A bit of sunshine on a Saturday afternoon and a nice cycle along quiet country roads and on the Barrow Track… never fails to surprise.. The network of local roads in this country is tailor made for cycling. Today brought me out towards Ballylinan, Barrowhouse and home via Maganey and the Barrow Track. I estimate that once I left town I met fewer than 10 cars in 35kms and yet was never more than 15kms from Town..
There is a really well kept monument to the Barrowhouse Ambush, just outside the village, which was erected on the 100th anniversary of the Ambush in May 2021. The site was the location of an ambush by the B Company, 5th battalion of the Carlow Brigade of the Irish Republican Army of a convoy of Royal Irish Constabulary officers. Two local volunteers, William Connor and James Lacey, both young men of just 26 years were the only fatalities on that day.
I love the roads around Killeen, Barrowhouse and across to Kilkea. It’s great cycling terrain, good surfaces, quiet roads and flat! There’s always something to see and there’s the Barrow Track to approach Carlow Town from.
Today I had just met Dermot McGrath at Westfield Lock, and we fell into talking about Carlow v Wicklow. I’m tipping Carlow for the revenge in Aughrim tomorrow! Just after I passed Dermot I pulled the bike to a quick halt as I saw this beautiful group of Mute Swans.
Dermot’s dog appeared too and Daddy Swan was on point right away, hissing and making himself big to scare him away.
A lovely loop for anyone looking for a quiet route to cycle.
Not all bike journeys have to be epic! I had a lovely short cycle this evening along the Barrow to Maganey and returning via Sleaty. There is always something new to see to bring either a smile or a scowl to my face!
Leaving town I past a few lads, the worse for wear, falling around the Town Hall car park; I was to meet them later in Bridewell Lane, one of them crawled on the bonnet of a car, shouting for the Guards, blocking the lane and preventing cars driving through..mad stuff.
Not long after I met this man on the Barrow track, where I often bump into him and his pet Jackdaw who he brings for a walk!
One of the great advantages of the grassy banks of the River Barrow is its capacity to cater for all sorts of users. Hikers, fishermen, swimmers, cyclists and canoeists. I met a large group of canoeists who had pitched their tents at Bestfield Lock gates, something that would be impossible if this was converted to a hard surface to create a bike path. I often meet groups, usually on Bank Holiday weekends, who come down from Athy or Monasterevin on their way to St Mullins at the tip of County Carlow. These boys were well set up with all the gear!
The Barrow Track will always be special to me; it’s a beautiful green corridor full of nature and biodiversity that we are obligated to protect. We must ensure that no further damage is done to one of our greatest natural resources because when it’s gone, it’s gone forever. I spotted a cormorant and an egret today, birds that you won’t see too often in these parts but the Barrow is their home and needs protecting.
I cycled out to Maganey bridge and crossed over into Laois; three counties on this little loop, Carlow, Kildare and Laois! I wheeled left towards Knockbeg and it was a glorious evening on this quiet local road, one of my favourites.
With the sun setting in the west, the light at Sleaty was golden and perfect to take a photo of the famed St. Fiac’s Cross at Sleaty Church ruins.
Below is a lovely tale from the Schools Collection on the Dúchas website. It was recorded in Fairymount School, Crettyard in 1938:
“In the seventh century there lived in Sleaty or Sletty a saint whose name was St Fiach. The ruins of his church are still to be seen on the road leading from Ballickmoyler to Knock-beg. It is surrounded by a grave-yard circular in shape in the middle of a big field and is called Rathillenane. Tradition his it that every lent the Saint went to the doon of clopook and spent seven weeks in fasting and prayers. He took seven loaves with him and on those he lived during lent. The doon is a circular pile of limestone rising sheer from a broad plain to a height of 150 feet. At its base is a cave or tunnel cut through solid rock beneath the hill in the direction of Stradbally. On the other side is a smaller tunnel facing for Luggacurren. Through this tunnel St Fiach (usd) used to go to three times every night to pray in the ruins of Clopook. The tunnel is half a mile long ending in a vault beneath the church. The writer travelled about 300 yards through this under ground passage, some years ago. On the top of the doon is a level floor about 50 feet in diameter. On the North end of this green carpet is the withered stump of a white thorn. On the Luggacurren side of this old tree is a square piece of earth about 4 feet long by 2 feet wide. This is said to be where the saint stood while celebrating Mass in the shelter of the old white thorn.”
This time last year I had completed over 7,000kms on my bike around the country. As I faced into 2022 I had ambitions of covering even more ground on my trusty steed. I won’t forget the date of the 29th January. Kilcoo were due to meet St. Finbars in the All Ireland Senior Club Football Semi Final in Portlaoise and Carlow were playing London in the NFL. Tickets bought online at 9am and I planned an early cycle in beforehand to make a great day of it! Unfortunately I never made it to either game as I had a bad fall from the bike only 800 meters from home- it was completely my own fault. It always helps to watch where you are going… instead of O Moore Park it was Waterford Regional Hospital for me with a mangled arm requiring 3 plates and 10 pins inserted.
The consultant told me I’d be lucky to be back on the bike in 10 months. He did an incredible job on reconstruction and my rehab started almost immediately. Slowly but surely movement and strength returned and while I couldn’t cycle I could walk and I got an opportunity to do some nice rambles near and far from home.
