The Royal Canal Greenway has been officially launched today 24th March 2021, by Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister for State Malcolm Noonan.
Information, photos and guides for the entire length of the Royal Canal Greenway including the Longford Branch as well as information on the Lough Owel Feeder, the Old Rail Trail and the towpath from Spencer Dock to Maynooth can be found throughout this website. I hope you find it informative as you explore this amazing amenity. Take a look at the video here:
The 13km section of the Royal Canal between Hazelhatch and Sallins is a very accessible and enjoyable stretch for walkers, runners and cyclists alike. It can easily reached by taking the short train journey to Hazelhatch Railway Station from Heuston Station in Dublin and then it is possible to get the train back to either Hazelhatch or Heuston from Sallins, both stations only a few minutes walk off the canal. Both Hazelhatch and Sallins also have car parks at the stations if you are travelling by car.
Hazelhatch is located just a little bit outside Celbridge on the Dublin and Kildare border and the canal can be accessed at the narrow Hazelhatch Bridge.
McEvoys pub is also located beside the bridge and is a good place to have a pint to close out an evening or as a place to stop as you pass by on a longer trek.
Hazelhatch is home to a good number of boats, many of them live-aboard’s and includes some Heritage Boats like the former Grand Canal Company boats 36M, 42M, 56M and 58M as well as the older Horse Boat No. 1 now known as Misneach.
The canal path from Hazelhatch to Sallins is entirely traveled on the south bank of the canal and is of good surface quality for the majority of the route but it is necessary to be mindful of cars for a good part of it also.
About 1.5km west of Hazelhatch you come to Aylmer Bridge named for the Aylmer family of Donadea Demense. The bridge also marks the start of the boundary wall of the Lyons Estate in the area of Lyons Hill which runs alongside the canal for several kilometres.
1km on from Aylmer Bridge is the double chambered 13th Lock. The 13th Lock lies close to a cemetery just below it on the south leading to the suggestion that the 13th Lock is haunted. There are also stories that the 13th Lock on the Royal is haunted. I have never found out for certain to which one Arthur Griffith’s poem refers.
Above the 13th Lock lies the Lock Yard including the Pantry. Part of the Cliff at Lyons, it is an ideal place to stop for a snack or take away cake and coffee. The Lock Yard was originally the site of a mill which was built by Valentine Lawless, 2nd Baron Cloncurry who was noted as a canal enthusiast and also served as the Chairman of the Grand Canal Company. The mill was later run by the Shackleton family, related to Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton until it burned down in 1903. Botanical artist Lydia Shackleton, the Royal Botanical Garden Dublin’s first artist in residence lived here for several years. After the Cloncurry title became extinct in 1929 the Lyons Estate fell into disrepair and was bought and restored by Ryanair founder Tony Ryan from the mid 1990’s on.
Just a little over a kilometre on from the 14th Lock we come to Henry Bridge named for a family from nearby Straffan. Henry Bridge is located in the village of Ardclough, resting place of Arthur Guinness. A small shop is located just north of the bridge past Ardclough GAA club for anyone looking for supplies and the burial place of Arthur Guinness can be visited by travelling south of the bridge for a few minutes. A little further west of the bridge we pass the original Ardclough National School that was build in 1839.
We continue along the narrow road on the south bank for another 2.5km when we reach Ponsonby Bridge. When passing under the bridge you can see that it has been widened on both sides for the road traffic it carries and as a result the original faces of the bridge have been lost.
When we emerge on the other side of the bridge we have lost the smooth path and road we have enjoyed from Hazelhatch to this point and enter a more grassy section. Most of the remainder of the distance to Sallins is soft ground. The majority of it is fine for walking and cycling with a hybrid or a mountain bike but a few small sections tend to remain muddy throughout the year.
It is a further 2.5km to Devonshire Bridge. This stretch tends to be a lot quieter than the section around Hazelhatch and the Lyons Estate and offers a real rural feel even though we are still well within the commuter belt of Dublin. The railway is not far to the north of the canal and trains can often be heard but unlike the Royal Canal, they are rarely seen.
The 14th Lock follows shortly after passing under Devonshire Bridge. The original Lock Keeper’s Cottage has been restored and extended as a private residence.
It is just over half a kilometre then to the 15th Lock and the remains of it’s Lock Keeper’s Cottage.
