Thursday 9 April 2015

Walking the Royal Canal - Episode VII - Mullingar to Coolnahey

The third part of the Westmeath Greenway trip and the seventh part of my Royal Canal walk took me from Mullingar train station to the 27th lock just after Coolnahey harbour on a glorious Easter Monday. I’d managed to blister my right foot in yesterdays stretch so I was only aiming for about 22km on this walk. The Mullingar to Coolnahey section is just over 10km so that fit the bill.

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Leaving Mullingar there is a rather dense apartment complex that is a bit of a nod to the over exuberant building of the Celtic Tiger years when this was seen as a fairly average commute suburb for Dublin. Maybe it still is for some but I can’t get my head around the idea that 100km out from the city is a reasonable commute. Thankfully (for me at least) the downturn probably means we wont see developments like this as close to the canals for a very long time. The swans were out in force. I suspect that the general friendliness of the folks in Westmeath extends to them too as they are pretty friendly when compared to the Dublin swans that I’m more used to.

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The disused western side of the train station has a fairly large train yard and switching complex with this old beauty just hanging around rusting away slowly. The new Mullingar to Athlone Greenway follows the old Athlone railway line that leaves from here.

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The tarmac surface winds around out to the west for a kilometre or so before coming to the new Clonmore Link Road Bridge and Footbridge.

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The 54km milestone follows fairly quickly with an interesting graveyard on the northern bank.

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A few hundred meters after the 54 mile mark the new Greenway runs right alongside the Royal Canal way. This is scheduled to open in July so I may be back to explore that route once it is officially open to the public.

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The Kilpatrick Bridge follows after another few hundred meters.

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And then there’s a fairly long run to that takes the way past the 55 mile mark and a lot more swans.

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Next up is the Bellmont Bridge where the path crosses over to North side.

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The Ballinea Bridge and Harbour marks the 5km point from the train station and the path crosses back over to the south, between the old Bridge and the new R390 road bridge. This is also the end of the tarmac surface at least for now. This is a pretty nice spot, relatively small but there are some picnic tables and plenty of parking spaces.

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The surface changes back to packed aggregate but its still pretty high quality. Not smooth enough for roller blades but fine for most bikes. This next section is pretty scenic and was practically perfect on my walk. Blue skies and not a ripple to be seen on the water for a kilometre or two.1-DSC_02582-DSC_0260

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I never noticed the 56 mile marker, possibly it’s not there, but the 57 mile one is in pretty good nick.

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Next up is the loop back of the R392 and another new road bridge beside the old Shandonagh bridge.

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Just over the Shandonagh Bridge there is a really pretty farm house with amazing daffodils and a really interesting set of repurposed old CIE rail cars that are now doing a damn fine job as garden sheds.

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The final part of this section comes up at Coolnahey Harbour with the 26th Lock and Dolan Bridge. This marks the start of a falling section after nothing but rises over the 95km or so the canal has covered since it left Spencer dock on the Liffey.

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The 27th Lock at Balleagny is only a few hundred meters later so I decided to continue on just a little way and anyway I saw these and wanted to get a closer look at the donkey and some very small horses that were just hanging around on the canal. Can’t say I blame them.

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At this point I turned around and headed back. With the blistered foot my plans for a 150km long weekend had to be shelved but in the end I covered just over 130km which is 32km or 20miles per day. On the trip back I came across a very cool couple in their 70’s who were hiking and camping their way along the canal along with their two dogs and a bloke about my age who was about a third of the way into a west to east walk fairly similar to my own, only he was being smart and using public transport to get him to his starting point and then walking  back to a hub.

I’ve still got 14km or so to go to get to the Longford border but this weekend took me to just shy of 100km from the start along the Royal Canal. Happy enough with that.

And there will be no more bad Star Wars jokes.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Hi Joe lovely blog- a group of us are planning to walk from dub to leitrim on the royal canal Aug bank however I can't find your other posts of the walk only this section can you send a link please thanks
lucy

Joe Mansfield said...

I noticed that blogger isn't great at navigation and search a while back and put together this other post Walking the royal Canal that provides a set of links to all of them.

There have been upgrades in a few spots since I wrote this but the two most troublesome spots are probably still the Deep Sinking near Clonsilla and the stretch from Kilcock to Enfield. Both are perfectly fine for walking but it would be trickier on bikes.