Cycle series: A spin around south Kilkenny
Climbs aplenty on this spin with beautiful scenery and heritage stops along the way
Looking down over the river Nore
Crossing the river Nore
This challenging but rewarding route takes in a surprising amount of hills as it goes along some beautiful scenic routes that are seldom travelled. Starting in one of the most visited places in the southeast, Inistioge on the banks of the river Nore, this cycle has many fascinating points of interest.
Inistioge has long been a mecca for visiting fishermen, nature enthusiasts and artists. Follow the signs for the East Kilkenny Cycle (EKC) route over the bridge and then left along a road running parallel to the Nore on its east bank.
The EKC is a pretty route but our paths diverge at the second junction just 2km up the road, where we go right, and we start rising in the direction of Coppanagh Hill. Take care over the next few kilometres at the various junctions as the roads are not signposted and caution is needed.
In another 2km continue straight ahead and do not take the right-hand turn. The road continues to rise gradually (nothing too severe). Turn right at the next T-junction and the road begins to follow the contours of Coppanagh Hill and eventually meets the L4203 at the top of the climb.
Turn left heading down towards Thomastown and, after 1km, at a bend on this main road, go straight on to a minor road. The descent is rapid and at the bottom of the hill be sure to call in to the 13th-century Kilfane Church to see the Long Man, an effigy of a Norman knight in full armour.
Getting back on the road, make a right-hand turn on to the R448 and a quick left beside the Long Man Pub, heading towards Stoneyford. Turn left at the next crossroads, again merging onto the EKC and following it back in the direction of Thomastown. Turn left on to the R700, followed by a left heading for Stoneyford 5km distant.
The road skirts the Mount Juliet Golf Resort and crosses over the river Nore en route. Turn right and head up the main street of Stoneyford to the top of the town and then left onto the L1023 for the village of Kells.
We cross head 3km due south, which takes us to Kilree Round Tower. Continue south past the round tower. In 4km cross over the R699 and then turn right onto the R701 for a short distance before taking a right turn towards the signposted Aghaviller church ruins and round tower. The road rises sharply and the gradient is steep and challenging.
Turn left at the top and continue along this road through three crossroads heading into Hugginstown.
Turn right in the village and then immediately left onto the L8255. After 2km turn left at the T-junction with the L8256 followed by a right turn after 500 metres on to a narrow road that will bring you into Ballyhale. Turn left in the village followed by a right and the road begins to gradually rise again.
Turn left on to the L8253 followed by an immediate right onto the L8252. After passing through a level crossing, take the next left at a T-junction. Take a sharp right 1km later and the next right in the direction of Chapel Hill until you meet a T-junction after another 3km. Turn right.
Just after 3km further, take a very narrow road down to the bottom of the valley and the Arrigle river. At the bottom of the hill turn left and cross over the Arrigle river then take a sharp right turn. Shortly after this there is a shorter way back to Inistioge by heading up hill at T-junction.
We continue straight past this turn and in 3km turn left at a crossroads heading for Tullogher. Take the right fork in Tullogher and head downhill for 3km to a T-junction at the bottom. Take a sharp left and gradually climb above the beautiful Nore Valley, which is on your right-hand side.
Be careful on your descent into the village as the road is extremely steep. There is a magnificent view of the river Nore and the bridge below to finish off this momentous cycle route.
Inistioge - Kilfane - Stoneyford - Kells - Kilree - Aghaviller -
Hugginstown - Ballyhale - Tullogher - Inistioge
Verdict: Plenty of climbing and some amazing sights
Location: Co Kilkenny
Duration: 4-5 hours
Height Gain: 1,203m
Edited from Cycling South Leinster – Great Road Routes by Turlough O’Brien (The Collins Press, €14.99), available in bookshops and online from collinspress.ie