Grand Canal & Barrow Way Cycle

So firstly, we put pretty much no planning into this. Looking for an off-road / gravel route, we had heard the Barrow Way was a hiking route the length of the Barrow River that has been mentioned as a possible cycling route as well, but of mixed terrain. Throw in the Grand Canal as well, (both routes meet at Robertstown), and we had a decent off road route for an overnighter, staying in New Ross, Co. Wexford. The plan being, or lack of, that we would follow the same route back home.

Meeting at 7am, we quickly cut through town and picked up the Grand Canal at Goldenbridge. Once you pass Grange Castle it gets rough. Really rough. Straight into 5 star sectors.

Robertstown is where you pick up the Barrow Way, and wow, did we have the weather. A stunning day that was already getting pretty hot.

Once you are following the Barrow Way, and considering the weather we had, it was easily comparable to any of the canal journeys you might see in France. Stunning beauty.

A lot of mixed terrain. From long grass, short grass, gravel, paved, clay. You name, we had it. Great cycling made easy by the gravel bikes we were on. Progress was fairly slow, but when you mix in the fab weather, a long lazy lunch in Monasterevin, a dip in the river to cool off at Clashganny, there was no rushing anywhere.

Getting to Graiguenamanagh quite late in the day, tiredness and hunger was really starting hit us. With the COVID situation, nowhere was open except for a pizza takeout. Saved our lives!

The Barrow Way ends at St Mullins, by which time we were crying out for at bit of smooth road surface for the last run into New Ross. Our hands and wrists and backside had enough of the rough terrain. Only thing was, the road looped around with climb that topped out at 17%. This, with nearly 200km on the legs. Ouch!

14 hours and 200km to get to New Ross, delirious with tiredness, confusion reigned on trying to find our B&B and somewhere to eat. But nothing a pint of beer didn’t sort out.

Stiff and sore the next morning, and the rain pouring down, plans were quickly changed. The condition we where in, and the conditions outside, we amended plans and plotted a road route home.

For the first hour we made slow progress through stubborn rain, but as the stiff bodies started to loosen up, and the rain eased, its surprising how well fully loaded gravel bikes roll along.

From New Ross, up through Tullow, and on to Blessington, and home through town, it was another big day on the legs, following on from the previous day.

So there it was, completely underestimating how long it would take, all kinds of terrain, beautiful countryside, fabulous weather, awful weather, great company, absolutely no issues with the bikes, and the guts of 400km knocked out, we couldn’t have imagined a better few days on the bike.

Our Rigs:

  • Cannondale CaadX (33mm gravel tires)
  • Boardman ADV 8.9 (35mm gravel tires)
  • Cannondale Topstone (37mm gravel tires)

We all ran tire pressure at between 50-60 psi.

I mention the tire sizes and pressures, as this is always an obsessive subject matter when looking at gravel bikes.

‘Till the next one 🤘

—Aaron Gilmartin, Aiden Harford, Colm Grace