The Greenway Man – Bike Hire on the Waterford Greenway

| January 13, 2022 | 2 Comments

Last June, I wanted to bring my two young kids Grace and Hannah cycling on the Waterford Greenway. I had done it with some friends before and found it a fantastic experience. The route is relatively flat and easy for even a novice cyclist like myself. The only problem was I knew my two wouldn’t be able to do the whole 46 Km from Dungarvan to Waterford. I did want to show them the most interesting parts, including the spectacular Ballyvoyle tunnel. Most Waterford Greenway bike rental options started from Dungarvan, Killmacthomas or Waterford and included a return by van which we wouldn’t need. I needed to hike bikes somewhere near the highlights such as the Ballyvoyle tunnel and viaduct, Durrow Viaduct and the old abandoned railway station before the dreaded words “I’m tired” were uttered. The Greenway Man fitted the bill perfectly.

Meeting the Greenway Man

Garvan Cummins, the Greenway Man, has his bike rental shop beside O’Mahony’s Pub, located in Shanacool, a short detour off the Greenway. When I got there, there seemed to be nobody there. I popped into the nearby shop, which is attached to O’Mahony’s pub. “One minute,” said the old shopkeeper before a balding but fit man appeared. “John is it?” he asked, remembering my booking via email.

Garvan showed us some bikes and we tried out a few before settling on one that felt comfortable for me and the right colours for the girls! Garvan also supplied locks and helmets. I had to sign a form saying we had been given helmets and would dismount going through the tunnel. “Nobody does anyway,” Garvan sighed as he took our forms. Compared to other bike hire on the Waterford Greenway, this was friendly and slightly informal, which I liked a lot.

At the carpark just before joining the greenway, Grace listened to a recording that was powered by turning a hand-wheel. It described the construction of the nearby train tunnel, the nearby Comeragh Mountains, and the geology of the area. It was really interesting but not for everyone. “Let’s go!” shouted Hannah impatiently, pushing her bike up the short incline to join the Greenway. We were off.

Ballyvoyle Tunnel

The Waterford Greenway is tarmac the entire length and a joy to cycle on. With the Comeragh Mountains to our right, we cycled the short distance to the gaping entrance of the Ballyvoyle Tunnel. The rock walls leading into the tunnel were covered with a green explosion of ferns, moss and fairy doors. Yes, fairy doors, lots and lots of fairy doors. Apparently, a local craft group placed a few fairy doors amongst the ferns when the greenway first opened. Visiting children heard about them and started bringing their own doors. There are also a few poems about the greenway, it’s really lovely. Be sure to stop and take in some fairy magic before delving into the tunnel.

Fairy doors of Waterford Greenway

Fairy doors of the Waterford Greenway

As Garvan feared, we didn’t dismount but cycled into the dark, quarter mile long tunnel. Grace’s helmet had a small light which helped. Electric lights placed in niches provide some light as water dripped from the ceiling, hitting my helmet. We whooped and shouted as our voices echoed back and forth against the rock walls. The danger is crashing onto oncoming cyclists but with care, we were fine and emerged the other side into blinding light.

Ballyvoyle Viaduct

Green beauty of the Waterford Greenway

Another short distance beyond, we crossed the Ballyvoyle Viaduct. This was noted as one of the highlights but we were underwhelmed. It’s hard to appreciate how impressive it is from on top, you really have to admire it from the ground, which we couldn’t do. The viaduct has an interesting history. It was blown up by anti-treaty (republican) forces in 1922 to prevent troops accessing the mainly republican areas of West Waterford. In January 1923, republican forces captured a train and sent it careering over the broken viaduct into the gorge below. Here’s another old photo of the train hanging over the destroyed viaduct. Officially, this was to prevent repairs being carried out to the viaduct but I think they just wanted to see a train crash into the valley below.

Break time at Waterford Greenway

Break time with Dungarvan Bay in the background

We soon came to one of the old railway crossings. There are I believe fourteen such crossings along the route and each has a railway house where a family lived whose responsibility was to open and close the barrier when the train was coming. Had to be careful with the girls at those crossings and made sure they got off their bikes before crossing the public road. Shortly after, we took a short break near the wooden railings, enjoying the sun with the inviting Clonee beach and Dungarvan Bay in the distance.

We decided to double back to O’Mahony’s and have lunch. On the way, we spotted a fox in a nearby field. He didn’t scurry or run and race for cover, even when Hannah started barking like a dog. He seemed almost tame. Pretty incredible.

Lunch near O’Mahony’s Pub Durrow

O’Mahony’s Pub, Waterford Greenway

After we came back to O’Mahony’s, we sat down at the wooden bench to have our lunch. The plan was to explore the other side of the Greenway afterwards. Garvan spotted us and came over with photo albums under his arm. He showed us a collection of old photos from the surrounding area, showing what the place looked like when the railway was operational.

He also told us the old pub is run by Tom and Helen O’Mahony and has been in the family since 1860 when it served the railway workers. Business was in decline until the Greenway was built. That’s another thing I love about the Greenway, it gave small businesses along the route a new lease of life and created many new ones. It took a lot to resist the temptation to have a cooling pint on such a warm day but instead I opted for some snacks at the small shop attached to the pub before rejoining the Greenway.

Ghost Station – Old Durrow Train Station

Old watchtower at Durrow train station

We cycled in the Waterford direction to explore that part of the Greenway. We soon passed the ivy-covered ruins of Durrow Station, complete with waiting rooms, old watchtower and platform. The girls clambered onto the platform and posed for photos for a train that would never arrive. I always find these abandoned places fascinating, imagining the crowds that would have once waited here for trains to Waterford and Cork. We admired the lovely views of the distant Comeragh Mountains. Further on, we found some thoughtfully arranged rocks that served as a perfect picnic table. We shared our snacks and saluted the passing cyclists. As we mounted our bikes once more, Hannah turned to me and said “I’m tired.” No problem, I thought, as we pointed our bicycles back towards the Greenway Man.


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About the Author ()

John Dwyer is a travel writer and blogger. His first book High Road to Tibet: Travels in China, Tibet, Nepal and India became an Amazon best-seller. His latest book Klondike House: Memories of an Irish Country Childhood recalls his years growing up on a rural farm in Ireland.

Comments (2)

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  1. Angelina says:

    An interesting read. Thankyou for sharing.

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