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Royal Canal

Walking the Royal Canal: Lough Owel Feeder

Although not navigable, the Lough Owel Feeder on the summit level of the Royal Canal at Mullingar has a decent path along the majority of it and is well worth taking the time to wander the relatively short 4km stretch out to the Sluice House at Lough Owel. The Feeder itself is about 3.5km however it is necessary to divert off the Feeder briefly to make it the whole way to the lake. The Feeder once provided much of the water for the Royal Canal on the Summit Level flowing down to both the Liffey and the Shannon.

National Famine Way Memorial Shoes at the Lough Owel Feeder

The Feeder joins the Royal Canal from the north just east of Mullingar Harbour on the opposite bank from the Royal Canal Greenway. If coming from the Greenway it is worth crossing Scanlon’s Bridge at Mullingar Harbour as mentioned in my Thomastown to Mullingar post. From there you head back past the dry dock to the small bridge seen above with the Famine Shoes that carries a path over the feeder where it joins the canal.

Looking down towards the drainage channel of the Dry Dock at Mullingar

Once over the bridge you can head north on good surface path alongside the Feeder which is considerably smaller than the canal we are used to.

Feeder and path just looking north from where the feeder meets the Royal Canal

About 600m from the start of the Feeder you come to a small bridge that carries a small lane from the town to Oliver Plunkett GAA grounds. Like all the bridges on this section, they look like a mini version of what we are used to. The Feeder itself was built around 1806 when the Royal Canal reached Mullingar, some 16 years after construction started.

Bridge at Oliver Plunkett’s GAA Grounds

Carrying on for another 500m we come to Robinstown Bridge over the R394 Castlepollard Road. This is a main road into Mullingar and has a pedestrian crossing to assist getting across the road. The original bridge was widened and modernised to handle more traffic. There is a Texaco garage near the bridge with a shop and provides the best opportunity to get any snacks on this route.

Robinstown Bridge carrying the Castlepollard Road over the Feeder

250m from after the Castlepollard Road is the Mullingar Union Workhouse Graveyard. The nearby Mullingar Workhouse is now part of Mullingar Hospital. The area around the graveyard is predominantly overgrown but the main gate and some more recent memorials still mark the tone for the area. With the National Famine Way Memorial Shoes at the start of the Feeder, the graveyard serves as a reminder of the harsh times experienced by those who lived by the canal.

Cross and engraving above the gate to the Mullingar Union Workhouse Graveyard.

As we round the next corner the Feeder comes alongside the Sligo Railway Line for a short stretch again, the line that has kept the canal company most of its was from Dublin now accompanies the feeder to the lake.

Irish Rail Intercity running alongside the Feeder

About 650m from the Graveyard we come to a small accommodation bridge as the Feeder takes a slightly more curved route than the direct rail farm. Accommodation bridges were built by the canal company to give access to both sides of the canal for landowners and farmers whose land had been bisected by the construction of the canal.

Feeder looking north from the accommodation bridge

When the Feeder and path meet back up again we can see Cullion Fish Farm. Featured in Waterways: The Royal Canal the fish farm which specialised in Trout was slated for closure in 2016, however it still seems active when I passed it in July of 2020.

Cullion Fish Farm viewed from the Feeder path

According to the Guide to the Royal Canal the fish farm is fed from the feeder through a metering apparatus via a culvert under the path which abstracts water from Lough Owel.

Culvert and metering apparatus from the Feeder to the fish farm

Just past the fish farm we come to Cullion Bridge. It is necessary to leave the feeder path here for about 500m to carry on towards the lake.

Cullion Bridge

As we pass through the gates at the Cullion Bridge you will notice a sign for St. Brigid’s Well to the right just beyond the gate for the fish farm. The small well with the stations of the cross is a peaceful place for reflection and worth dropping into as you pass.

Sign for St. Brigid’s Well

Crossing over Cullion Bridge will bring you past Culleenmore Level Crossing Gates and the Gate Keeper’s Cottage there. Crossing the old Longford Road you will signs for a cycle way which will bring you on towards the lough and return you to the Feeder path.

Culleenmore Level Crossing and Gate Keeper’s Cottage

Along the cycle way you will see a road that leads down to Levington Park, once home to the American novelist and playwright J.P. Donleavy. Best know for his novel The Ginger Man, Donleavy was known for entertaining many celebrity guests at Levington Park up until his death in 2017.

Levington Railway Crossing and Gate Keeper’s Cottage

Rounding the corner of the cycle way you will come to Levington Railway Crossing Gates and Gate Keeper’s Cottage and just before the crossing you will see a sign for Mullingar Sailing Club on the left which will lead you back down along the Feeder to Lough Owel.

Lane on the left to Mullingar Sailing Club & Lough Owel

Following the lane for 200m the Feeder is on your right until you come to a small bridge which brings you back across the Feeder for the final stretch down to Lough Owel.

Bridge over Feeder near Mullingar Sailing Club.

Once over the bridge it is only a little over 400m to Lough Owel. When you get to the lough and Mullingar Sailing Club you will see a small gate and a white house on the left. This is the Sluice House where the flow of the water to the canal was controlled.

Front of the Sluice House with Bridge and Arch over the Feeder on the right

Behind the house on the lake side is the main sluice gate itself.

Main Sluice Gate at the rear of the house. Note the left gate is down but the right gate is up

After the Sluice House you have reached Lough Owel and the original source of much of the Royal Canal’s water. Although an often forgotten part of the Royal Canal, the quality path makes this a pleasurable diversion worth taking when passing Mullingar.

Lough Owel opening up beyond the main Sluice Gate

Part 1: North Wall to Cross Guns Bridge

Part 2: Cross Guns Bridge to Castleknock

Part 3: Castleknock to Leixlip Confey

Part 4: Leixlip Confey to Maynooth

Part 5: Maynooth to Enfield

Part 6: Enfield to Thomastown

Part 7: Thomastown to Mullingar Harbour

Part 8: Mullingar to Coolnahay

Part 9: Coolnahay to Ballynacargy Bridge

Part 10: Ballynacargy to Abbeyshrule

Part 11: Abbeyshrule to Ballybrannigan

Part 12: Ballybrannigan to the 41st Lock

Part 13: 41st Lock to Richmond Harbour

Part 15: The Longford Branch

Annex 1: The Old Rail Trail – Mullingar to Athlone

By royalcanalrunner

Ultra Distance Runner and Royal Canal Enthusiast.

18 replies on “Walking the Royal Canal: Lough Owel Feeder”

Thanks for all the information Gary – We have been walking along the canal from Dublin in stretches of about 10k and have reached Enfield so far – Your blogs have been very interesting and helpful – Despite looking out for them we missed the mile markers but it was raining that day. Looking forward to our next walk and beyond. Kind Regards, Eileen

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Great to hear. I’m out at Ballymahon today to do another section so hopefully I’ll get all the route covered soon. The Mile markers can be hard to find, especially given the ones near Enfield are on the other side of the canal from the Greenway now.

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