ROYAL CANAL WALK

INTRODUCTION

⇒ CROKE PARK⇒ MAYNOOTH⇒ ENFIELD⇒ MULLINGAR⇒ BALLYMAHON⇒ RICHMOND HARBOUR, CLOONDARA⇒ THE SHANNON

POST SCRIPTUM

Chris left, Frank right. Left right, left right, left right...
Chris left, Frank right. Left right, left right, left right…

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INTRODUCTION

Starting on Sunday, 6th May 2018, my brother Chris and I did a sponsored walk, for Greenpeace, along the entire 91 mile / 146 kilometre length of the Royal Canal, which is maintained by Waterways Ireland. We arrived at the end point, where it meets the River Shannon, the following Saturday. Below is a record of the pleasure and the pain.

If you’d like to sponsor us, you can still do so via JustGiving. Our target is £2,000.

Frank Johnson

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DUBLIN: SPENCER DOCK TO CROKE PARK, 6th May

We arrived in Dublin, from England, late on the afternoon of Sunday, the 6th, and walked the first part of the canal from Spencer Dock to Croke Park. On the stretch where there is no towpath we walked along the nearest roads. In one of the roads we met a tame heron – birds which, from heron in, would become something of a theme for the whole walk, alongside swans, gorse and dandelions.

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CROKE PARK TO MAYNOOTH, 7th May

We rejoined the canal at Croke Park and carried on heading west. Chris stopped for a chat with Brendan Behan – near Mountjoy Prison, which inspired his song The Auld Triangle –, I helped to open a lock gate and we had lunch at the 12th Lock Hotel.

When we got to Maynooth we met up with our cousin Uriel, who lives there. Very kindly she insisted on ferrying our rucksacks by car to the destination hotels on the next two days and she arranged for her brother-in-law Jevon to do the same on the final two days. We were enormously grateful to them, especially me, as I think I’d have collapsed at some point otherwise!

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MAYNOOTH TO ENFIELD, 8th May

A great day for walking: sunny with a breeze and made all the better by not having to carry our rucksacks. Yet more herons on the way, but very few people, which was probably just as well, because we were singing – badly – a lot. Only passed two boats. At the village of Kilcock we spotted a leprechaun.

A bit of an extra hike from Enfield to our hotel.

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ENFIELD TO MULLINGAR, 9th May

A day of attrition! Started off at 10 a.m. and got to our hotel in Mullingar at 8.30 p.m. It was a slog and it rained relentlessly for much of the day. Really took us today into the middle of nowhere and we met very few people, but did see yet more herons (and swans). Beautiful landscape. Lots more singing, until weariness shut us up. We went through the Long Level before a series of locks took us up on to the run-in to Mullingar.

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MULLINGAR TO BALLYMAHON, 10th May

We started out from Mullingar a bit late, at 11 a.m., and didn’t get to Ballymahon until after 11 p.m. – 32 kilometres. Anyway, we made it! And we saw more herons, to keep that particular motif going, and more swans. Met Paddy Killigan at the lock keeper’s house at the 26th Lock, who gave us tea and scones free of charge when he found out we were doing this for charity. (Mr Killigan is the son-in-law of the last keeper of that lock.) Luckily we found an open “chipper” at Ballynacargy in the evening.

On a subsequent stretch, as night fell, we heard a very unhappy bull bellowing up ahead; fortunately it was on the opposite path, having somehow found its way out of the field.

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BALLYMAHON TO RICHMOND HARBOUR, CLOONDARA, 11th May

A mere 22 kilometres today. A solitary heron made a late appearance to keep up the heron theme. We only passed three walkers, and that was near Cloondara. Rained in the morning, but a fine afternoon. Both on our last legs.

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RICHMOND HARBOUR TO THE SHANNON, 12th May

A morning stroll along a spur of the Royal Canal down to the marshy reed beds that look out on the longest river in the British Isles. Journey’s end.

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PS:

  • We put this report together together. The best bits are mine.
  • If my boots were slightly too small, this boat was slightly too big.
  • Huge thanks to everyone who has supported our expedition in whatever way.