The bicycle is a curious vehicle; the passenger is its engine
John Howard, US cyclist
Climbing any of the roads up towards Bilboa and Killeshin or the Ridge at Old Leighlin definitely reinforces that quote! There’s nothing quite like a good steep climb on a bike ride to reduce you to a quivering mess. Heart rate is through the roof, legs are full of lactic acid and you just feel …. great to be alive!
It’s nice to change things up and get up a few hundred metres to admire the views back across Carlow towards the Nurney Plateau, the Blackstairs and the Wicklow Mountains. Especially at harvest time, fields of golden brown mixed with forty shades of green stretch out before you like a painting. The views are stunning and make the bit of effort to climb the hill so worthwhile.
The Blackbog Road is a great road for getting out of Carlow Town; it’s so quiet, has a good surface and brings out to Milford in a flash. Instead of crossing over the skew bridge at Milford I turned left and carried the bile over the drawbridge across the canal, then took the local road out by Ballygowan to Tomard and continued up to Tomard Upper. These are just perfect roads for cycling, virtually traffic free and so peaceful.
This route is a nice weekend route; its 37kms with about 400 metres of uphill – and better still 400 metres of downhill!
The descent from Rossmore down past the Reservoir and Killeshin Romanesque Doorway is just fantastic but caution is needed – this section fo road can be busy at times and you pick up serious speed so don’t be taking any risks! There’s a lovely walk around the Reservoir and the Romanesque Doorway is always worth a stop off.
Whether we like it or not Covid restrictions are with us in the medium term and we need to adapt or we will all crack up! With the long summer evenings now is the best time of the year to really get to know your own locality.
I’m going to post up some my favourite local routes using Carlow Town as the starting and end point for my evening routes. The routes will follow the local road network and mostly avoid regional and main roads.
We had a terrific easy 24kms cycle this evening on traffic free roads all within 5kms of Carlow Town Centre!
I’m a firm believer that the local road network is not promoted enough for safe cycling; there should be some investment in good signage and in identifying loops that can be connected up to provide an extensive safe network of dedicated shared cycle routes – it could be done at a fraction of the cost of developing greenways!
Just so good to be able to get back down south along the Barrow Track and surrounding area. With the stretch in the evenings it’s important to take advantage of any opportunity after being locked up for so long.
Not wanting to reopen the whole Blueway Debate but look at how pretty the natural path is on the Barrow.. hope to see the old railway line developed as a greenway and an imaginative use of current infrastructure to bridge the gap to Carlow.
The strangest of years in living memory saw us rediscover our own country in 2020. Fear, worry, stress, anxiety were all our bedfellows as we wondered where the invisible enemy would strike next. Travel was restricted, social contacts likewise and to get away from it all we sought out the quiet places.
We escaped into nature. It’s amazing how much the most popular trails have deteriorated during lockdown as people took to the outdoors for exercise, fresh air and their sanity. Luckily we have lots of green spaces on this beautiful island of ours.
As soon as lockdown was lifted I found myself heading away almost every evening to somewhere new.
I’ve covered over 1500 kilometres since March on my bike. All of it on quiet country roads or off road along the Barrow Way, the Grand Canal, the Royal Canal and a myriad of cycle trails. Counties cycled in this year were Carlow, Laois, Kildare, Wexford, Kilkenny, Offaly, Westmeath, Longford, Meath, Galway, Roscommon, Clare, Tipperary, Cavan, Fermanagh, Monaghan, Armagh and Down, 18 counties in total! All beautiful and all equipped with that network of rural roads that are safe and a joy to cycle on. I’ve donned hiking boots to visit Máméan in Connemara, the Devils Bit, Slievenamon, the Blackstairs, Ballycumber and Askamore to name but a few.
I’ve made a short video above of some of the sights we saw in our travels. Many thanks for following my blog during 2020 and I hope it brought you some enjoyment.
On a day when thousands are marching in London for the right to kill their Grannies, it was a tonic to get out on the bike today and take in the wonder of Autumn. People find the Covid guidelines stressful and restrictive, especially the 5k limit. But if you think of it differently it can actually help you to enjoy your local area so much more. When we were in school (many years ago..) we learned that the circumference of a circle is measured as π (3.14) multiplied by two times the radius. And so instead of the limit being 5km it is more like 31kms!!
Today we cycled 40kms – all inside the 5k limit, and it was magnificent. At a time of pandemic there is a real threat to our mental well being and we can be stressed out by worry, fear, restrictions and lack of contact with others. Its important we look after ourselves and the good news is there are simple measures we can take to not only cope with Covid but to thrive in a time of Covid.
Gretchen Reynolds had a great article in the Irish Times last week and it dealt with the benefits of walking compared to the benefits of walking with your eyes open to the wonders of nature and our heritage. Studies have been conducted on this which prove that ‘awe walks’ are really good for our mental health. Highly recommend you read this article!
So much to take in today! Our route took us out past the Browneshill Dolmen, which has the largest capstone of any megalithic tomb in Europe, Urglin Church, around by Oak Park, across to Graiguecullen and the Cruachán, over to Lanigans Lock on the River Barrow, back into Town, visiting Carlow Castle before heading out the Blackbog Road to Tinryland, Staplestown, Kernanstown, Bennekerry and home by the Browneshill Road. 40kms along mostly quiet local roads, virtually traffic free with lots to stop and photograph. The stops are as important to me as the cycle and there is so much to see, if we only open our eyes and take time to admire the beauty and remember our past!
After a good cycle I like nothing better than a hot bath and a good book! I avoid reading too much about Covid etc and prefer to read something positive, interesting, funny and hopefully that involves epic journeys by bike or any other means for that matter! I’d highly recommend Bill Bryson and the one I am reading at the moment is ‘Neither Here nor There’, an ode to an American Anglophile travelling in Europe. It’s hilarious!
Here’s a funny piece of him travelling in Paris with a friend of his…. you probably need to read the full chapter to really get it… but I was hugging laughing!! Laughter truly is the best medicine.
I’ve gone on a bit, but the gist of my post today is to recommend exploring your neighbourhood, 5k gives you much more latitude than you might think, keep your eyes open as you go on your walks or cycles. There’s a lot to be said for fresh air, exercise and stimulation, followed by a hot bath and a good book! I hope this might help anyone struggling with Covid worries at this time and If anyone wants to join myself and Mary at any stage, please get in touch!