Cy­cle se­ries

Hook Head, Co Wex­ford

The Irish Times Magazine - - NEWS - writes Tur­lough O’Brien

Our route be­gins and ends in the beau­ti­ful sea­side vil­lage of Dun­can­non, Co Water­ford, renowned for i ts fine golden beach where sand sculpt­ing is a pop­u­lar pas­time, at­tract­ing lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional sand sculp­tors. The star- shaped 16th- cen­tury Dun­can­non Fort is well worth a visit be­fore set­ting out on tour.

It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to go astray on this route – it’s one road in and one road out to the Hook Light­house. Sim­ply fol­low the signs for the Ring of Hook Drive on the way down to Hook; the sign­posts are for the coastal drive, which is slightly dif­fer­ent from this bike route there­after.

On leav­ing Dun­can­non turn right after 1km on to the L4045. The route is mainly flat but ex­posed on two sides for much of the trip down the nar­row penin­sula. There are won­der­ful views to the across Water­ford har­bour towards Dun­more East and the Co Water­ford coast­line.

Along with the fine views there are a num­ber of in­ter­est­ing sites con­nected to the Knights Tem­plar worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing; for ex­am­ple, the Tem­plar church across the road form the Tem­plar Inn. The mys­te­ri­ous Tem­plars orig­i­nated dur­ing the Cru­sades and large tracts of land around Hook were given to the or­der by King Henry II.

The Tem­plars amassed vast wealth and were blamed for the col­lapse of Chris­tian con­trol of the Holy Land. They were greatly re­sented for their wealth and power and even­tu­ally were rounded up, ar­rested and the or­der was dis­solved.

The out­bound road is easy to nav­i­gate: fol­low the di­rec­tion signs for the Ring of Hook and be­fore long Ire­land’s most haunted house comes into view. Lof­tus Hall re­put­edly has a dark and trou­bled past and tours are avail­able through­out the sum­mer months – if you are brave enough!

Hook Light­house will come more and more into view. The old­est oper­a­tional light­house in the world – it has kept watch over Water­ford har­bour for 800 years – now boasts a fan­tas­tic vis­i­tor cen­tre and cafe. The light­house of­fers guided tours and the views are spec­tac­u­lar from the bal­cony. Re­trace the road back a cou­ple of kilo­me­tres for a quick visit to Slade Cas­tle and har­bour, which is well sign­posted. Re­turn­ing on the road that took you down the pen- in­sula, con­tinue straight ahead towards Fethard- on- Sea, pass­ing by Bag­in­bun “where Ire­land was both lost and won”. The An­glo- Nor­man in­va­sion of Ire­land be­gan with the land­ing at Bag­in­bun in 1169.

Take the R734 out of Fethard for 2km and turn right on to the L4043. Con­tinue into the vil­lage of Salt­mills and turn left just be­fore the bridge over the es­tu­ary.

Tin­tern Abbey looms ahead in the wood­land. The fa­mous Cis­ter­cian abbey was built by Wil­liam Mar­shal, Earl of Pem­broke, about 1200 and was named after Tin­tern in Wales. After the Dis­so­lu­tion of the Monas­ter­ies in the 1540s, the abbey came into the own­er­ship of An­thony Col­clough. Close by the abbey is the won­der­ful Col­clough Walled Gar­den, which was re­stored in 2010 and is now a tourist at­trac­tion in its own right.

When I com­pleted this tour in 2016 I missed the left- hand turn to Tin­tern and con­tin­ued 4km up the L4041 where I man­aged to reroute by tak­ing the sign­posted Ban­now Bay Walk­ing Trail.

On leav­ing the walled gar­den turn left on to a rough track for 1km and exit on to a mi­nor road. This joins the R734 for 500 me­tres be­fore turn­ing right on to a mi­nor road. Con­tinue on the L8120 for 2km and then turn left on to the R737, which will take you back into Dun­can­non after 4km and the com­ple­tion of this fas­ci­nat­ing route. Edited ex­tract from Cy­cling South Le­in­ster – Great Road Routes by Tur­lough O’Brien, pub­lished by The Collins Press (¤ 14.99) It is avail­able in all book­shops and from collins­press.ie

Take in the views at Hook Head, Co Wex­ford

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