Three Orwells – Fran Brophy, Simon Kelehan and John McElligott - signed up for the 2022 Tour of Monaghan on 10th of July.  Fine weather was forecast, and while it was the weekend prior to the “glorious twelfth” over the border, this wasn’t a concern in County Monaghan where the route was excellent, the event well organised, the weather was perfect and the locals friendly.

Our first positive surprise was how easy it is to get there.  These days, Monaghan town is barely 90 mins from the Red Cow via excellent roads.  We stayed in the Westenra Hotel in the centre of town and the staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful.  Bikes were dispatched to the manager’s office where the night security team would keep an eye on them until morning.  The porter prepared an early breakfast as we needed to get moving before the catering staff were due to arrive.  This is the sort of thing that just makes you feel good about making the effort to travel to an event.


The Tour of Monaghan is organised by Emyvale Cycling Club in the north of the county.  Emyvale is a village of just 700 souls, though the local cycling club has been going for over 70 years and has over 120 members.  That might be a record from a per capita perspective.  However, nearby Killylough has a population of just a couple of hundred (no one is quite sure), with a cycling club membership of over 60.  So clearly the people of north Monaghan take their cycling seriously.

Emyvale Cycling Club (and a significant proportion of Emyvale village)


The event has three distance options - 60km, 90km and 140km.  The promotional material stated that the 140km event would depart in 2 groups, a ‘fast’ group averaging 35 km/ hr and a ‘steady’ group averaging 29 km/ hr.  Fran, Simon + I reckoned these average speeds were probably exaggerated.  “Surely the are referring to cruising speed, not average speed”, we thought, though opted to join the ‘steady’ group regardless.  The 140km route involves 1500m of climbing without a single obvious hill, so we expected it to be quite ‘lumpy’. 

The Event 

It was quickly apparent that Emyvale had put together a very well organised event.  Soon after the off, we turned onto the sort of excellent backroad terrain we all love to ride.  Road quality was good and large parts of the route were virtually devoid of traffic.  I only recall a single set of traffic lights throughout.


Conditions were perfect and the pace was quick.  The locals like to ride fast, and the ‘steady’ group averaged above 29km/ hr over the 140km route.  For each of us, it was easily the fastest >100km spin we have done and we were very grateful not to have joined the ‘fast’ group who averaged >35km/ hr.   Very zippy.

This was a circuit that might be difficult to follow solo, or as part of a casual cycle.  Though we were part of a large group with a safety motorcycle up ahead, so were able to ride as a peleton.  For anyone getting split up, the club had emblazoned large ‘M’s at regular intervals along the route and also positioned large directional signs ahead of each junction.


The route is also ‘lumpy’.  Every Irish schoolchild learns that Monaghan is covered in drumlins, though I personally never knew what drumlins really were.  During the event, I saw at least 100 of them.  Drumlins are a bit like Peppa Pig World.  Once you go over one hill, you get ready to climb the next one.  Over the 140km course, we literally climbed dozens.  It’s the cycling equivalent of riding a sine wave.  So, despite the absence of any ‘hill with a name ‘, it was easy to rack up 1500m of climbing.

Drumlins as featured in Peppa Pig World(!)


The countryside is pleasant without being especially scenic.  The route was almost entirely in Monaghan, though took brief forays into Tyrone, Fermanagh and Cavan.  A couple of those detours were of the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ variety.  The main food stop was in Clones with smaller pit stops in Scotstown and Ballybay.  These weren’t anything special, though the barbecue at the finish line was excellent.


The event is very popular in its catchment area, though virtually unknown outside.  We met riders from Armagh, Derry, Banbridge, several Tyrone clubs, several Cavan clubs and probably all the clubs in Monaghan.  The only other Dublin club represented was Clontarf, which was due to a local Emyvalian also being a member there.  

Monaghan seems to an overlooked county from a cycling perspective which is a pity.  The terrain is excellent cycling territory and is

We look fresh.  This must have been at the start


Emyvale Cycling Club do a terrific job.  They were obviously delighted to hold the event again this year following a covid-induced hiatus, and are aiming for bigger numbers next year.  Fran, Simon + I thought of ourselves as a bit of an advance party for Orwell, and we’ll hopefully get more members to give it a try next year.  We would certainly recommend.  This event is well organised, it’s a great route, it’s easy to get to, and it’s an interesting area. 


Drone footage of the event:  DRONE FOOTAGE



John McElligott