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Durrow, County Laois, Ireland

South Laois Cycling Route C

Take a High Nelly bicycle around this memorable countryside trail.

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 15.2 miles / 24 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly
 
Overview: Affectionately known as the 'Elephant and Castle Trail'. Why the curious name? Well if you look closely enough at the outline of the route, you'll notice that it resembles an elephant's head complete with a trunk!

Experience the chance to ride a High Nelly bicycle through some rolling countryside that skirts along the Laois/Kilkenny border. Take in two of the most original museums in the country with two of the most charismatic curators you'll ever meet. Stop and see one of the best known holy wells in the country and marvel at one of the best gardens up in Heywood House. On top of that, you'll be riding through forests, over the Nore river (several times in fact) and taking an outdoor swim (seriously) into a bygone age that you'll long to return to after the cycling ends.


Tips: Enjoy this app offline with the EveryTrail Pro app. Ensure you're in good health and are wearing a high visibility jacket - there are lots of hills after Ballinakill you'll be climbing up. It goes without saying that we ride on the left hand side of the road in Ireland and all turns left and right need to be clearly indicated by hand. Best to enjoy the ride in company - ride safely and enjoy this unique journey. Ensure you bring a bathing costume and a towel for the swim in Ballinakill outdoor pool.

Points of Interest

Information
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Vintage bicycle museum

Bob's Bar features a little museum containing artifacts from years gone by out the back. The museum is a must-see on your visit to the area. However, it is upstairs that Bob has really 'gone to town' with his vintage bicycle museum. It's a very personal experience with each and every bike having a picture of its owner with their words on happy memories on that very bike. Other details in the museum include letters from locals who emigrated.

Not to rest on his laurels, Bob has set up a very active and congenial vintage bicycle club, complete with uniforms and regular meet ups for cycling. Perhaps you'll be lucky enough to be about when they're next out? Even if you're not, with this guide, you'll get to sample some of the best places in the area on a high nelly!

Bob's the epicentre of this trail. To start it in earnest, you'll be taking the main N77 Kilkenny road, through the village, down the hill past the Durrow brick memorial and taking the left on the L1751 to Attanagh.

Telephone: (087) 6165484 or (057) 8736630.

WEB: www.facebook.com/people/Bobs-Bar-Durrow/1562036540
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Every bike has a story
Information
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Durrow brick memorial

The Durrow Brick Company was established in 1890, and flourished for a time until its eventual demise and the dismantling of the works at Attanagh in 1922. This small memorial with genuine Durrow brick is a small testament to their once great status. Perhaps more fittingly, there are scores of buildings around Ireland and Dublin in particular that still stand having been built with Durrow brick.
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Durrow brick
Water
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Tallyho bridge

Tallyho bridge refers to the hunting term that commenced a hunt and it was here that hunts gathered in days gone by. Overlooking the river Nore, it is effectively on the border between Laois and Kilkenny.
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Tally ho bridge
Landmark
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Attanagh post office

Coming into the border village of Attanagh (emphasis on the 'tan') you'll notice the remnants of the old Attanagh railway station. This was a hive of activity when Lord Ashbrook would be having guests, when the Durrow bricks were being transported or when the sugar beet was being delivered by the local farmers to be brought to the sugar factory in Carlow.

We'd recommend you stop off in Attanagh's post office on your left and say hello to the postmaster John who can tell you all about those days as well as his book on Ladywell. The post office is also a small shop from yesteryear - one of the highlihgts of the route.

After the post office, you'll be coming down a gentle brae and taking a left for Walter's famous museum - taking a right over the bridge by the church would have you in County Kilkenny.
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John's Ladywell book
Animals/Wildlife
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Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting Museum

Approaching the village of Attanagh on your right is the old Attanagh railway station House which closed in 1963. In Attanagh village to your right is the bridge crossing the Owenbeg River which divides counties Laois and Kilkenny - take note of the resplendence of black and amber. Turning left in the village in the directon of Fermoyle Cross Roads on your left is Attangh Fly Fishing Museum.

The Irish Fly Fishing and Game Shooting Museum explores 300 years of hunting and fishing in Ireland. It is a treat for anyone interested in country life. The museum was founded in 1986 by Walter Phelan, who comes from a family devoted to fishing. He has restored and adapted a traditional farmhouse to house a collection of vintage rods, reels, guns, tackle, tools and specimens of birds and fish.

