Cycling Tour Around Castlebar in Co. Mayo
Cycle Tour around Castlebar - 22 miles. It can be divided into stages, to maximise the participants needs.
Tour starts from New Antrim street. Here you can rent a bike. Pass by the hotel and follow the main road out of Castlebar. As you are leaving the town, you have on the left the Sacred Heart Home which was a major battlefield during the 1798 Rebellion. Later on, in the time of the famine 1845-48, it was a workhouse.
You will have to take the road slightly to the right direction of Turlough. When you look to the right you will see Stowball-Hill, made famous in the Year of the French, 1798 as a major battlefield.
Continue your cycle, and you will see on both sides of the road several ringforts, dating back to 1500-2000 years ago.
You can also admire the houses and can have a look at their architecture and gardens. Some of the two-story houses date back to the land league. This is the time when the small tenant farmers received a congested house of cut-stone, 30 acres of land and one acre of bog from the Landlords.
Stop 1: Turlough House and Round Tower
Turlough Round tower is 70ft high and one of the best-preserved towers in the country. Turlough House is a late Victorian House 1864 and contains a lot of heritage and character.
Stop 2: Turlough Village
Turlough Village is a very picturesque village with nice gardens .The poet Paul Durcan has written several poems about its beauty. Paul Durcan's people owned the Tower bar and he also stayed in Turlough.
Turn right in the village at the Community Centre which used to be the National School. You will cycle over a humpback bridge and on the right hand side you will see a picturesque waterfall and its riverbank. This will bring you to the main National Primary Road, the N5. Cross the road and cycle back in the direction towards Castlebar (right). One may stop at Turlough Church across the road for a quiet rest.
Stop 3: Turlough Church
Turlough Church, (Church of Ireland), is an early Victorian Tower Church surrounded by a cut-stone wall. It is a very nice little church with a peaceful graveyard and gardens.
On the left hand side, when you are cycling you will see the Windsor House. This is about a mile off the road. Built in the 17th century and surrounded with different specimen of trees. Ringforts are on both sides of the road dating back to 1500-2000 years ago and there are also some standing stones. Continue on to Moneen area and the Moneen Roundabout.
Stop 4: Moneen Roundabout
There is a roundabout with beautiful flowers. On the left are cottages dating from the 1780s. These were built by Lord Lucan for his peasants. His stables and farmyard were on the right hand side. This area now houses a leisure area with a bowling alley, cinema and snooker area.
Continue straight on, and to the right you will pass by the gardens of the National Rest Home for the Sisters of Mercy. This is built on Lord Lucan's Estate. The road will bring you to the Spencer Roundabout.
Stop 5: Spencer Roundabout
You pass through the ancestral grounds of Lady Diana Spencer. The house was built in 1750. The photographs of this time are in the County Library, Castlebar. The photographs are from the famous Wynnes collection. There is now a modern housing estate on the grounds, but the old trees are still there.
The sculpture at the roundabout is called Shimmer II and was created by Michael Bulfin. It represents heat rising on the horizon and distorting/shimmering. It was commissioned by Mayo County Council.
Here at the roundabout you turn left and take the Ballinrobe road. Just before the bridge you can have a look at the Railway station.
Stop 6: Railway station and bridge
There is a very beautiful bridge over the rail track and the station has won several prices for its beauty and layout. The cut-stone building looks very attractive with plants along the platform of the station. It dates from the 18th century when the train travelled all the way to Newport and Achill.
We cross over the bridge and continue straight on. Cycle until the first road to the right, this will bring you to the Cloonkeen area. Here you will have a panoramic view of the whole area. One can view the Partry Mountains and Croagh Patrick. As you cross the railroad line, follow the road until the end and here you turn right. This is the Westport road which will bring you back to Castlebar.
Stop7: Westport Roundabout
This Roundabout has a bronze sculpture by Michael Burke, it is called Linen Steam . It is a piece of woven cloth and reflects the Linen Industry. The upward spiral represents the steam. Mayo County Council also commissioned this sculpture. On the other side, at the back of the sculpture you will see the building that houses the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (G.M.I.T.).
You then turn slightly to the left and follow the Westport road.
Stop 8: Lough Lannagh and Old Graveyard
On the left you have the Castlebar Lake, Lough Lannagh. This means 'lake of the children' and there is a holiday village located here. The lake has a scenic view towards the Holy Mountain of Croagh Patrick. Picnic places are available and there is a nice walk around the lake.
Here also are found the ruins of a square ivy covered tower castle once belonging to the Burkes, hence de Burkes Castle. The lake has two crannogs (floating islands 3000 years old). The Old Graveyard has interesting gravestones and a high cross. We follow the Westport road and go straight on at the traffic lights up Chapel street.
Stop 9: Church of the Holy Rosary
Catholic Church, Church of the Holy Rosary 1901. It has admirable glass windows and Stations of the Cross. Across from the church is the Parish priests house and gardens. Turn right at the crossroads into Tucker street and then turn left into New Antrim Street.
To shorten the route go from stop 5, direction Westport and turn right at next roundabout, you are now at stop 7 and continue to the right, back into town.
Article by Susanah Sweeney