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Royal Canal

Walking on the Royal Canal: Ballybrannigan to the 41st Lock

Ballybrannigan as previously mentioned is a harbour just to the north of Ballymahon. Before taking to the Greenway to the 41st Lock, a distance of 11km, I decided to call into the town for some lunch to fuel for my walk. Ballymahon has a very wide main street with plenty of parking and local pubs, garages and shops to make it worth the 2km diversion off the canal. This time around I had a fantastic meal at Cooney’s Hotel on the main street.

Cooney’s Hotel, Ballymahon

Once I had my fill I was back to Ballybrannigan Harbour where there is some limited parking beside the old canal storehouse. Heading west on the south bank of the canal it is 1.5km from the harbour to Longford Bridge. This bridge is a relatively new addition to the canal carrying the R392 from Lanesborough to Ballymahon. The bridge replaced a culvert that previously blocked the navigation of the canal. Some limited parking is also available on the east side of the bridge and is a popular spot with locals taking short walks on the Greenway.

Approaching the gates at Longford Bridge and Car Park

Truth be told Longford Bridge is more ideally suited to come on and get off the canal for Ballymahon as it leads straight down to the main street albeit a similar distance as Ballybrannigan. On the left of the gates the wall of the car park area has several paintings of the canal done by local artists.

Art at Longford Bridge

Passing under the bridge and staying on the south bank as we do the whole way to Mosstown Harbour, it is less than 1km before we reach Archie’s Bridge along with its canal storehouse and another building which may have once served as a ticket office. If you look closely you will also see evidence of the quay wall at the bridge.

Canal buildings on the west side of Archie’s Bridge

It is possible to pass under Archie’s Bridge or to come up to the main road level before descending down on the other side. As there is a main road going over the bridge it is advisable to dismount your bike before crossing over and to be aware of traffic.

Archie’s Bridge

Along the 1.5km from Archie’s Bridge to the 40th Lock with its accommodation bridge and lock keeper’s cottage at Mullawornia the canal takes a definitive turn towards the north.

40th Lock, Accommodation Bridge and Lock Keeper’s Cottage with extended porch

Consideration had been made to carry on west when building the canal straight to Lough Ree from this point in order to save costs however the Grand Canal Company opposed this and insisted that the Royal Canal be completed to it’s original planned terminus at Cloondara some 19km’s further on. As you round the corner after the lock you can see the bedrock of Mullawornia Hill as the canal skirts around it and a steep drop off the Greenway on the other side.

Canal turning north around Mullawornia Hill

It is just under 1km from the 40th Lock to the Pake Bridges where we again cross under the R392. We come to the original Pake Bridge first passing under it before we pass under the abutted new bridge which was rebuilt from a culvert to allow for full navigation of the canal. There is a sharp turn to the left as you come out from the new bridge. Unlike the long stretches of many of the previous sections the canal twists and turns more and more as we near its end.

The original Pake Bridge with the new one hidden behind it

1.5km from the Pake Bridges we come to Foigha Harbour and Bridge. I think calling this a harbour is a little generous but there is a jetty with room to tie up a few small boats the east side of the bridge.

Foigha Harbour and Bridge

If at this point you are looking to take a small break, Leavy’s of Foigha is only 300m from the bridge and while the grocery shop has closed the pub is still up and running.

Leavy’s of Foigha

Back on the south bank of the canal it is just under 2km to the next landmark of Cloonbreany Bridge. Leaving Foigha it does feel like the Greenway passes right through the front of a private garden but rest assured you are on the right side as you pass through the familiar wooden gates. I once led a group down the other bank to find us having to climb gates and hop over cow pats before correcting ourselves at the next bridge.

Cloonbreany Bridge

Between Cloonbreany and Mosstown Harbour we pass alongside Corlea Bog which includes a visitor centre for the Corlea Trackway, an old trackway that dates back to 148-147BC. A walk has been built around the bog much like the surface of the Greenway and links the canal directly to the visitor’s centre for those who have the time and interest to take the small diversion off the canal.

Sign for the Corlea Bog Amenity Walk where it meets the canal

Not far from where we meet the Corlea Bog Amenity Walk we come to Island Bridge which lies on the outskirts of the village of Keenagh. A new path links the canal to the village and is only a short distance for those looking for a shop.

Island bridge from Mosstown Harbour

Island Bridge is another location that had been culverted when the canal had closed and has since been been replaced with a higher bridge to allow for navigation of the canal once again. It is necessary to come up onto the bridge to cross the canal before coming down into Mosstown Harbour on the other side.

Mosstown Harbour from Island Bridge

Mosstown Harbour has a small car park and several picnic benches beside it and is probably a more suitable spot for starting or stopping along this section however for this post I will be pushing on just a little further. A little beyond the car park on the road that leaves the canal path is a gate house for Mosstown House which was demolished in the early 1960’s.

National Famine Way Shoes Memorial at Mosstown Harbour

Mosstown House is of note to us canal enthusiasts as the home of Newcomen family. Sir William Gleadowe-Newcomen was a banker and politician who was also an early subscriber of the Royal Canal Company, the bridge at the 1st Lock on North Strand Road being named for him. While the house is lost and is now the site of a modern farm, the remains of the Mosstown pigeon house can be found not far from the canal. A small cottage can also be found on the opposite bank.

Cottage near Mosstown Harbour

Not far from the harbour is another one of the overflows we previosuly encountered around Abbeyshrule. There is a former mill close to the spillway which dates from around the same time as the canal and some associated works where the canal may have even supplied water can be spotted along this stretch.

Overflow near Mosstown Harbour

1km on from the overflow we reach today’s destination of the 41st Lock at Coolnahinch Bridge with it’s adjacent restored Lock Keeper’s Cottage which is now a private residence.

41st Lock Chamber and Lock Keeper’s Cottage from Coolnahinch Bridge

There is no suitable parking here so if stopping for collection Mosstown Harbour does make more sense. For me though I will be walking back to pick up my car at Ballybrannigan Harbour and grabbing a bite to eat in Cooney’s Hotel before the drive home. For those pushing on it is only 13km to the end of the canal at Richmond Harbour.

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 13: 41st Lock to Richmond Harbour

Part 14: The Lough Owel Feeder

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 on the Royal Canal: Ballybrannigan to the 41st Lock”

As far as I can gather the original plan of the Royal Canal Company was to always to come out at Cloondara so to be able to be closer to the coal mines at Arigna however by the time the canal had reached Abbeyshrule the original canal company had already gone bust. Going into Lough Ree would have had the advantage of saving money but the Grand Canal Company were adamant it would affect their trade too much so it was finished as planned. Unfortunately the coal trade never materialised. Similar could be said of the Ulster Canal, the suitably names Coal Island section was built so that coal Ulster coal could be brought to Belfast and Dublin but in the long run of things more better quality Welsh coal moved west on the canal than the poor quality Ulster coal moved east.

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