Exhibits tell the stories of hunting and fishing from two angles. They show ingenious devices—such as hollowed cow horn, used to hold mayflies for fishing—made by ordinary people who hunted and fished to supplement their diets. The museum also displays the exquisite guns, rods and tackle used by the well-to-do, who hunted and fished for sport. An entire room is dedicated to Garnett’s & Keegan’s, an Irish firm that supplied fine fishing and hunting equipment worldwide.

Visitors to the museum can enter reconstructions of a Gamekeeper’s Room from the 1800s and a Gunsmith’s Workshop from about 1900. Other displays are housed in the Fishing and Game Shooting Room, the Trophy Room, the Clay Pigeon Room, the Boat House, and the Hatching Room. An ever-expanding Library contains information on all aspects of fishing and hunting in Ireland.

Why were Irish flies so colourful?: One of the highlights of the museum is its collection of flies, some of which date to the early 1800s. In the 1700s and 1800s, sailors collected the feathers of the brilliantly coloured birds they saw on their travels. When their ships docked in Ireland, the sailors sold these exotic feathers to local fly-tiers. Fishermen found that salmon were more likely to strike at the flies made from colourful, exotic feathers than at those made from the duller feathers of local birds.

Man Traps: The most horrifying artefacts in the museum are three devices that people used to hunt each other. In the late 1700s, the owners of large estates used mantraps to discourage poachers. If a person sprung a man trap, large metal teeth would grab his or her leg. While the victim usually escaped, the broken bones and mutilated feet caused by mantraps often resulted in gangrene, and ultimately death. The traps were so lethal that they were outlawed in 1829.

Telephone: (057) 8736112 or eMail: irishflycraft@eircom.net
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Introduction to the museum
Junction
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Fermoyle crossroads and Ladywell

Turning right at Fermoyle crossroads, you'll be cycling in the direction of Ballinakill. You will pass on your right Ladywell where pilgrims congregate during August of every year.

The cult of the holy well was deep rooted in the religious traditions of this part of the country, but Ladywell is the sole survivor of holy wells in this and adjoining parishes. In order to indicate the sphere of pious practices from which Ladywell sprung there is included in the Ladywell booklet (2008) a brief account of other holy wells in this parish and from Canon Carrigan (historian of Ossory) a list of the holy wells of this diocese.The holy well and shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary are in the part of Castlemarket townsland to which they give their name – Ladywell. This hallowed spot is situated just off the Ballinakill to Durrow road about 2km from Ballinakill. It is about 90 metres into County Kilkenny being that distance from the Disheen stream which forms the county boundary at this point. Ladywell therefore is in the civil and ancient parish of Rosconnell in the modern parish of Ballyragget and in the diocese of Ossory.

The visual scene at Ladywell has been transfigured and the devotional scene changed completely. All the principal ceremonies of Catholic worship will be found here now during the pilgrimage time. Gone are the rounds of the well, the tying of pieces of cloth to the bush and the pitching of coins or medals into the well and many improvements have been carried out to its general area over the past eighty years.

The pilgrim to Ladywell seventy years ago and before followed a grassy path to an open green field site marked by an ancient hawthorn or skeagh bush which bent over a spring well. There was no shelter at this spot from the wind or weather and people knelt on the damp grass to pray their stations around the holy well.

Today the visitor or pilgrim arrives here by modern tarmac road to a state of the art site that affords a dry footing and shelter from the elements with space to stand, sit or kneel in relative comfort. This transformation has been brought about over three quarters of a century by an energetic committee supported by clergy and people and encouraged by the ever increasing numbers who have come here to pray but the curious and interested will want an explanation of this phenomenon.
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Ladywell
Junction
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Masslough turn off

On arriving in Ballinakill you cross the busy road into Chapel Street - be careful as traffic on your right will be heard before it is seen. Cycle on a short distance and prepare to turn left where you see the green post box and the sign saying Masslough Lodge. At the time of writing, there was no Route C signage for this vital turn off so be warned. If you've come to a fork in the road with a tree in the middle, you've come too far.

Once you've made the correct turn, you'll have the Mass Lough coming into view on your right some 400 metres further on. You'll come to a T-junction after the lough which you'll need to remember - when you see the big green tree on your right (pictured), you're nearly at it. On your right at the junction is a short distance to the rear entrance of Heywood Gardens up the gentle hill.

Take note, you'll be coming back down this gentle hill after the gardens (through the pillars in the accompanying picture) and coming back into Ballinakill - but carrying on straight through the T-junction to get to the swimming pool for a dip - see the map to get the idea.
Landmark
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Heywood house garden

Intrinsically linked with the history of Ballinakill is Heywood. Heywood House lies in Heywood Demesne which is passed every day by people leaving the town by the two trees and heading towards Heywood Community School. Remnants of the old demesne wall are still visible on the right hand side of the road.

