Square

Road passing alongside a horse race course under partly clouded skies
The Curragh under big skies

Ride distance: 115km
Beverage: double espresso, with a flapjack on the side

A few days of cold, bright weather before storm Babet rolls through. Everything looks uncannily sharp and clear through the cold, dry air, absent the haze that usually hangs over the mountains. The compass swings in winter, away from the mountains and west towards the flatter land of Kildare and Meath. The world contracts as rides get shorter, start later, the grey gloom of the mornings uninviting. There’s a perpetual sheen of moisture on the roads, decaying leaves carpeting the ground—cornering is treacherous, fast descents a gamble. More often I go out on the fixed gear, to preserve expensive derailleurs from the corrosion of road salt and the constant abrasion of the mud.

The route to Kildare town is quintessential winter cycling: one main road climb up Ballinascorney, a scatter of foothills around Ballymore Eustace and Kilteel, and the rest is flat. From Brannockstown onwards the smell of wealth rises off a procession of stud farms, luxury cars, expansive mansions. The run back from Kildare to the city passes by the racecourses at the Curragh (where 20,000 gathered to watch Dan Donnelly fight in 1814) and Punchestown. The Curragh should be easy, a pan-flat run under open skies, but there’s no escape from the wind, and it’s a relief to turn onto the gently undulating roads after Athgarvan.

I took my cafe stop at Square, an archetypal modern coffee shop, all hard surfaces and European minimalism, well-lit and attractive but not really cosy. They did me wrong once or twice during the pandemic years, serving me espresso in a paper cup, but all is forgiven as this shot arrives in a small ceramic vase that sits nicely in the hand. Decent espresso too, house branded but roasted by PS Coffee Roasters. I would have murdered a sandwich or a bowl of thick soup but only sweet things on the menu, had to settle for a flapjack—I was hanging by the time I got home. Still, well worth a visit if you’re passing through Kildare.

Round tower silhouetted on a hillside under cloudy skies
The round tower at Old Kilcullen graveyard

Thoughts, hopes, exhortations?