On 22nd of August 1798, the French General, Jean Joseph Amable Humbert led 1,000 men ashore after their ship sailed into Kilcummin, on the edge of Killala Bay. The French took over the home of Bishop Stock, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Killala, and turned it into their headquarters, before making their way towards Ballina and Castlebar. From here, they plotted their attack on the British in Castlebar.
Despite the lack of military training, over 3.000 Irish recruits joined their ranks on the march to Castlebar, many carrying only pikes and pitchforks. The group marched along the west shore of Lough Conn over rough uneven ground and arrived at Castlebar to face a British garrison under the command of General Lake. The shocked British troops were forced to retreat and Humbert’s men moved from Staball Hill down Thomas Street to the original market place. Castlebar Bridge was their next target and this was taken under the command of General Fontaine. Despite such valiant attempts to overcome the British all across the land, they finally succumbed to the British troops on 8 September 1798 at Ballinamuck in Co. Longford.
The 225 km route which Humbert took his men on has become a famous cycle trail – Tour de Humbert. In Mayo it passes through Kilcummin, Killala, Ballina, Castlebar, Swinford, Bellahy but spans four 4 counties, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Longford. Finger signposts direct you towards areas of historical importance.
The route is easy to moderate, and suited to cyclists of all ages and experience. The first leg spans 13 km from Kilccummin to Killala where the round tower and lovely harbour are visible. The next stretch of road takes you 16 km to the town of Ballina, passing the famous Moyne and Rosserk Abbeys and Belleek Castle. There is some beautiful scenery too on this coastal route, passing Bartra Island on Killala Bay.
The Tour De Humbert is a 90 km annual cycling challenge which begins in Kilcummin and follows the original erratic route taken by the ambitious 18th century revolutionaries, taking in Swinford’s during the summer street festival or Siamsa Sraide.