I first started cycling four years ago to try regain a bit of fitness after a long layoff from sporting activity due to laziness! A friend of mine, Robbie was recovering from cancer at the time at only 20 years old and his family had started working with Cois Nore to raise funds for a local cancer support center. They organised a cycle which has now become an annual event called the Kells Kings Cycle.

I used a cycle route planner app on my phone to plot out some routes for them and with the loan of a bike From Robbie’s father; I set about exploring the routes around the countryside in Co. Kilkenny. If you visit Kilkenny these cycle routes are a great way to explore the villages and hidden gems in the county.

The longest track was to be 120km so, being a novice I did it in 3 sections.

First, I cycled from where I live at Jerpoint Glass, to the picturesque village Kells about 10 kilometres away.  If you’re passing through Kells, stop for the afternoon to visit the Priory ruins and have a drink in Shirley’s Bar. From there I cycled out the R697 to Kilmoganny, owning Piltown, across the hills around Templorum into Mulinavat at which stage I called it a night and left the route to go home via Ballyhale to Jerpoint Glass. I clocked this cycle route at about 72km and it took me about 2 and a half hours.

The next cycle route I tackled was from Jerpoint Glass to resume the route at Mulinavat, taking the R704 I headed towards the village Listerlin, where I turned back towards Thomastown, via Brownsbarn Bridge. Thomastown is known for its quirky bars and cafes and as a haven for culture vultures. Thomastown is only a few kilometres from Jerpoint, it’s our nearest town, this cycle was a little over 50km.

The week running up to the main event I did some shorter cycles around Jerpoint, taking in Mount Juliet, and the roads around the neighbourhood, but did manage to get out and do the final leg of the 120km route. Again setting off from Jerpoint Glass I re-joined the route near Inistioge at Brownsbarn Bridge, the route climbs out of Inistioge past Ballygub (Ballygub is well known for the Inistioge Puppy Rescue, where we got Milo  the rescue pup. Milo tweets up to the minute news about Jerpoint @glassblowersdog) From there on down the R700 until it turns back uphill once more to follow the R705 into the Rower and on into Graiguenamanagh.

This is a really scenic section of the cycle route; Inistioge is one of the most charming villages in Ireland, made famous worldwide in Hollywood movies, ‘Circle of Friends’ staring Minnie Driver and Chris O Donnell and ‘Widows Peak’ with Mia Farrow. We were lucky enough to receive a visit from many of the stars to Jerpoint Glass Studio. One of our favourite childhood parks is in Inistioge. Its called Woodstock and it has a killer hill, an assent only for seasoned cyclists!

Out of Graig there is a 4 kilometre climb up the R703 to the summit of the route at Dreas Pub in Cuppenagh, a hidden gem in the middle of nowhere, but well worth a visit for an authentic Irish pub experience! From there I cycled through Cuppenagh gap and back into Thomastown, then home once more to Jerpoint Glass. A 58km round trip!

The Cois Nore Cancer charity event itself was very well attended and there were much appreciated water stops in Mulinavat, Inistioge (where tea and sandwiches were also served) and Thomastown. It took me nearly 5 hours including a 20 minute stop for tea and sandwiches!

To my dismay and utter embarrassment the whole Leadbetter and extended family were waiting at the end of the lane at Jerpoint Glass to cheer me on as I passed on the home straight, which took myself and the other riders through Stoneyford into Ennisnagh and back into Kells Villiage.

A thoroughly enjoyable event that I would recommend for any level of cyclist. They have added a 7.5km family cycle route this year to the already very popular 30 km loop and 120k challenge. The next Kells King Cycle is on August 30th. Visit the Cois Nore Facebook page for more information. Downloan your cycle route planner and join in the fun!

If you visit Kilkenny and want to try out any of these routes, or smaller sections of the routes, it is a fantastic way to discover Kilkenny and its lesser known towns and villages. If you pass on your bike to Jerpoint Glass, there will be a refreshing drink and more rewards awaiting you including free glass blowing demos and 15% discount in our shop and gallery, with a shop and drop service for the summer months.

If you enjoyed this article and want to discover more of Kilkenny read our blog, five more reasons to visit Kilkenny