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Cycling the Barrow Way

In the last few week Waterways Ireland submitted an application to create a walking and cycling route along the Barrow Line. The Line is a canal that links the River Barrow with the Grand Canal and shadows the river as it makes it way down to the sea in Wexford. Currently there is a towpath along the entire route, in some places it’s paved, others gravel, but for the most part it’s grass. Of course in the Irish climate that means that it is often very muddy. There has been plenty of resistance to the idea of paving the entire path on the basis that it would ruin the natural, organic feel of the path, and that the path would be destroyed when the river floods – as it does most winters. The counter argument is that a good path would allow a lot more people enjoy the Barrow as well as generating some tourist income for the surroundings.

Prior to cycling about 140km of the path this weekend I would have been quite firmly on the anti-path side on the principle that the path is usable as is and we don’t need to pave everything. However know I’m not so sure. Obviously it had been wet for a few days before we set off and even though the mud wasn’t that deep it was very sticky. Basically a pain in the arse to cycle on. Our wheels were slipping and sliding and it took a really effort to make progress, in a few places we were reduced to walking. It wasn’t that bad but I’m not sure that it’s something that most people would find appealing. Now if the weather had been dry in the preceding days it would have been very different and I would probably be waxing on about the beautiful hard-packed grassy track, but the reality is that most of the time there is going to be a fair amount of mud.

I’m going to go back soon and finish the route – we only got as far as Goresbridge and I suspect that the final section from there to St Mullins is the nicest part – then I think I will have a better idea of where I stand. Ultimately it comes down to how you strike a balance between making wildish places more accessible versus preserving and protecting them.

A guide to the best of Irish cycling with 80 routes spread across the entire island, there is something for everyone; from gentle, traffic-free cycles, ideal for the whole family, to long challenging routes packed with relentless climbs. The routes range in length from 8km to 207km on a variety of surfaces including tarmac roads, gravel tracks, canal towpaths and singletrack.

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