The old entrance to Heywood House was through the Tower Lodge and the walker should closely examine the crest above the gate and see the Stanhope crest and motto. The motto reads “Mihi gravato Deus ” which means “ Let God lay greatness on me”. Philip, Earl of Stanhope, took ownership of the land around Ballinakill in 1765 when the last Ridgeway died.

As the gates are locked the walker must proceed to the Heywood CS entrance and turn right immediately, The route takes you behind the entrance gate and up the old entrance to the house and garden passing a grotto and a spire.

The Spire: The spire was what greeted the visitor to Heywood. It is shown in a painting by G. Holmes in 1821. It is six-sided, made from pale sandstone and a milestone. It commemorates the visit of Andrew Caldwell, a friend of Trench. The letters TRENCH are at the top.

The Grotto: This was built on a site known locally as Judy’s Wood. It was blessed on February 11th 1958. This marked the centenary anniversary of the apparition of our Blessed Lady to St. Bernadette at the Grotto in Lourdes. Locals Joe Ryan, Jack O Connor, Charlie O’Loughlin, Pierce Phelan and Jimmy Fitzpatrick worked on the project under the guidance of Fr. Treanor.

Gothic Orangery: Moving up the old road we come to a Gothic Orangery, the Gothic Orangery is at the new entrance to Heywood C.S. It is also marked on the 1818 sketch of the estate by F.W. Trench. It was marked on the 1st edition OS maps of the estate. Built mainly of brick it has five pointed arches to the front. It essentially was a conservatory or greenhouse.

The Gardens: Built between 1906 and 1912 next year is the centenary of the construction of the Lutyen’s designed gardens. The numerous guide signs explain the history of the gardens and they are well worth a visit.
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Ballinakill outdoor swimming pool

One of the great treats of the area is this outdoor swimming pool - where else could you go in Ireland for some exercise on a High Nelly and get in some more old style exercise with a swim? Bring your bathing togs and towel and come out refreshed and ready for the tail-end of this scenic cycle ride. Bob swears by a swim here every morning.

Take time out in Ballinakill - it is beautifully preserved with a real sense of civic pride. When leaving, you'll be taking the right hand turn signposted for Route C, but formerly known as the L5735.
Junction
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Brandra crossroads

Before re-entering the town of Ballinakill, Gills Pond is on your right while the churches and Ballinakill Swimming Pool is on your left. Carry on down the hill into the old style square in Ballinakill which is worth observing for its perfectly preserved edifices; you will then turn right and continue in the direction of Lisbigney. You will traverse a long straight often bumpy and dirty road before turning right at Brandra Cross Roads.

On the audio piece, hear club member Tom Flynn explain why cycling might just be the best excuse for getting to the pub you'll ever need!
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Tom Flynn
Junction
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Crossing the N77 main road

Your cycle down the backroads in interrupted as you cross the busy N77 - be careful. you'll be turning left but more or less crossing about 20 metres therefter to carry on the tour. It's both signposted and there's an unusual landmark of a house that has been partially burned down.
Viewpoint
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Dunmore demesne

Then your journey bring you to Watercastle Cross and the junction with the old Cork/Dublin road. Crossing this junction and continuing downhill over Watercastle Bridge which also spans the River Nore you pass on your left the entrance to Dunmore Demesne and on your right the entrance to Moyne Demesne.

On the audio, hear from High Nelly club member on why he has 16 High Nellys!
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Henry's 16 bikes
Junction
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Swan road turnoff

On reaching the Swan Cross the trail turns left towards the Dunmore demesne car park which you might recall if you've walked the Leafy or Dunmore looped walks.

Turning right at Swan Cross takes you in the direction of Ballacolla and a short distance on is Moyne Polo Grounds on your left - there's posh for ya.

On the audio, hear from High Nelly club member, Liam O'Sullivan on why he enjoys the old bike so much.
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Liam O'Sullivan
Junction
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Rath turnoff

After the car park, you'll come to the N77 main road - you'll be taking a right turn into Durrow and a warm welcome back to Bob's Bar, which is on your right after going over the new bridge in Durrow. We'd recommend doing that tour of the vintage bicycle museum after the trail when you've had a chance to truly savour the bikes' majesty. However, we'll leave it up to you - a well deserved pint and a review of the day's adventures may well be all you fancy after it all. Either way, if you enjoyed it, tell your friends and do it with them next time.
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Bob's intentions
Pictures in this guide taken by: navigatourist

South Laois Cycling Route C Map


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South Laois Cycling Route C 3 Day Forecast

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