One of the greatest cycle roads in Ireland

There are not many roads that directly cross Irish mountains near the summits

Ardfinnan Bridge, Co Tipperary

Ardfinnan Bridge, Co Tipperary

 

The Vee is one of the great cycle roads in Ireland, so named for a V-shaped kink in the road. The gradual ascent is none too challenging, just a gentle draw up the western side of the Knockmealdown Mountains.

There are not many roads that directly cross Irish mountains near the summits – the Galtees and the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks being two of the ranges that do not have traversing roads – so it is great to find one that does, affording elevated views of the valleys. Lismore Castle Gardens are worth a visit: in addition to abundant flora, there are two pieces of the Berlin Wall on display.

Take the road to Cappoquin, the N72, from Lismore but, once past the castle on the left and across the bridge, go straight ahead on the R668. So begins a gorgeous ascent initially through woods alongside the River Owenashad. This is a category 4/5 climb for 13km but is on the lower end of difficult. By the top of the climb you have passed into Tipperary, if not seventh heaven. Various human memorials decorate the landscape – a commemorative stone to three people killed in an air crash in the 1980s, a Marian shrine and the grave of Samuel Grubb who was buried on Sugarloaf Hill in the 1920s. The Galtees stand dramatically straight ahead and Sugar Loaf Mountain to the right. Farther east are the Comeraghs through which this route returns.

Deep breath

Take a deep breath and begin the charge down the lofty mountain to the peaceful village of Clogheen and swing right onto the R665; now the charge towards Clonmel begins. Along this road is a great view to the right of the Knockmealdowns from whence you blasted. Next up is the pretty village of Ardfinnan on the River Suir. Continue straight through, still on the R665 to Clonmel. The roads are of good quality and you arrive into Clonmel in no time. This is the halfway point and a good spot for a break.

At O’Gorman’s bakery and café there is a wall of posters and paraphernalia dedicated to Irish cycling, including Sean Kelly, and local man and former Irish road race champion Anthony O’Gorman who works there.

After coffee retrace the route for 1km and swing left over the bridge R671 and then straight away go right. This road now has a concave bend for 12km on a very busy road. Grin and bear it. Two kilometres before Ballymacarbry take a right. This is a very rural road and arrives in the village of Newcastle after 6km with no obvious dilemmas.

In the village take the second left. This is the start of a 7km, 9 per cent gradient climb. Tough. Think of the downhill, though! Crossing from Tipperary back into Waterford, blaze a downhill trail for 11km. After 5km you zoom past Mount Melleray before reaching a junction. Go right and right again after 3km and into Cappoquin. From here, amble back to the car, 6km straight ahead on the N72.

Route 31 Grand Vee Circuit, Waterford

Lismore - Clogheen - Ardfinnan - Clonmel - Newcastle - Cappoquin - Lismore

Location: Counties Waterford and Tipperary

Grade: 4/5

Distance: 94km

Height gain: 1,079m

Duration: 5 to 6 hours

Verdict: Life-affirming

Start/finish:

Start in the lovely town of Lismore, Co Waterford, on the banks of the River Blackwater. Arriving from the west on the N72, continue left in the direction of Cappoquin. There is a public car park on the left, 100m after the square.

An edited extract from Cycling Munster – Great Road Routes by Dan MacCarthy (The Collins Press €14.99), available in bookshops and online from collinspress.ie

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