Laragh (89km, 1310m)

Map of Laragh route


Categorised Climbs: Edmondstown Road, Lough Bray, L1059, Oldbridge (E)

This is classic Wicklow cycling: the windswept bogs of the mountains, the quiet roads through sloping pastures in the lowlands. The route is packed with climbing, from the headline ascent to Sally Gap to the rollercoaster roads around Oldbridge, finishing with the uncategorised duo of the Poggio and the Scalp. Reversing it gives not just another perspective on the countryside but a different, no less satisfying, rhythm to the day.

Navigationally, the route is very simple: only two turns separate the start at Five Points and the halfway point at Laragh, and there are only a few more on the return leg. You climb to Sally Gap in two stages, taking the marginally gentler Edmondstown Road route up to the Featherbeds, then dropping down to Glencree before tackling the climb past Lough Bray. After the Gap you descend gradually for 15km to Laragh. Immediately after leaving Laragh take the left turn onto the backroad to Oldbridge. This road is perhaps the highlight of the route, quickly leaving the village behind to take you past tranquil fields lined with hedgerows and dry stone walls. Jink right at the R759, then left for Ballinastoe. After descending the Old Long Hill, there’s the quick kick of the Poggio and then the gentle slopes of the Scalp before the descent back into the city.

There are a few hazard points to watch out for. As you are picking up speed towards the top of Glenmacnass waterfall, the road swings left — you will frequently round this bend to find a slew of blithe tourists milling around in the road. Be ready for an emergency stop. The second is the descent into Oldbridge. There is a trio of warning signs, starting with an arresting (but unhelpfully unspecific) “!”, then one showing a bike sliding, and finally one warning of a 10% gradient (a gross underestimate, as you will find out if you ever travel it in the opposite direction). It would be pretty easy to come a cropper here. Finally, the descent of the Old Long Hill ends with a tight left-hand bend ending abruptly at a T-junction. Ignore the warning sign at your peril.

Laragh is the obvious place for a cafe stop — there’s nothing before it, and nothing afterwards until you reach Enniskerry. The route runs you straight past Glendalough Green (aka the Hippie Cafe), the traditional stop for cyclists. On a warm day, the outdoor seating will be thronged with the lycra-clad hordes, basking in the sunshine like seals on a rock. Lynham’s does a reasonable pub lunch, and there’s also a food truck doing barbecue in their carpark on summer weekends. There is a petrol station shop just off the route on the Glendalough Road.

There’s some scope for variation: if you’re already jacked by the time you get to Laragh, you may prefer the gentle drag along the R755 through Annamoe to Roundwood over the focused ramps on the L1059 to Oldbridge. Bear left as you exit Roundwood to get onto the road for Ballinastoe. Gluttons for punishment can turn left at the R759 (56km) to take on the steepest approach to Sally Gap, the road above Luggala Estate, and return to the city from the Gap.

View of a valley, across a field, framed by gnarled trees on either side and an old stone wall at the bottom.
The view across the valley to Trooperstown Hill from the Oldbridge Road.

Thoughts, hopes, exhortations?