Royal Canal Way

County Dublin
36 reviews
Grade Easy
Length 146.3 km
Am 6 days
Format Linear
Ascent Minimal m
Dogs Allowed Under effective control
Waymarking Yellow arrow on black background
Start Point
First Lock
Finish Point
Nearest Town to Start Dublin
Grid Ref. O 168 356 / N 063 757
Lat. and Long. 53.35712, -6.24501 / 53.73118, -7.90495

Work began on the construction of the 146 km long Royal Canal, to connect Ireland's capital city, Dublin, with the upper River Shannon in 1790, and the canal was completed in 1817. It operated in competition with the Grand Canal which ran an almost parallel route never more than 30 km to the south, and with the Grand, was made redundant by the advent of the railways in the mid-19th century. The canal was officially closed to all navigation in 1961, but like the Grand Canal, much of the Royal has been restored in recent decades, and the Royal Canal Way currently follows grassy towpaths, gravel and sometimes tarmac canal-side roads from the Dublin suburb of Ashtown 105 kilometres to the village of Abbeyshrule in County Longford. Some sections of tow path can be muddy. Further restoration will take the navigable canal and the walking route all the way to the Shannon. There is a good range of options for overnight accommodation along most of the route: it is, however, relatively easy to walk some sections and return to your starting point by public transport. Apart from the glorious, linear cordon of unspoilt countryside the route provides, there are a number of significant examples of late-eighteenth century industrial archaeology to admire along the way, including the Ryewater Aquaduct which takes the canal high over the Rye river, and which took six years to build.

Trail Management

Waterways Ireland,
Floor 2 Block C,
Dublin 15
Tel 01-8680148


Car parking
At Start - none
At End - on Street in Cloondara

9 kms or 12% of the Way follows local roads. There may be some waymarking issues at some points along the trail.
***Dogs under effective control allowed. Please clean up after your dog***

Map Guides

Map Guides

Guide to the Royal Canal of Ireland - The Waterways Service & Inland Waterways Association of Ireland.

OSI Maps

OSI Maps

Discovery Series Sheet 40, 41, 48* (*ca 1.3km on canal bank), 49 and 50
Public Transportation

Public Transportation

At Start: Rail Check with: Iarnrod Eireann.
Bus Check With: Dublin Bus.
At End: Good bus service; Check with Bus Eireann.
. Rail Check with: Iarnrod Eireann.

36 trail reviews
Write your own review of this trail

Gerry from Roscommon

Review part 2. I've done the trail from Hill of Down to Kilcock. It's ok, some hard going and in about 5 places I had to lift my bike over locked gates. The food is good at Furey's pub at Moyvalley, also here it is necessary to cross a very busy main road.

Gerry. from Roscommon

I have done this trail in stages from Clondra (+Longford) to Hill of Down (near Kinnegad).The first section is top class. From near Killashee to Abbeyshrule is 50% OK and 50% rough. Parts are tarred or gravel and are fine but quite a bit is long grass weeds or briars. Signage is inconsistent and in some places appears to be on the wrong side. At 1 point near Ballymahon I had to clamber up an embankment and cross a barbed wire fence. The stretch between Ballymahon and Abbeyshrule is essentially just a field and is hard going. From there it's all smiles and jollity again as the rest is a joy. I hope to do the remainder to Dublin soon and will report back.


Eamonn from Monaghan

I cycled the full length of the Royal Canal with 3 friends about 2 years ago. We did the cycle in February when parts of the route were quite wet.

We started where the canal leaves the Shannon River and cycled towards Dublin where we finished on the River Liffey.

We took three days to do the route staying in BnBs in Mullingar and Kilcock along the way.

If you're an avid mountain biker do this trip soon before the towpaths are tarred in the future. There was a wide variety of landscapes and trail types along the canal. Surfaces encountered included tarred lanes, hard pack single track, grass, mud, bog etc...thoroughly enjoyable for a mountain biker.

Parts of the canal pass through very quiet, almost deserted areas where you can't even hear a car for long periods of time.

We did the Grand Canal as well and while it was also a great trip the Royal Canal has a much sleepier and peaceful feel about it. I will do it again sometime.


Martin from Waterford

Cycled the Royal from Leixlip Station to Longford on 3rd October (126km/7.5hrs) a challenge more than a leisure cycle - would recommend a leisurely 2 day cycle to enjoy all that the canal has to offer - stayed in the Longford Arms (nice hotel/good value).

Very impressed with aerobatics of the Abbeyshrule Aerodrome By-planes that "buzzed" me on the Canal.

Cycled Longford to Cloondara the following morning & then back to Leixlip (124km/6.5hrs)

Avoided most of the rough parts on the way home by hitting a few roads as I was under pressure to get back.

Had 2 fine days with the wind against me on the way home.

Condition of paths - going from Leixlip as far as Maynooth was okay, dry dirt track mostly, Kilcock thru Enfield as far as the Westmeath border was rough enough in parts. Westmeath was a pleasure (great paths), even got onto their new Athlone Railtrack Greenway for a couple of kilometres on the way home.

The Longford side of Abbeyshrule was rough enough also in parts, still a couple of nice stretches though. The run into Longford was good & the stretch from Cloondara on the way home was excellent also.

Cycled on sturdy hybrid/ATB with 35mm tyres (no suspension - none needed).

Well worth the trip, but take your time & enjoy.


