(Road Bike Route)
Start/Finish: The Vine Cottage, Saltmills (Google Maps)
Located on the Eurovelo E1 cycleway, with safe and secure parking and refreshments available afterwards, the Vine Cottage in Saltmills, is an excellent start/stop point on this circa. 50km loop of the Hook peninsula.
Heading over the bridge in Saltmills with views of Tintern Abbey to your left side, and Bannow Bay on your right, take the 1st right along the Shore Road, to St. Kearns. (Caution: sharp descent gradient, reduce speed on turning)
About 300m further on this road there is the St. Kearns Monument recalling the explosion of an old IRA munitions works during the War of Independence in 1920.
Along the shoreline, the views of Bannow Bay appear and across the water is close to Bannow Island where the Norman’s landed in 1169. In more recent times, shellfish farming has developed and at low tide the mussel beds can be seen.
Also along this road you’ll discover the rusty wreck of the ‘Port Lairge’ a vessel built in Dublin in1907, and served as a dredger for the Waterford Harbour Commission from 1912 until 1987. She was subsequently bought by a local man and sailed to Bannow Bay, where it has laid since.
At the end of the shoreline and turning up and away, (yes you’ll be in the inner ring!) we travel northeast along quiet country roads for 2.5 km before hitting the busier R733 and heading east (direction Arthurstown 7km) for the village of Ramsgrange.
Continue further eastwards to Mersheen Cross, and (left turn) pick up the L4052 towards Duncannon.
There is a short fast decent towards the coast into Duncannon, one technical lefthanded turn, but it is a briefly exhilarating section of fast road as it opens up wide and gives spectacular views of Waterford harbour. Looking out south towards the lighthouse, over the Fort in Duncannon and back up north overlooking Passage East in Waterford with its ferry shuttling to and fro between the counties. It is hard to kill the momentum here, but it really is worth it to squeeze those calipers, put the feet down and take in the views!
If you have the time, follow the route into the village of Duncannon, see the strand, the harbor, and the fort. (Caution: On descending down to the strand road in Duncannon, the gradient descends steeply and the right hand turn towards the village is more acute than you’ll be expecting, with no escape margin towards the left side of the road, so take it easy).
Heading east out of Duncannon, past the playground on your right, pick up the righthand road at the end of the strand and settle in for a steep little climb from sea level, that will ease soon into a more reasonable drag. This road section levels out, is 2.1kms in total and will take you to the L4045, and a right turn will have you heading south along the peninsula.
Along this route, there is a little detour down to Booley Bay which will show on the route data. If it fits your schedule to take a look, it is a secluded beach, but if you’re in the mood to keep the tempo up, push on another 2.5km and you will discover Templetown, where you’ll find the remains of a fortified church, the headquarters of the Knights Templar in Wexford in the 12th century. You’ll find Norman Way information and decent bike parking here. A popular stop on this road, the Templar’s Inn is here too, but is unfortunately closed at time of writing.
Back on the bike, and continuing south, a little climbing and a lovely section of road as we look out over Waterford Harbour, Creadon Head and further onto Dunmore East, don’t get too distracted by the views! Get over the last section of hill, and the scenery will open up onto Hook Head itself, and follow the very gentle descent to Portersgate, where you’ll join onto the Hook Road.
From here, the Tower of the Hook is 5km and the road is flat and but can be a bit windswept, so it’s worth paying attention to the wind direction.
We pass Loftus Hall on our right as we continue south, there is a café and garden here, and also ‘the haunted’ tour, check for details.
As we approach the junction (mini roundabout) we will shoot right for Hook tower. Over to our left is the small fishing village of Slade, and the castle. Although it’s not on the route map, only 500m over, and worth a picture!
The history of the Hook tour is well documented, so we’ll keep it brief. William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, treacherous south Wexford seas, Hook tower constructed, coal fired light, 800 years of light keeping!
The visitor centre is always good for a tour, and the café serves a good selection. It can be a little busy out here in peak season (Caution over the grid on entry to the Hook grounds)
Back on our bikes now? We take the road we came from, and back to Portersgate, but continuing straight for Fethard. After about 2km from here, we will pass Templetown Church on our left, and descend for 500m to the cross roads for our right hand turn towards Great Graigue, Carnivan and Baginbun. A little narrow in places, this is a well tracked road for a lot of cyclists near and far in Wexford, and deservedly so. After the initial drop, it lifts with a couple of hundred metres of climbing, and lift too will your views. If you like to push hard off the rolling descent and catch a southeasterly tail wind, it is a rollercoaster to power through, and is used on the 20km Tri-the-Hook route annual. Prefer things a little more relaxed? There is a nice seating / picnic area on the right before Carnivan and Baginbun with plenty of views.
Turning the left hand corner at Baginbun (where Ireland was lost and Ireland was won!) we head towards Fethard village. The route also takes in a little diversion to the little dock in Fethard, which is very picturesque, as is the approach road.
If you decide to venture the 1.2km over, the right hand turn is halfway down the fast descent towards the village, so plan this maneuver in advance, and adjust your speed!
In the village of Fethard you’ll find the village shop, and some food offerings.
The monument in the village commemorates the Helen Blake tragedy when in 1914 when nine volunteers from RNLI Fethard Lifeboat Station gave their lives in attempt to save the crew of the Norwegian ship Mexico.
The return journey to Saltmills is about 5 kilometers away.
We hope you enjoyed your visit and come back again soon!
Villages (shops/cafe) along the way; Ramsgrange (Floods Centra); Duncannon (The Wild Rose Café is always welcoming to cyclists), Hook Head (visitor centre café), Fethard on sea (Dillons Londis, Grailin café, The Wheelhouse café), Saltmills (The Vine Cottage)
Points of Interest:
St. Kearns / Bannow Bay and location of the steamship Port Lairge
blog by WexBUG member, Bryan Hanton.