Leaving Dublin, it is noticeable that the Grand Canal follows very long straight lines south west. Not long after passing the 15th Lock the canal takes an obvious turn to the west as it leads towards Sallins. 2km from the lock we are greeted by the Railway Bridge that passes over the canal bringing trains into Sallins from Dublin.
It is just over 1km from the railway bridge into Sallins. The canal path narrows here and as it is sheltered it can get quiet mucky for a few hundred metres along this stretch.
Like Hazelhatch, Sallins is the home to a good many boats and you can even see plenty of post boxes for each of the live aboard’s along the jetty on the east side of Sallins Bridge.
Sallins is where we finish today. The small town just outside Naas has a good selection of take-away’s just off the canal, a Supervalu and even though we are on the 15th level the 13th Lock Gastro and Brew Pub is a great spot to stop for a bite and a few drinks. For those who would like to see the canal as it should be seen it is possible to book a cruise on a barge in Sallins on the blue and white barge in the picture above.
For those who don’t fancy the walk back to Hazelhatch, Sallins Railway Station is only a 3 minute walk off the canal.
Leaving Sallins on the north bank of the Grand Canal we pass a Waterways Ireland service block and like the eastern side of Sallins Bridge there is always a good number of boats found tied up across from the old Odlums mill. It is a 12km journey to Robertstown.
Not long after we leave Sallins we pass by the remains of an old dry dock on the opposite bank. If you look closely you can see the wall at the entrance of the now filled in dock which is also beside the access point to the tow path for the Naas Branch of the canal.
Beyond the dry dock we come to the triangular Soldier’s Island and the junction with the Naas Branch. Past the island we pass under the new bridge that carries the Sallin’s Ring Road over the canal before we reach the Leinster Aqueduct which carries the canal over the River Liffey.
Not far beyond the Leinster Aqueduct we find a rather unique circular stone overflow. The Guide to the Grand Canal refers to it as “the big pot, the little pot, the boolawn and the skillet”. The workings of the overflow are explained by The Helpful Engineer. It is an interesting albeit overgrown feature of the Grand Canal. It would be great to see the overgrowth cut back to see the actual workings of this unusual piece of engineering. The overflow itself would have spilled into a stream behind it that then flows down into the Liffey
As we round the next corner we come to Digby Bridge and the 16th Lock. This bridge is one of two to bear the name Digby along the Grand Canal. Another can be found just east of Tullamore at the 25th Lock.
The canal path turns to grass again when we cross over the road but staying on the north bank of the canal. It is little over 1km to Landenstown Bridge and the 17th Lock. On the opposite side of the canal is the gate into Landenstown Estate which is boasts a Palladian country house and large farm in much need of renovation. Landenstown House was built for the Digby family around 1740. The Digby family who apart from being land owners in Kildare, at one stage also owned the Aran Islands. The house and grounds were owned and farmed by a German man from the 1940’s until the early 2000’s. Yeomanstown Stud purchased the vast property in 2017.
After Landenstown Bridge we have just over 1km of road to travel along before we join up again with a grass path as the canal takes a turn away from the road towards the 18th Lock.
It is 1.5km from the 18th Lock to the Burgh Bridge. It is usually around this stretch that you will hear hear the engines of the cars racing around nearby Mondello Park which lies just 1km south of the Bridge. Burgh Bridge boasts several rope grooves that would have been carved into the stone over the years by horses pulling barges past the bridge, a great reminder of the working past of the canal. It is worth looking out for rope grooves on many canal bridges.
It is nearly two 2km on the grass bank to Bonynge or Healy’s Bridge. At Healy’s Bridge it is best to come up and cross over to the other side to finish out the last stretch to Robertstown. Standing on top of the bridge you can see where the Blackwater Feeder once entered the canal to the right of the main line towards Robertstown. It once connected an artificial reservoir, Ballinafagh Lake to the canal but was closed in 1952 and is now partly filled in. The lake is now protected as a Special Area of Conservation.
We are now on the final 2km approach to our destination at Robertstown. On reaching Robertstown you are greeted by what was the Grand Canal Hotel. A splendid hotel in the early life of the canal the hotel later became an RIC Barracks and also served as a community centre. Currently unused one can only hope it will find new life and not fall into dereliction much like the similar looking Grand Canal Hotel in Shannon Harbour.