Near Askamore, County Wexford, being watched over by the Boss herself..
Trips to National League games always included a walking route to keep some semblance of fitness and mobility.
Heading for Temple Stadium with Tommy Wogan, we had a lovely 6kms loop walk at Grange, just over the Tipperary border
Viewing point on Grange Loop Walk
I think my favourite walk is Shannons Lane. It’s a terrific access route for Mount Leinster and Knockroe. So many incredible views, so much history from ancient rock art to the Second World War…
This way to the cross on Knockroe
Hiking to Knockroe Cross with an intercontinental cast of my cousin Sineád (Germany), my uncle in law Peter Kearney (County New South Wales) and Sinead’s boyfriend Gaym (Eritrea).
Going to games always provides an opportunity as a spectator to add in a ramble and there is a really beautiful walk on Forth Mountain Wexford which I did on the day of Wexford v Dublin in the Leinster SFC.
Love the pink hew on these rocks at Carrigfoyle trail on Forth Mountain.
Often on my travels on match days I’m accompanied by my great friend Tommy Wogan. We go back a long long way; we have covered the country by bike and on foot, from the top of Carrauntohill to Rathlin Island. Great memories and more to come.
Tommy at the Lia Fáil stone on the Hill of Tara.The vibes were good & we were confident of an upset v Louth. It wasn’t to be.
Traipsing across the Wicklow Hills with Mary!
The Plains of the Curragh on the way to Conleth Park for Kildare SFCdouble header
All the walking and rehab work began to pay off and instead of being off the bike for 10 months I was back on the bike after less than four months. I was very cagey but delighted; I really thought the year was a write off and I could see that a big tour would be possible if I could continue to recover at the same rate.
The Barrow Track is my default route when getting back on the bike after time off.Loved the colours of this barge.
Probably the best Stones Concert of all time…
A great little hike to the Devils Chimney Waterfall, County Sligo
My plan from last year was that having completed Malin to Mizen in 2021 I wanted to cycle Coast to Coast (west to east) in 2022 but I didn’t want to take the flat and straight Galway to Dublin route incorporating the Grand Canal.
I wanted a route with lots of scenic views and historical sites to visit. I poured over ordnance survey maps and plotted a magical route – to start at Blacksod Bay, taking the north Mayo coast around to Ballina, crossing Leitrim, Fermanagh, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth to finish in Carlingford. The drumlins nearly killed me on those local roads! It was shorter than Malin to Mizen but I found it harder. The constant up and downs with some serious gradients and a possible lack of fitness made it a true test of character. I loved it.
The added bonus was meeting Unison MacCraith agus a bhean chéile Treasa Ní Ghearraigh in Glenamoy County Mayo. We had a marvellous few hours walking and talking along the cliffs above Portacloy. I got a lovely surprise when I got home as Vincent had posted me copies of his local history books and guides for the area. In 1983 Vincent lined out in goal for Rathvilly (and captained them) against Éire Óg, winning their first ever SFC Final.
At the Céide Fields
Despite Robbie Molloy’s request, Vincent didn’t push me over the edge and into the North Atlantic…
The Caves of Keash, County Sligo
Before heading into the clouds on the Ox Mountains … what a network of local roads we have for cycling…
Walking and cycling are a tonic and the combination of exercise, fresh air, fantastic sights, sounds and smells give a natural high. I love getting out, especially to new places – and there are loads of them still to be explored..
I didn’t go anywhere near the distance travelled in 2021, managing just over 3,000kms but 2022 turned out to be a great year between the hiking and the cycling and it has filled me with a burning desire to get moving again from today and explore more of the hidden corners of this grand little country. Any suggestions for routes in Ireland – on local roads or off road? I’m thinking about following the River Blackwater from source to sea as one..
A Sunday morning cycle on the Barrow Way alway throws up something new and interesting!
This morning was just my third cycle since January 29th and was 20kms out and back to Maganey. Sunday morning is always a nice time to be on the River and I like nothing better than to keep a sharp eye out for what Mother Nature has in store.
Today it was Mink near Maganey Lock, the elusive black coated mammal loves to frolic along the river bank but is too fast to get the camera out!
On the way back into Carlow Town I came across a Dragon Boat Race. What a spectacle!
I had a bad fall on the bike 129 days ago. Multiple fractures of my humerus resulting in the insertion of 3 plates in the arm. The prognosis wasn’t good. It would be at least 8 months before I could cycle again and at that the arm would never be able to extend fully.
Just over 4 months later the picture is much better! Today was my first 20kms cycle since January and I did it along my favourite route, The Barrow Track. It was a slow cagey bike ride but it felt like I was getting my life back!
To be honest I was fearful I might never get back up on the bike given the extent of the break. But full credit to the great people in Waterford hospital, they did a phenomenal job on knitting the bone back together.
Funny how your mood and mind can change! I was resigned to no biking this year at best and now I’m planning ahead for my next bike tour. Coast to Coast. But not the simple Dublin – Galway route. I’ve a much more adventurous and interesting route planned from Blacksod Bay in Mayo to Carlingford in Louth. Hopefully get to it in July, providing rehab continues at the pace it is now.