All along the banks of the Royal Canal.
The Royal Canal was immortalised in Brendan Behan’s song The Auld Triangle.
Last Summer we walked part of the Royal Canal Way in County Longford. We started off near the village of Kilashee and walked to Clondra and back, it is a distance of about 12 kilometres in total. I think we started from Aghanaskea bridge point 8 on the Royal Canal trackway map below and walked to Richmond Harbour. It was a beautiful sunny day and we stopped for a drink at the pub and sat outside.
You can view the full map and other information here.
You can start from Longford town and cycle or walk the full 16 kilometres. The surface isn’t tarmacked so it isn’t as smooth in parts, it might be better to cycle it with a mountain or hybrid bike than a road bike with thin wheels. I believe there is a long-term plan that the canal trackway or Blueway will join up with the Royal Canal Greenway which is completed in Westmeath, the route would go from the Mullingar greenway to Abbeyshrule and onto Longford town. It is connected to the long-term plans for the Dublin – Galway Greenway.
This would be a great boost to Longford, walkers and cyclists could travel from Westmeath to Longford on a safe and traffic free route. The opening of the greenway in Mayo, has given a boost to the local economy and provided a great leisure activity. The recent opening of the Old Rail trail greenway in Westmeath should hopefully see the same positive results. I know another greenway is due to open in 2016 in Waterford, it will be called the Deise greenway and will run on the old Waterford to Dungarvan railway.
Activities in Longford on the Royal Canal
If you are in Longford for a weekend, this canal trackway is a great amenity:
Cycling: You could bring or rent bikes and cycle from Longford town or Kilashee to Clondra, this is very doable for all levels of fitness as it is completely flat. You could always rent an electric bike if you don’t feel up to the full route. Then have lunch in Clondra village or cycle a little further up the road to the village of Tarmonbarry in Roscommon.
Hikes/Walking: If you prefer to walk, the canal is a nice flat scenic and safe walk with lots of wildlife to see, you could also bring a picnic along.
Watersports: At Aghanaskea bridge, you can go kayaking, we saw a sign for kayak rentals. I’m not sure if anyone is doing it in Longford yet, but Stand Up Paddling is becoming very popular and would be suited to the sheltered Royal Canal.
Fishing: You can bring or rent fishing rods and fish along the canal.
Walking Tour: We saw a sign for walking tours on the canal, which recounts the history of the Royal Canal. I would love to do this sometime in the future.
There doesn’t appear to any bike rentals online for Longford, but I do believe you can rent a bike locally in a bike shop or from a local cycle club. I think this is a potential business opportunity for someone! but until the Westmeath to Longford greenway opens, it may not be a viable option.
Quick History of the Royal Canal
The Royal Canal was built over 27 years, starting from the initial land survey in 1789 and work finishing in 1817. Barges carried cargo and passengers down the canal. It proved a popular mode of transportation for goods and passenger’s for the next 30 years, but the arrival of the railways signalled the end of the canals. I read online on the RCAG website, “that a passenger journey time from Dublin to Mullingar initially took twelve hours..”. By the 1880’s passenger journeys ceased and only cargo was transported until 1961 when the Canal closed. In 2010 this section of the Royal Canal in Longford was reopened.
The Royal Canal is a lovely scenic walk and you will pass wildlife on the canal and we were lucky enough to see cattle being herded on the other side of the canal path and brought across the canal bridge for milking. It was a nice rural scene to catch, all the cows walking along and lined up.
We passed an old canal gate keeper’s cottage, which had a plaque on it, the cottage was restored by a lady called Frances K. Kelly, who lived in Forest Hills in New York. You can read about Frances and the cottage restoration project here. I have to say, it really is a heartwarming story.
The plaque reads “She always loved old buildings and the history that went with them.”
I would love to restore an old house and for the same reason as Frances did. Although the entrepreneur in me, I would probably put the spare room on Air BnB!