2016 was a strange year. A lot of depressing news from all over the World and it leaves us wondering what 2017 is going to bring!
But 2016 presented me with a great opportunity – writing the Cycling South Leinster Guide for Collins Press. 30 graded routes that show off many of the hidden gems of the region. I’ve always had it in my mind to take on a project like this and it was a real joy to head out exploring the back roads that provide some of the finest cycling terrain in the country.
Here is a random, sometimes quirky, selection of 30 photos each representing one of the routes. Enjoy and feel free to comment on any of them. If you would like more information please get in touch!
The Blackstairs Loop.
Wild horses emerging from the mist on the slopes of Mount Leinster. The Blackstairs Mountains from the border between Counties Carlow and Wexford.
Duncannon – Hook Head
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Duncannon, County Wexford is unique in that it takes place on the beach. FAI supremo John Delaney and Emma English led the parade down the village and onto beach every year. A beautiful day for a parade!
Arthur’s Way and beyond!
Oughterard Cemetery sits high above the Grand Canal near Ardclough, County Kildare. It’s a stunning setting where Arthur Guinness is its most famous resident!
Daniel O Connell famously shot and killed John D’Esterre in a duel fought over the treatment of the poor of Dublin in the field alongside, an act he later deeply regretted
Follow me back to Carlow
The River Barrow Track is one of the finest off-road cycle routes in the country. Currently there are plans to develop a Blueway that many fear may impact on the natural beauty of the route.
The Slieve Blooms
The Slieve Blooms are situated along the Laois – Offaly border and provide some of the finest cycling routes in the land.
It was a foggy morning cycling through ‘The Cut’, above Clonaslee.
Ollie Walsh Way
A rare sign on Irish roads, spotted in south Kilkenny!
As this route starts at the statue to Ollie Walsh in Thomastown, I thought it would be nice to name it in honour of the great Kilkenny goalkeeper.
I was reminded of cycling in Galicia while cycling in County Kilkenny by the number of large guard dogs / sheep dogs in farm yards across the county. It was unique to Kilkenny but I should say that none of them were loose or posed any threat to passing cyclists! Kilkenny surprised in other ways too – it was very hilly and possesses many unheralded heritage sites worth exploring.
The Three Sisters
Grannagh Castle is situated on the border of Kilkenny and Waterford on the outskirts of Waterford City. This was a delightful route incorporating the Thatched Villages of South Kilkenny and views of the Barrow, The Nore and the Suir.
North Kilkenny Cycle route
A punt for your thoughts!
This marked cycle route across north Kilkenny was well signposted and easy navigate. Like south Kilkenny, it has its fair share of hills!
Inistioge is one of Ireland’s prettiest villages and is a very popular destination for visitors. Terrific cycling along the side of the Nore and up into the surrounding hills.
Lots of interesting heritage sites on the route.
Bagenalstown – Drumphea – Altamont Loop
Ballyloughan Castle, County Carlow is a little gem off the beaten track that warrants a stopping off on this route. One of the best examples of a twin towered gate house in the country.
Paulstown – Castlecomer – Kilkenny City – Bennetsbridge
Kilkenny Castle is the most popular tourist attraction in the region and the grounds are magnificent. This was a really interesting mixed route which includes a visit to Dunmore Cave and the craft hub that is Bennetsbridge.
Dunbrody Abbey, County Wexford
Starting at the Dunbrody Famine Ship in New Ross, the route winds its way down to Ballyhack where we took the only ferry crossing in the south-east to Passage East followed by a short cycle to the Confluence of the Waters – the meeting point to the Barrow, Nore and Suir. On the way back we took in the road to the top of Slieve Coilltia.
Kilcullen to Blessington Lakes
Love this view back down to Blessington Lakes. This was taken from a side road above Lacken village. A wonderful add-on to this route.
In the Glen of Imaal, County Wicklow
Starting in Rathvilly, the route winds its way across north County Carlow and into the Glen of Imaal County Wicklow.
The river Slaney rises in the Glen of Imaal and travels round through Rathvilly. Rathvilly is closely associated with Kevin Barry while the Glen of Imaal is forever associated with the 1798 rebels, Michael Dwyer and Sam McAllister. Hence the Rebel River title!
On the Trail of the Saints
St Mullins Monastic Site, County Carlow.
The route begins in this historic and beautiful village deep in south Carlow and takes in Inistioge, Graiguenamangh and Borris.
An interesting route that takes in the two Canals – The Royal Canal and the Grand Canal, easy cycling!
Abbeyleix – Wolfhill Route
Cycling down from Wolfhill towards Ballyroan, County Laois
This was a lovely route with some nice climbing and some stunning scenery. Maaslough at Ballinakill is a sight in the Autumn when all the leaves are changing colours.
Ballitore to Glen of Imaal
Lugnaquilla from the Glen of Imaal, County Wicklow
From the Quaker village of Ballitore to the Glen of Imaal is a really pleasant route with great views and some gentle climbs.
Carlow Town Circuit
Just outside Carlow Town are the ancestral graves of Walt Disney’s family. A great circuit with a nice climb to the top of Rossmore.
Great cycling country on well surfaced back roads in the heart of County Laois.
The Bog of Allen Route
Alpacas near Clogherinka, County Kildare
A surprising sight near the Bog of Allen – Alpacas from South America! The Bog of Allen is a very ecologically important area – bogs are natural stores of greenhouse gases and carbon, store water, help to control flooding, provide a refuge for plants and animals and provide spectacular places for recreation.
Johnstown Castle – Kilmore Quay
Money doesn’t grown on tree but it seems everything else does!
The silver tree is a wonderful example of public art on the N30.
Taking a break from the warm sun at Ballintemple, near Ardattin, County Carlow.
Just finished this Loop out of Durrow returning by the River Arkina, a tributary of the Nore.
Nice spot for refreshments.
Bilboa and Back!
Cross on the Rag Tree at St. Molaise’s Well, Old Leighlin, County Carlow
Rag Trees are located at pilgrimage site around the country. People leave a piece of cloth, or an offering on the prayer tree. Very poignant and personal.
Goresbridge to Bennetsbridge
This was a favourite of mine, taking in a great climb above Skeaghvosteen and a visit to the Round Tower at Tullaherin.
The Hidden Sky Road
Near Tomduff, Seskin. This road along the north side of Sliabhbán has incredible views – seldom seen by anyone other than locals. Check it out!
This is a great short spin in the evening time, starting and finishing in Borris.
Moone High Cross Base
Many of us have driven up past Moone on the way to Dublin without ever seeing the incredible High Cross just outside the Village, Well worth visiting. This is one of the best examples of a decorated High Cross in the country. The engravings bring to life the stories from the Bible and are incredible works of art. Castledermot too has a number of really important crosses and sites to explore of a summer evening.
The Curragh Loop
The Round Tower in Kildare Town.
One of the shortest routes in this guide but certainly a unique Irish landscape worth an in-depth visit.
The road skirts the boundary of the famed open plain – often called Saint Brigid’s Pastures.
The flat pasture of nearly five thousand acres still retains the right of commonage for grazing sheep which supposedly originated with Brigid.
Around it’s edges are some important attractions deserving of a visit.
The Rock of Dunamaise at evening time.
Another short-circuit which can be easily completed on a summer’s evening.
The views around the Windy Gap and the Rock of Dunamaise are breathtaking and never fail to excite at any time of the year.
These are a random sample of images from the 30 routes. The book will be published by Collins Press early in the new year. Book launch date to be confirmed but I will keep you posted!
Happy New Year too all and hope to see many more people out cycling on our beautiful country roads!