Looking for a looped cycle in the Burren Lowlands?
Itching to get onto your bike? Let me show you a looped cycle trail I recently discovered from Thoor Ballylee to the Gort River Walk( under development)
Join my Facebook Group Gort Cycling Trails and let me know if you cycled this trail, what you thought about it, and if there are other cycle trails that should be mapped in the #burrenlowlands
The total distance of this cycle is just under 20 km. If you are only cycling from Thoor Ballylee to Gort, it’s 4 km. I would allow up to half a day to really take your time! Have a picnic at Thoor Ballylee, have a rest at the River Walk, Walk around Gort( and visit Kiltartan Gregory Museum when it reopens.)Things to bring: snacks, breakfast or lunch, water, charged mobile and don’t forget to apply suntan lotion and wear high viz jackets. Switch on your bike lights if the weather is not so nice. If you are cycling on your own, let someone know where you are heading.
Thoor Ballylee’s History
To learn more about Thoor Ballylee and the link with the Irish poet Yeats and the dramatist Lady Gregory, click on this link. *****Please note – Thoor Ballylee is currently closed due to COVID-19 Check their Website/Facebook page for the latest updates!****
I should probably say re-discovered as this trail is an age-old trail that people used to travel on by foot and bike from Gort to Ballyanneene, Rinerush, and possible also Peterswell, where I live.
Route description from Thoor Ballylee to the Gort River Walk
I recommend you start from Thoor Ballylee (or anywhere on the Skehanagh side) to have the least amount of hills. If on the other side you are looking for a heart-pumping exercise, do the cycle anti-clockwise:) You’ll definitely sleep well 🙂
Check out this Google Map showing you the looped cycle.
From Skehanagh to Thoor Ballylee
The first video brings you from Skehanagh to Thoor Ballylee. There is one hill to climb before you get to the top of the Road- I had to get off the bike as I was also holding my camera( note to self – must find a way to mount my phone). What goes up, has to come down, so you’ll see in the latter part the downhill cycle to Thoor Ballylee – bliss:)
Once you have arrived at the castle, lock up your bike(s) in the cark park and go for a stroll to the watermill to the right.
Explore the watermill at Thoor Ballylee
There are big plans to restore the watermill. Why not take a seat in the picnic area in front of Thoor Ballylee and enjoy breakfast or lunch on the picnic tables or the grass. It’s quite magical.
Thoor Ballylee to Gort River Walk Cycle trail
Next video and pictures show most of the journey from Thoor Ballylee to the end of the road.
The cycle trail from Thoor Ballylee to the Gort River Walk is very straightforward. Leaving Thoor Ballylee to your right, cycle all the way till you come to a crossroads where you take a left.
At some point you’ll see a fork to the right. If you look very closely, there is an existing cycle trail called “Finding Yeats”. This cycle trail was mapped by the Burrenlowlands from Gort, sponsored by Sullivans Hotel on the square in Gort. I’ll have to write another blog article about that cycle.
Cycle for approximately 1 km and you’ll see a yellow bungalow to your left ( It’s a downhill road so you are picking up some speed). Across from that yellow bungalow you’ll see a narrow road/boreen to your right. If you are a local , this is the top of the Pound Road. This road ultimately brings you to the back of Gort.
Once you take a right, it’s a straight road that brings you to a railway bridge.
Once you cross the railway bridge, it’s a downhill cycle, and the road surface changes to a loose stone surface.
You’ll see a ruin of a farmhouse to your right, and as the road takes a slight bend to the left you will have arrived at the top of Gort River Walk.
As you cycle down there is a gate, sometimes it’s open, sometimes it’s closed. If it’s closed, make sure when you open it to get through, you close it off.
If you look to your right, you may be lucky to see a swan family. When I was there, there was a swan family there with cygnets.
If you look a little bit further down to your right, you’ll see the remains of a bridge. DO NOT ATTEMPT to go there or cross the bridge as it is not safe. The Gort River Walk has big plans to replace this bridge with a new bridge, follow their Facebook page to find out more.
Lavallysheen Children’s burial ground
Look to your left, and you will see the Lavallysheen Children’s burial ground. To learn more about the Burial ground, check out this article in Guaire Magazine ( page 64. Since the article was published a group of volunteers have done an amazing job to restore and tidy up the burial ground. It has also enabled relatives to honour and pay tribute to their deceased family members. It’s a truly a sacred place.
Continue your journey, leaving the Lavallysheen burial ground to your left, the river to your right. The road surface is a bit bumpy but ok to cycle. It’s only towards the end of the cycle, there are bigger/rougher stones, and it may be better to dismount for a short while. You will now have a beautiful view of the River to your right. ( There are way more and better images, I’ll write another post dedicated to the Gort River Walk)
Gort River Walk
As I mentioned earlier, there is currently a project in progress by local volunteers to establish a Gort River Walk, find out more about the history here. The Pound Road, once a dumping ground and no go area, has been transformed into a beautiful walking area to be enjoyed by all. Follow Gort River Walk on Facebook and their recent fundraiser – please support if you can.
You’ll now see barriers, you can go around a little place to the right.
Continuing on to your right, you will see the remains of Flowervale House – home of the once mill owners. This article tells you all about the history of the house and the (tragic) story of how the mill was flattened to the ground. It is also the back of Aldi in Gort and the start of the Gort River Walk.( There are in effect 2 entries, one via the Pound Road and one via the back of Aldi.)
As you continue your journey, you will see the Gort Railway Station to your left and as you continue you will arrive in the town of Gort. Check out a blogpost I wrote about the Gort Railway Station last year, when it was 150 years since it first opened.
This may be the end of your trip . Pop into Centra for ice cream or continue on the loop and take a right at the roundabout to head back OR you can take a left and go onto Gort’s mini -Greenway into Coole Park I documented a while back.
Kiltartan Gregory Museum
If you are heading back, it’s an easy ride, passing entry into Coole Park. Further down is a nice downhill cycle at Kiltartan. You’ll see a red brick building onto your left, which is the Kiltartan Gregory Museum. It’s currently closed , due to COVID-19. Keep an eye on their Facebook Page to find out when they re-open.
Next you will pass the railway crossing at Kiltartan, and as you cycle you’ll see a sign for Quinn’s hardware store being 5 kms from that point.
Eileen Quinn Memorial plaque
Across from the sign, you’ll see a farmhouse, with a remembrance stone to Eileen Quinn, who was murdered there on the 1st of November 1920. I strongly recommend you listen to this recently produced documentary about the life of Eileen Quinn and what happened there on the 1st of November. Humbling is an understatement
It’s been downhill for most of the way, so it’s time for a bit of climb across from Tannian’s forge. There is a bit of bend in the road, and I always cross the road before the hill, as visibility is limited once you are on the climb.
Once you have caught your breath, you’ll see Cummins kitchens to your right and signs for Thoor Ballylee. Take a right, enjoy the downhill cycle or take a left and do an extra loop via Shehanagh.
Back to where I started my cycle
The road bends to the right, and this is where I started the cycle.
The road to your left brings you into Skehanagh, where there are few other cycles you can do, I’ll have to write another blog post about the Skehanagh cycle trails.
As it is summertime, the floods we had earlier in the year, have receded. Learn more about the South Galway floods here.
Hope you enjoyed this (long) article- look forward to hear if it has inspired you enough to do the Cycle from Thoor Ballylee to the Gort River Walk!
Join my Facebook Group Gort Cycling Trails and let me know if you cycled this trail, what you thought, and if there are other cycle trails that should be mapped in the #burrenlowlands