Weekend Ride: South East Ireland

Bryn Davies heads to The Emerald Isle to kick off our 2018 series of Discover The British Isles with a ride of discovery through South East Ireland

Since 2016, we’ve run a series of features titled ‘Discover Britain’ in which we provided you with a collection of short rides around England, Wales and Scotland. ­

The routes, which were created to be doable over two days, could be pieced together to create an epic round trip of the UK, and due to the popularity of them we’ve decided to get ourselves on a ferry to bring you a full circumnavigation of Ireland and Northern Ireland throughout 2018.

While the route proposed here should take you no longer than two days, if you’re travelling over from mainland UK you’ll want to allow yourself four.

We made the journey from Fishguard to Rosslare on a Friday and were back in work by the Tuesday feeling reinvigorated from a fantastic ride of discovery around Ireland’s south east coast.

Regardless of which ferry crossing you get (there are two times 13:10 and 23:45), you’ll be best off getting a hotel in Wexford so that you can start the ride on the morning feeling totally refreshed and with a full day ahead of you.

Regardless of where in Wexford you decide to stay, our route will first take you north by a few miles to Curracloe to see the beach where the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan was filmed, Ballinesker Beach. I thought it was rather odd that

there’s nothing that really tells you that this is the location where we first met Tom Hanks as Captain Miller, but it’s a cool place to see nonetheless.

From Curracloe, we head south, eventually reaching the Copper Coast at Tramore, having passed through New Ross where you can visit the highly recommended Dunbrody Heritage Ship.

After the beautiful Copper Coast we head inland to get our first taste of the Irish mountains before finally calling it a night in Cahir.

The next day provides great roads, fantastic views, and numerous

attractions to visit as we first ride the magnificent Vee, pictured below, and join the Wild Atlantic Way on the coast to the south of Cork.

Our route takes you to the most south-westerly point of Ireland, Mizen Head, and the scenery becomes incredible, being quite similar to that of Scotland’s west coast.

The small town of Bantry marks our second night’s stop, and in the morning it’s back to Rosslare for the ferry home, but not before some more exciting riding through the Caha Mountains.

The next issue will see us pick up the route from Kilnamartyra and head to the beautiful county of Killarney, but this wonderful two-day ride is well worth your time and gives you a chance to explore areas of Ireland that often get overlooked.

Head to the ABR Forum HERE to find the GPX files for the route.



The Vee

As you leave Cahir on the morning of the second day of our tour, you’ll follow the R668 south, with lush green fields all around you.

A small mountain range, the Knockmealdown Mountains, rises abruptly from the horizon in front of you, and this is where we are headed, along a road that’s known as the Vee.

Called so because of a single switchback that gives the road the appearance of a V on a map, the views from this lofty vantage point are simply stunning as you survey the Golden Vale below.

The solitary hairpin is also great fun to ride a few times, so have a bit of a play and then carry on towards the picturesque town of Lismore, which is home to a majestic castle that’s well worth a look.

Mizen Head

While the route so far has been ‘pretty’, as you ride down Kilmore Peninsula you can sense that you’re in for a treat.

With each passing mile, the landscape gets more and more rugged until you finally reach Mizen Head, the most south-westerly point of Ireland.

Here, dramatic sea cliffs rise high out of the Atlantic Ocean, and the rough waters below batter the rocks with dramatic waves.

Take some time to walk down the 99 steps and across the arched bridge, where you’ll find the old signal station that once warned passing ships of the treacherous rocks below.

Despite the place being a major tourist attraction, it’s surprisingly tranquil, and I could have spent a good few hours staring off the southern edge of Ireland in the hope of spotting dolphins or whales.


Dunbrody Heritage Ship

­The route that we have plotted passes by more historically relevant attractions than any other that I’ve ridden, and if you want to make good time you’ll have to pick and choose which ones you stop at wisely.

With this in mind, the Dunbrody Heritage Ship in New Ross is well worth an hour of your time. ­ is fascinating museum has been set up to educate visitors on Irish emigration over the past couple of hundred years, and it features a to-scale replica of ­ the Dunbrody, a merchant ship that ferried emigrants from Ireland to Canada in the 1800s.

A tour of the ship will cost you €10, but it provides a fascinating and harrowing insight into life below decks when many Irish were heading to the New World to escape the potato famine.

Toy Soldier Factory

I know what you’re thinking, but bear with me. When I was first recommended that I visit a toy soldier factory in Ireland, I almost laughed it off. I’m a grown man now, what interest could I have in toys!?

But as I rode north from Bantry, I thought that I might as well give it a go and see what the fuss was about, and boy am I glad I did. Located in the small village of Kilnamartyra in County Cork, the factory is a fascinating place to stop.

Here, thousands of small tin soldiers are cast and painted by hand before being sold on, and you can see it all happen. ­

The best bit, however, is a wonderful and amazing replica of the Battle of Waterloo, which features over 15,000 hand cast and hand painted soldiers on a huge diorama measuring 8x4m, and is said to be the largest such collections of toy soldiers in the world.


Kilmore Peninsula

­The riding so far has been pleasant, but day two finishes with a bang.

After skirting the coastal roads of the Wild Atlantic Way from Kinsale, our route takes you on a 40-mile ride around the Kilmore Peninsula on the R592 and R591, where you’ll find the most southerly pint in Ireland, at O’Sullivan’s Crookhaven, as well as the beautiful and dramatic Mizen Head. ­

There’s a lot to see There, but the roads are the real stars of the show. ­

The tarmac twists and turns along the rugged coastline, revealing hidden beaches and incredible view after incredible view.

I can’t help but draw comparisons to the west coast of Scotland, and while the riding isn’t particularly fast, it’ll have you wanting to turn around and do it all again.

Bantry to Macroom

­This road wasn’t going to be on the route, as I stumbled upon it by accident when blasting from Bantry to the Toy Soldier Factory in Kilnamartyra, but after riding it I just had to share it. ­

The western coast of Ireland is a special place, and we’ll be heading there next issue, but this 25-mile long section of the R584 will give you a taster of things to come.

It starts off innocently enough, but before long you’re wrestling the bike around tree-lined corners and you begin to rise through the Caha Mountains before cresting the Pass of Keimaneigh, or the Pass of the Deer, where the road cuts through a steep-sided gorge.

From here, the riding remains superb and the views from the tarmac are sublime.