Rothar Routes

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

Posts tagged ‘Terryglass’

Malin Head to Mizen Head Day 5

Terryglass to Aherlow 106kms

Should  I  stay  or  should  I  go  now?
Should  I  stay  or  should  I  go  now?
If  I  go  there  will  be  trouble
And  if  I  stay  it  will  be  double
So  come  on  and  let  me  know

There was a symphony playing on the window pane when we woke. The weather had broken yesterday evening and it wasn’t letting up any time soon. After a hearty breakfast – ate slowly, we decided to give it another 30 minutes before departure to see would the clouds lift at all. They didn’t; it got worse! The thought of cycling in the rain is much worse than actually doing it and it was actually enjoyable; there’s a great sense of achievement in getting out and just dealing with the elements. We were on the eastern shore of Lough Derg and great gusts of wind were driving sheets of rain across the lake from County Clare and blowing us all over the place. We were saturated. It was a tough 27kms to Nenagh. And as Murphy’s law would have it, the rain stopped as we arrived! The break was only temporary. We changed our planned route to avoid a long steep exposed climb in the Silvermines. Instead we took a long diversion to Toomevara and onto the busy Borrisoleigh road. After 10kms we were delighted to see the Beara Breifne signs intersect the road and we followed those up into the hill country. It was delightful. The BB Way is well signposted and the scenery in this hidden corner of Tipperary is delightful. Beautiful country side all around as we reached Templederry. This peaceful village was home to the fiery rebel priest Fr John Kenyon (1812-1869). He was a fierce advocate of physical force and an outspoken opponent of Daniel O Connell, impacted as he was by the devastation of the famine in the surrounding countryside. But his efforts to relieve distress during the Famine endeared him to his flock. The local GAA Club is called Templederry Kenyons. That’s the beauty of the bike! You learn so much more about where you are passing through.

We were heading into very remote countryside now and still climbing gradually. Rain was still falling but it was majestic! Our diversion turned out really well and it was one of our favourite sections of the entire route. There was a lot of climbing today, almost a 1,000 metres in foul weather but it added to the whole sense of the journey. As I rounded a bend in the road a voice beckoned from 50 metres ahead ” How are ye? Will ye buy a lotto ticket?” We stopped and bought a couple, crossed our fingers, but Sean Treacey’s GAA Club haven’t been in touch so I guess we had no luck! I hope they have better luck in the Tipp Championships this year!

We eventually linked up with my original route at Hollyford, a busy centre for the timber industry. Another big climb had us pushing our bikes yet again but at least the rain had stopped and we had fabulous views across the hill country.

While Fr Kenyon had a reputation as an advocate for physical force our next stopping point was the village of Cappawhite had earned a world wide reputation for faction fighting in the 19th century, so we approached with caution!

We decided to not delay just in case the locals had ideas of resurrecting the practice and we kept moving forward following the BB Way signs which made navigation very easy and we soon reached Tipperary Town, gateway to the Glen of Aherlow. The climb up into the Glen was the toughest yet and we were both gasping – and that was pushing the bikes, not cycling! But it was great to crest the hill and enjoy the freewheel down as far as the Aherlow House Hotel where we had good grub and the luxury of a bath to look forward to! Another day down. 500kms completed, 205 kms to go!

Malin Head to Mizen Head Day 4

Ballymahon to Terryglass 107kms

Clonmacnoise , County Offaly

It is by riding. a bike that you learn the contours of a country best, since you sweat up the hills and coast down them

Ernest Hemmingway

We hadn’t made any arrangements about breakfast the night before and when we woke we discovered we were locked in to the pub! With miles to go before we slept again we had to let ourselves out and arrange to pay later – which we did! Bikes were packed and we were on our way by 8.20am. We were neither north nor south now. If there is such thing as the centre of this island it has to be around Ballymahon, Moate and Clonmacnoise and being the midlands we looked forward to speeding along the flat open roads of Longford, Westmeath and Offaly. But Ernest was right, what appears flat while driving in a car is often an illusion and it wasn’t long until we were cresting waves of tarmacadam, small bump in the road followed by more bumps. Old mariners tales claim waves come in groups of seven with the seventh being the biggest of the bunch and the pattern was similar this morning as we sailed merrily onwards between the stone walls of the back roads, there was always one little hill that caused us to frantically slip through the gears trying to find a gear we could turn the pedals in.

It wasn’t long until we were cycling into Moate past the beautiful Dún na Sí Amenity Park, which recently featured on RTE’s Tracks and Trails. Moate brought back great memories from my distant youth, of one of my first epic cycles with my great friend Tommy Wogan. We had got a lift to Moate with Tommy’s brother Michael and cycled west to Cong in Mayo, then down through Galway and Clare to Ventry in Kerry. We did it in three days – we were fit in those days!

The 42kms Old Rail Trail links Athlone and Mullingar

The Old Rail Trail facilitated our exit from Moate and we had an easy four kilometres before reaching our turn off. It is straight as an arrow. Personally I find the Greenways to be boring and prefer the local roads for character and colour. We were happy to get off the Trail and head to one of the places I most wanted to visit on this trip, Clonmacnoise.

St Ciarán founded his monastery on the banks of the River Shannon in the 6thCentury.  The monastery flourished and became a great seat of learning, a University of its time with students from all over Europe.

The ruins include a Cathedral, two round Towers, three high crosses, nine Churches and over 700 Early Christian grave slabs – the largest single collection anywhere in Europe. It’s a stunning location for a monastery, perched just above the meandering River Shannon, would have dominated the area and was strategically located alongside the great Slí Mhór that traversed Ireland from East to West, running along the Esker Riada.

