Wicklow Way. The road begins to rise steadily and this road section is part of the official Wicklow Way. the Way heads into the woods 2kms further on and we rejoin it shortly after when it comes back to the road.
It’s up and down now for a few kilometres but nothing too difficult. The scenery is beautiful in this secluded border area of Carlow and Wicklow. The road is bordered by woodland on you right and you will shortly take a right at the next junction, again following the signs for the Wicklow Way.
At the next t junction take a left and we leave the Wicklow Way here and continue along a pleasant scenic road as far Aghowle Church. This is one of the prettiest ruins in the country, situated 400 metres down a laneway. Really worth a visit to this 6th century monastery founded by St Finian.
Aghowle Church and Cross
The wonderfully named Crab Lane Pub is 500 metres away, go right here and continue until you meet the R725. Cross over the staggered junction and down the hill. At the bottom continue left followed by a right and heading for Clonmore 5 kms away.
Clonmore is one of County Carlow’s most important Early Christian sites. It was named after St Mogue who built a monastery here in the 6th century. None of the original buildings survived but there are many important reminders of its past with two high crosses, a lintel, an ogham stone, two bullaun stones, a font, nineteen cross-inscribed slabs and a holy well.
The village is dominated by the ruins of Clonmore Castle which was taken by Cromwell in 1650.
Passing the castle we now return to Tullow on good flat roads. We have an option after 7kms to take a right or left – both will take you back to Tullow. Go right and then right again, passing over a bridge and take the next left. Another left after that and you will eventually join the N81, turning left you are on the outskirts of Tullow. Cycle down the Town and back to car park to finish a very rewarding and challenging route.
‘….three great rivers ran,
And many countries scowrd.
The first, the gentle Shure that making way
by sweet Clonmell, adorns rich Waterford:
The next, the stubborn Newre, whoe waters gray,
by faire Kilkenny and Rosseponte boord,
the third, the goodly Barow, which doth hoorde
Great heaps of Salmons in his deepe bosome:
All which long sundred, doe at last accord
To ioyne in one, ere to the sea they come,
So flowing all from one, all one at last become”.