Rothar Routes

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

Posts tagged ‘Rock Art’

Carlow’s ‘Boyne Valley’ Revisited!

I love getting a Saturday afternoon to explore a bit of our historic and fascinating county. Today I went down South – again to the Rathanna, Ballymurphy area.

A phone call from Eamon Coleman a couple of months ago to tell me that he had cleared a path to the ancient rock art and holy water wells that are situated on his land had me planning to head down when football commitments allowed.

First port of call was Killoughternane

This single cell Church was built in the 5th Century by St Fortchern. There is a well across the road that has a really interesting history. It was forgotten about until 1880 when the land owner found a bottle with a message inside, written in a foreign language which when translated contained directions to the well! It must have attracted visitors from continental Europe at some point. This obviously created great excitement and the Well became a pilgrimage site with may cures attributed.

Subsequently a lady was cleaning out the well when she unearthed a mud encrusted item from the bottom of the well. It turned out to be a Chalice and Paten – probably hidden in penal times. The Chalice is now in St Andrews Church, Bagenalstown.


Headed over to Tinnecarrig Ballymurphy then to meet Eamon Coleman and view the rock art that is well hidden from view in an ancient overgrown graveyard on his land.

Its hard to make out the cups on this stone but if you look carefully you can see many deep cups peppered all over the surface. What did they signify? Who knows at this stage but its great see that rock art many thousands of years old is still present across the county.

Indeed you could say that this area is the Boyne Valley of the South as there are numerous examples close to the foothills of the Blackstairs!

One of the Holy Wells well hidden from view.

Holy wells or water fonts….

Time to head home but a short dash across to Rathgeran and Carlow’s finest example of rock art beckoned.

There are many more ancient heritage sites in this small area of the County – I often think we undersell what we have to offer…



The Hidden Sky Road

Delighted to see Carlow County Council have signposted one of my routes, ‘The Hidden Sky Road’ which features in my book ‘Cycling South Leinster, Great Road Routes’.

Its a beautiful route to complete on a summers evening at just 37kms length featuring a small climb with stunning views across County Carlow.

The route begins in Borris, passing alongside the Mountain River and out of the village under the Viaduct, heading towards Rathanna.

Borris Viaduct with Mary

Wouldn’t it make a great section of a Greenway?

The Mountain River

The Mountain River is my favourite river in the County; wild with contrasting colours of brown, gold, yellow and green. Crystal clear water.

Quiet roads with lots of great vantage points to see the Blackstairs Mountains and Mount Leinster as you head east. There are lots of little known gems to stop off and and explore along the way.

With a little searching there are a couple of examples of rock art on the route (you will need permission to access) at Spahill and Coolasnaughta.

Spahill Rock Art

Coolasnaughta Rock Art

Carlow has a brilliant network of local roads that are virtually traffic free and ideal for cycling

Quiet Country Lanes near Rathanna

Views on The Hidden Sky Road


There are lots of heritage sites dotted across the county and some worth visiting close to the route not far from Tomduff Cross are

The White Church, Killoughternane

Rathnageeragh Castle

St Forthcern’s Well

Templemoling Cemetery

But the best views are from on high along The Hidden Sky Road

The Hidden Sky Road

View from The Hidden Sky Road

Blackstairs Horses in the Morning Mist

Wild horses Blackstairs

The Adelaide Memorial Church of Christ The Redeemer in Myshall is an architectural masterpiece. Worth a visit on its own. There’s a great love story about its construction which was built to commemorate the daughter and wife of a visiting English man. His daughter had been thrown from a horse while riding and died from the fall. The full story can be read in the Myshall and Drumphea Parish website

Adelaide Church Myshall

Ballynasillogue Banshee Stone is a little off the trail but worth checking out. Incidentally I would advise bringing a good map along with you on any of these routes; the best map by far is actually produced in Carlow by East West Mapping of Clonegal – ‘Blackstairs, Mount Leinster & The Barrow Valley at 1: 25,000 scale, it is full of so much detail and local knowledge.

Ballynasillogue Dolmen

It may be just a small corner of the county but as you can see there’s plenty to look out for and it might take a few trips to visit them all.

Finish up back in Old World Borris and a visit to two of Carlow’s iconic pubs

Joyce’s Bar Borris

O Sheas Borris

Rathgeran Rock Art

This fabulous example of mysterious Rock Art is not easy locate but is well worth the effort!

No better way to clear the head and no better way to realise how unfit you are than to do a little hillwalking!

Located on a hillside off the Ballymurphy – Kiltealy road, a bit of a scramble will bring you up on the hillside and you must do a bit of searching to locate the exact location.


Here is a lovely video clip but the light unfortunately wasn’t quite right to highlight the eight concentric circles on this large granite slab.

Worth a ramble!

Had a great day down around Rathanna and Rathgeran.

Finding the recorded examples of rock art is nearly impossible without local help. This particular one should really be signposted as it is magnificent and the views from the location are beautiful.

There’s an awful lot to see spread across this area and it’s great walking and cycling country too.

With a new hostel opening in Rathanna soon, the area will have accommodation to cater for visitors, from near and far.


Rathgeran Rock Art


Rathgeran Rock Art

Rathgeran Rock Art


St Fortunes Church, Bell Tower, Rathanna

St Fortunes Church, Bell Tower, Rathanna


Bridge on Mountain River

Bridge on Mountain River


Standing Stone Rathgeran

Standing Stone Rathgeran


Big Sky, Blackstairs

Big Sky, Blackstairs

Dranagh Rock Art

I was fortunate enough today to run into the man who found the original piece of Dranagh Rock Art that now is displayed in the museum in St Mullins. Michael Clarke was changing a wheel on his jeep when I called in to ask about a second piece that exists locally.

He was kind enough to leave the jeep and led me in his car to the site of the second rock. Unfortunately at this stage it was getting dark so my photos doesn’t do it justice.I will have to call another day.

After he discovered the first rock, his father took a photo to the National Museum and they sent some experts down to inspect. Suitably impressed they told him it was likely that there were more examples dotted around in the stone walls of the area. Lo and behold but didn’t he find this second one in 2008.


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