An inspiring place, it fills me with wonder how well educated these monks were, proficient in many languages. It’s incredible to think of the impact these Peregrini had on European civilisation as they departed these shores with their books and learning. You could say they were first Consultants to royal courts of Europe as their advice was greatly valued!

We were now following the River Shannon south as far as Lough Derg. Roads were good and we made rapid progress to the next village of Shannonbridge. As the name suggests the Bridge is the focal point and its a beauty. Constructed in 1757 the massive bridge is an impressive sight. Between boating on the Shannon and its proximity to Clonmacnoise, Shannonbridge has a good footfall of tourists during the summer season. The ESB and Bord na Móna though have been the mainstay of the local economy for over 50 years. That’s all changed with the recent closure of the peat powered ESB Station that towers over the landscape for miles around. Locals are taking it in hand to reinvent Shannonbridge; it has great tourism potential and we wish them every success.

Grey clouds were gathering at this stage, a change of weather was imminent – well says I to Mary ‘that beats Banagher’. Our lovely sun was disappearing on us and we were a little concerned we might not make our destination of Terryglass today. At least we would make Banagher, another busy boating centre on the Shannon. Wasn’t long until we were flying through Banagher and heading into north Tipp.

We made great progress but had to take the busy Birr – Portumna road for 7kms, which we dreaded; it’s twisty, has no margin and is not a good cycling road. Add to that the rain was coming down, heavy. On the plus side we were edging closer and closer to Terryglass and I would finally get to drop in on the tiny village of Lorrha. I don’t know why but I was aways curious about Lorrha. I think it had to do with John McIntyre, the Tipp hurler and former Galway hurling manager! Lorrha is a parish steeped in history that flourished in the peaceful days of the saints and scholars from the 6th to the 9th century, was raided and pillaged by marauding Vikings, recovered to become a major monastic settlement only to be overrun by the bete noir of Ireland, Oliver Cromwell. It’s great to see the storyboards popping up in our villages that give some information about the area and its history. They are really helpful in promoting these small villages and giving an insight to the locality. We saw our first signs for the Beara – Breifne Trail here but more about that later in the journey.

Sheltering from the rain in Lorrha

We were in touching distance of Terryglass, just another 7kms away and we were relieved to finally make it into Terryglass around 7pm. With the rain bucketing down we were praying to find a B&B for two wet cyclists; our luck was in, the first door we knocked proved successful and we had a lovely host in Patricia in Woodview B&B. Just 100 metres from the local bar and restaurant. Just perfect.

‘That bates Banagher”

I never in my wildest dreams imagined spending two nights of my holidays in Banagher! If there is a positive to Covid-19 it is that we are looking afresh at how we spend our time and where we spend it.

Growing their own grapes on Main Street Banagher!

#Staycation is the new buzzword and holiday at home is the only recommended option. Avoiding Covid hotspots and crowded venues should be the norm if we are to restrict the spread of Covid.

On the plus side we are looking at our own country in a different way; we are seeing the beauty in the ordinary and loving it. We spent the last week exploring Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and its Ancient East – never quite sure where the demarcation line is between the two!

The Mighty Shannon

One thing for sure is that the welcome is genuine, there is nothing ‘fake’ about the friendliness of people that you meet, which sometimes I question when I visit tourist hotspots along our coasts.

It was our first time to hire a boat and my only regret is we didn’t do it years ago! It was the perfect way to social distance and to see places along the Shannon from a different perspective. Time stands still as the boat moves so slowly! Great to see groups of young people thinking likewise and hiring small boats and barges for a holiday with a difference – they don’t deserve the blame they are getting for the increase in the spread of Covid – they are no more responsible than every age group..

Stopping off in tiny villages such as Dromineer and Terryglass was just perfect; some great local pubs with great food, great walking and cycling routes too.

Lough Derg
Walking Slí Eala near Dromineer

The Shannon region is steeped in history and there are some amazing sites to visit. Is there a more scenic setting for a monastic site than famed Clonmacnoise? The English and the Vikings have a lot to answer for in relation to our heritage sites. They reduced so many of them to ruins and destroyed such important parts of our history.

Temple Ciarán, reputed burial place of St Ciarán who founded the monastery in 548 AD.
The beautifully carved South Cross with the Cross of the Scriptures and the Round Tower behind.

Not far away along the byroads of Offaly is Lough Boora Discovery Park and The Offaly Way where we got to take in some lovely cycling routes across a corner of Offaly I’ve seldom visited.

Lough Boora Discovery Park

West of the Shannon, Portumna Forest Park covers an impressive 1600 acres and has some incredible single trail cycle tracks. Home to a herd of fallow deer and its possible to spot the White Tailed Sea Eagle from the bird hide on the Lakeshore.

20kms of single track
Turloughs are disappearing lakes found in limestone areas west of The Shannon
This is a Turlough! A disappearing lake, common in limestone areas especially west of the Shannon.
Portumna Pier

One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the stunningly beautiful and simple Meelick Church – the oldest church in continuous use in Ireland, Built in 1414 AD it is still in daily use.

In continuous use since 1414 AD, the oldest Church in continuous use in Ireland
Meelick Church, founded by the Franciscans in 1414 AD.
Meelick Church

Seven days exploring a region that we would normally pass through proves yet again that every county has so much to offer, if we only take the time to visit and explore. Look with new eyes, try something different, use your two feet and explore the great outdoors! We give out about the weather but in reality there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing! Stay home this year, spend a few bob in our own country and help small businesses stay afloat and hopefully thrive!

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