I am taking a break today from the Royal Canal to instead look at the short branch off the Grand Canal to Naas town. Since the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic I have been confined to Maynooth and areas on the Royal Canal which I have already covered so now as the restrictions ease, this is the perfect time to take a look at a branch of the Royal’s southerly competitor.
From where the canal branches off the Main Line of the Grand Canal at Soldier’s Island it is less than 3.5km to the Harbour in Naas itself. However for the assistance of those who wish to follow this route it is best that we start a little further back at Sallins Bridge where it is necessary to come off the Grand Canal and through a warren of estates to join the Naas Branch on the south bank of the Grand Canal rather than follow the Main Line out on the north bank.
If you come to Sallins along the Grand Canal towpath from Dublin you come into the village on the south bank along Church Avenue. To get to the Naas Branch you must come up to the bridge level and take a left down to the entrance of Oberstown Court on your right (before the road rises over the railway). Follow the road the whole way down Oberstown Court to Sallins Wharf following it around until you come to a large green space. Cross over the green space in front of the Sallins Pier houses to the line of trees by the canal. If you follow these line of trees down you will find a break through which you can access the towpath that will lead you to the Naas Branch.
As you pass through the trees you are passing over the remains of a filled in Dry Dock of the Grand Canal Company. Little seems to be known about this dry dock and what little information I can find is best described on the Irish Waterways History website here.
Following the canal around to the left you will see the split with the main line and the triangular shaped Soldier’s Island. The Naas Branch was originally independently built by The County of Kildare Canal Company and was overseen by engineer William Chapman who was renowned for his use of Skew Bridges. The Naas Branch had three but these were later modified to give more headroom. Started in 1786/7 it was originally envisioned that the branch would go down to Kilcullen and possibly even as far as Baltinglass however the company did not survive long and was acquired by the Grand Canal Company by 1807/8. The Grand Canal Company extended the line as far as Corbally by 1810 and that is as far as it ever got.
At the start of the branch we immediately pass under the Great Southern and Western Railway Bridge as we head south towards Oberstown Bridge and the first lock N1. There are a total of 5 Locks on the Naas Branch rising all the way up from the main line to Naas Harbour. Leaving the towpath, we cross over Oberstown Bridge and join the road that will bring us almost the whole way into Naas.
The Naas Branch was one of the first sections of the Irish Canal systems to see a completed restoration. New lock gates were made for the Naas Branch in Watling Street in the mid 1980’s where the Royal Canal Amenity Group had already been making new gates for many of the locks on the Royal Canal. This restoration work was undertaken by volunteer work parties of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, the Office of Public Works along with FÁS trainees and was completed in May 1987.
A little further down the canal we first pass under the M7 Motorway before passing under the Millennium Park Link Road. We then come to the second lock N2 at the Old Odlum’s Mill which closed in 1989 after nearly 200 years in operation. The Mill structures span both sides of the canal. The mill opened as the Leinster Mills in 1790 only a year after the branch itself opened. An article from the Leinster Leader about the closure of the Mill can be found here. Both the Mill and the Mill House were listed for sale in 2019.
It is 800 m from the Mill to the third lock, Burgh’s Lock N3 and a short distance further we come to Tandy’s Bridge.
Staying on the western bank we come up to the fourth lock N4 and across on the east bank we can see the remains of the old Naas Gas Works. It is clear that the canal had a profound effect on the industrial development of Naas with such sites as this and the Mill built along its banks not to mention the market trade the canal would have brought to the town.
We then come to the fifth and last lock N5 on the branch about 600m short of the harbour itself.
Just off the harbour you can also see the start of the Corbally Branch that while disused is still in water as it provides the feeder for the Naas Branch. See below link to carry on your journey to Corbally Harbour.
Walking on the Grand Canal: Naas Harbour to Corbally Harbour
Walking on the Grand Canal: Hazelhatch to Sallins
Walking on the Grand Canal: Sallins to Robertstown
A Guide to Staying on the Right Side of the Grand Canal: Grand Canal Dock to Edenderry
A Guide to Staying on the Right Side of the Grand Canal: Edenderry Branch to Tullamore