High nellies set for Laois

Helping to launch the ' High Nellie Cycle Challenge' in aid of Laois Hospice were Leanne Dowling, Model Karen Fitzpatrick and Aaron Dowling.                                                                       Photo Kevin Byrne
HUNDREDS of high nellie enthusiasts from all over Ireland are coming together next week for a unique 250 kilometre, five-day cycle challenge to raise much needed funds for the Laois Hospice.

HUNDREDS of high nellie enthusiasts from all over Ireland are coming together next week for a unique 250 kilometre, five-day cycle challenge to raise much needed funds for the Laois Hospice.

The organisers of the challenge have also launched a nationwide hunt to find the oldest working High Nellie in Ireland, and to include it in the event. The High Nellie Challenge take place from June 12 to June 16, and will see cyclists peddling the highways and byways of Co Laois on High Nellie and vintage bicycles, with one important rule – not to pass a pub along the way.

James Joyce wrote in his internationally acclaimed book, Ulysses: “It would be a puzzle to travel across Dublin without passing a pub.” Given that the finale of the challenge is happening on Bloomsday, this ‘puzzle’ is being put to the test in Laois with a route specially planned to avoid all hostelries.

The marathon cycle will consist of  four 55 kilometre and one 30 kilometre cycles over the five days taking in breathtaking views of the Slieve Bloom Mountains, the beautiful heritage town of Abbeyleix, the picturesque Georgian town of Durrow and the historic homes and gardens of Emo Court, Heywood Estate and Stradbally Hall. Along the way music, song, storytelling and craic will be guaranteed each evening around a campfire setting in each of the four “overnight stations” - Portarlington, Camross, Clough and Abbeyleix.

The cycle will conclude in Durrow on Bloomsday on June 16 with a Bloomsday Gathering Festival, where all involved are encouraged to enter into the spirit of the occasion by dressing in Edwardian or similar costume. The festival will include an open air Joycean pagent and vintage bicycle exhibition in addition to music, song and dance. The day will also include an exhibition of High Nellie and vintage bicycles, vintage motor cars and motor cycles. All proceeds go towards the Laois Hospice.