Book review: Cycling Munster: Great Road Routes

WHEN you have the option of downloading apps such as Strava and Map My Ride to your phone, creating your own cycling routes or browsing someone else’s, why would you buy a book compiling nearly 50 cycles around Munster?

Dan MacCarthy

Collins Press, €15

It’s a question Dan MacCarthy, an avid outdoorsman and a journalist with the Irish Examiner, must have asked himself as he compiled this simply titled guidebook, Cycling Munster: Great Road Routes.

MacCarthy’s book, covering 47 routes, mostly in Cork and Kerry, commands an authority that may be lacking as you browse Google Maps — which certainly doesn’t offer the droll history and geography lessons that are sprinkled throughout here.

On the 58km Cork-Robert’s Cove Return cycle, MacCarthy advises to continue to the junction of Fivemilebridge.

“This route continues to the left towards Kinsale on the R600. The road has been widened and landscaped, which is a pity in a way as the previous road meandered through an old wood. Progress, it is called.”

On the Circuit of North Tipperary, we’re told to “continue along the road to Moneygall, which is in Co Offaly, which, of course, is in Leinster. 

However, if the Tour de France can take in Belgium, Spain or Ireland, then this book can take in Leinster. 

Cycling, hillwalking and kayaking are not the arena for purists. Call it ‘cycling licence’.”

MacCarthy is also brutally honest with regards to the state of the roads. 

Of the Loop Head Peninsula Circuit, he warns: “At the halfway stage a really bad stretch of road is encountered. In fact to call it a road is an exaggeration.”

Each route tells us the distance, height gain, and duration, along with a short verdict, such as “nice rural cycle with unexpected views” (Carrigrohane-Coachford Loop) or the even more succinct “amazing” (Ring of Kerry Challenge).

The distances range from 22km (Clonakilty-Inchydoney Return) to the 171km Ring of Kerry, which takes an estimated seven to 10 hours to complete. 

Photos accompany each cycle, and may well be what convinces you to put on the Lycra and suffer through a 60km-plus cycle; the view of “Valentia Island Lighthouse on the road from Knight’s Town to the west of the island” alone appears to be worth the suffering.

Small maps and gradient scales show what to expect around the country. However, these alone will not get you to your destination but are more for illustration. 

You have to follow MacCarthy’s instructions to the point — or face reaching for your phone and Google Maps.

I tested out the Loop East of Cork City and am still not sure I did the route exactly as envisaged. 

I’m waiting to take the “extreme right” at Pigeon’s Hill but there are no signs for said hill. 

I eventually decide to turn right at a junction. MacCarthy says to “watch out for a road to the right at 90 degrees” then “ignore the minor junction” 5km later. 

I see neither, nor does he mention I’ll be passing through Leamlara and Carrigtwohill before I eventually get to Cobh.

Though I’m constantly doubting the instructions and my sense of judging distances (as you may suspect, I’m no Bear Grylls), I do eventually reach the Cobh ferry and make my way back to the city — all while enjoying winding roads by interlocking trees and a running stream just 10km outside the city centre. 

It is actually a delightful three hours.

Dan MacCarthy’s guidebook should be your first consultation on how to spend those sporadic summery evenings.


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