You will generally find several boats in Robertstown Harbour and there are several pubs, shops and a cafe in the village to stock up or get a feed. Robertstown Community Amenities Association are currently in the process of trying to restore Heritage Boat 52M. An outboard engine was fitted during the summer of 2019 and the barge made its own way down the canal to Shannon Harbour for an inspection to take place. I finish this section at Binn’s Bridge.
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 but when restrictions eased briefly I saw it as 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.
Between Lock N5 and the harbour is Abbey Bridge also known as Finlay Bridge which we rise up and cross over to the east bank to bring us into the Naas Harbour.
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.
Although long closed to navigation by boats the stretch of the Grand Canal from Naas Harbour to Corbally Harbour offers the walker and runner a fine route of just over 8km on which to travel, almost all of which is expansive countryside, ideal for those looking to escape the urban landscape of Naas.
The Corbally extension has been closed to navigation since the building of the Newbridge Road at canal level in 1954, the line remains in water as a the water source for the Naas Branch comes into the system at Corbally Harbour and flows the whole way down the the main line at Soldier’s Island.
Built between 1808 and 1810, the Grand Canal Company contracted the Civil Engineering firm of Henry, Mullins & McMahon to construct the extension as well as restoring and adapting some of the Naas Branch after the collapse of the County of Kildare Canal Company. This would be the first job for the firm that also went on to finish the Royal Canal from Coolnahay to Richmond Harbour as well as building the Ballinasloe and Mountmellick Branches of the Grand Canal. While John Killaly did survey a route through Kilcullen and Baltinglas, plans to extend the line beyond Corbally were abandoned.
Passing the Naas Community Library as you leave the Naas Harbour on the south bank you follow the path through Sarto Park to a tree lined trail on the bank and on to Ploopluck Bridge.
Continuing west and skirting behind several housing estates you then pass under the more modern Caragh Road Bridge which carries traffic high over the canal.
It is only a short distance from the Caragh Road Bridge to Jigginstown Bridge (may also be known as Terry Bridge) which now acts as pedestrian access to Naas Sports Centre on the opposite side of the canal.
It is necessary to leave the canal at the bridge and move up to the main Newbridge Road and the ruins of Jigginstown House. When this road was built over the canal in the 1950’s it was decided to use a culvert instead of a bridge, therefore sealing the fate of the line as closed to navigation.
We leave the canal as we cross the road and travel on down Jigginstown Green. The canal passes behind several house before we rejoin it about 500m later at Limerick Bridge.
Staying on the south bank of the canal we proceed on west as the canal takes a turn south, now walking on a grassy trail and leaving behind the urban neighbourhoods of Naas. I did this section in mid-summer after a prolonged dry spell so the surface was ideal for me but many have warned me that this area can be overgrown and wet in winter so a good pair of trail runners or boots is advised. It is nearly a 2km stretch before we reach the next landmark of Connaught Bridge.
When you get to Connaught Bridge you must first pass under it before coming up to cross over it and descend down on the other side to what has now become the west bank of the canal. From here on in, we will meet several gates along the path. It is important to be mindful to close the gates behind us as we pass through them as there are free roaming cattle in the fields along the canal. That being the case it is also important to be mindful of where you step!
It is 2km from Connaught Bridge along the trail before your come to a canal spillway just before the The Cowhouse at Williow Cottage. From here you are briefly back on a hard surface to Hoare Bridge.
It is easier to come up to the road level and back down on the other side at Hoare’s Bridge rather than squeeze through the overgrowth under the bridge. We have a good surface for a short while as we pass along some houses and driveways but before long we are back on the grassy and on a wet day, muddy trail towards Corbally Harbour.
1km further on from Hoare’s bridge you come to the remains of Mooney’s Bridge. A low level flat accommodation bridge has been built alongside the humpback Mooney’s bridge to allow farmers access to both sides of the canal. Sadly a good part of the wall of Mooney’s Bridge has fallen away on one side.
From Mooney’s Bridge it is less than 1km to the end of the line at Corbally Harbour and the water source for the Naas Branch. The harbour itself is slightly overgrown but the harbour walls are still visible as are the remains of the harbour stores on the opposite bank.
The Corbally Extension is a hidden gem of a route well worth exploring when out by Naas on the Grand Canal. Unfortunately it must be said that it does finish in an area with little around it so it advisable to bring a picnic with you on your walk as you will need to make the return trip to Naas back the way you came.