Patrick & Charlie from Dublin

23rd Sept’05 Day 1

Stayed in Longford Arms Hotel, having got train from Dublin’s Connolly station the previous day. Recommend pre-booking train to secure bike reservation, due to 2 bicycle limit per train.

9.30 start, cycled on Westport Road about 7km to Tarmonbarry to get view of the River Shannon. Eventual start at 11 am from Cloondara, Richmond Harbour -Lock 46.

Surprised by minimal number of walkers and boaters. Cycle proved tough, slow progress, with many sections sodden from recent rain. The final section before the lush tarmacadam cycle path some 5’ish miles before Mullingar (Well done Westmeath Council), was especially difficult, cycling through heavy black boggy mud, whilst trying to steer bike between slippery sided tracks carved out by vehicles. Continuous cycling was only just barely possible.

Stopped at the Rustic Inn in Abbeyshrule. Recommended.

Got to Mullingar at 6.30 and stayed at the Greville Arms Hotel, tired but satisfied. Hotel provided us with a warm welcome.

24th Sept’05 Day 2

9.30 start. Focus was to get to Dublin well before dusk. Cycle path from Mullingar was excellent, tarmacadam reverting to gravel track. Long section before and after Enfield was mostly grassed making it hard to gain momentum. Furey’s pub at Moyvalley provided a refreshing break.

Irritating large number of locked gates, with bikes needing to be stripped of panniers, before getting man hauled over. This became tedious.

Path along Coolmine and Castleknock was narrow, with canal some 20 feet down very steep bank. Great care needed, with exposed slippery tree roots chris-crossing path. Nonetheless a very picturesque section. Next interesting stage was canal aqueduct built in recent years to divert canal over Dublin’s circular M50 motorway.

Canal path after Ashtown, felt progressively less safe, especially beyond Drumcondra and alongside Croke Park when our cycle pace speeded up. Cycle finished where canal meets River Liffey. Finish time was 5pm.

Overall an excellent two days. Great countryside throughout. Even though further distance covered in day 2, day 1 proved harder due to difficult terrain. The variable state of the canal path provided some physical challenge and variety. Final section especially after Drumcondra should be taken with some caution. Safer option to take road direct to end where canal merges with Liffey – alongside the Dublin Convention Centre. Maps provided on this web site were very useful, but it would be helpful if maps included lock numbers.

And yes we would definitely do it again.Note from National Trails Office:Thanks to Patrick and Charlie for the review. We’ve had quite a few reviews from people cycling the Royal Canal, some of whom have mentioned there are sections which are tough going on a bike. This is correct, they are tough because they have not been surfaced or developed for cycling. This also explains why there are still gates on the route, mostly passable when walking but more of a challenge when cycling.  So it is important to point out that the entire route of the Royal Canal Way from Dublin to Cloondara is not yet designated as a cycle way. Some sections have been developed and are totally suitable for cycling, primarily in Westmeath where the tow path has been surfaced from the Meath boundary in the east to the Longford boundary in the west. There are other sections which have had surfacing work completed on the towpath and also sections where the tow path was surfaced many years ago and forms part of a public road. However,  apart from these many sections of the route are not easily cyclable.It is the intention of Waterways Ireland, who manage the canals,  to ultimately have the entire tow path on both the Royal Canal and the Grand Canal surfaced and suitable for cycling from Dublin as far as the River Shannon and when this is completed they will be designated as greenways accommodating both walkers and cyclists.

Liz from Leitrim

We cycled this trail from Dublin to Cloondara over two days. The first day started well leaving Dublin, but after a couple of hours it was really hard going, and just got worse until we reached Enfield. The path was no more than a grassy canal bank, at times the grass was knee high. The bank was rutted and pitted from tractors going over the soft ground. Even more frustrating was the amount of locked gates with no more than a kissing gate at the side. Totally impossible to pass with bikes we had to unclip our panniers and lift the bikes over. About 25kms from Mullingar we hit great cycle paths and flew into town. It had taken us 10 hours with just a short stop for lunch and we were exhausted. The second day to Cloondara was much easier, but still had at least a third of it on very uneven grass banks. We only encountered one locked gate. It was also frustrating as in several stretches the canal had been dredged and the waste was dumped at the side covering most of the track. We both had bikes suitable for this type of terrain, but it was much harder than we had anticipated. Definitely not a cycle way from Dublin to Cloondara as we had been led to believe. However where the cycle path had been properly made it was great and the scenery was lovely. A few signs to tell you of local facilities such as places to eat or to buy supplies would be helpful as you have no way of knowing whether the village you are passing close to can provide refreshments.

Dominic from Dublin

Cycled the new Greenway from Coolnahay Harbour to Abbeyshrule and back (26km). Though work is still in progress on the last few kilometers to the Longford border, Westmeath County Council have done a terrific job with the track. I encountered one locked gate just east of Lock 37, though this might be due to the ongoing (almost completed) works further on. A recommendation for the leisure cyclist for a terrific day out - take your halfway break at the Rustic Inn in Abbeyshrule and finish the day with tea and scones at the Lock House in Coolnahay Harbour on your return.

Peter from Dublin

Me and my friend cycled all 144 km route in 13 hours (with breaks). We also took a morning train from Dublin to Longford. From Longford we cycled 7 km to the point where the River Shannon meets the Royal Canal. During our trip we used a Go Pro camera. Please see the link below if you want to see the movie we made:

Rodd from Dublin

Just finished the trail. It took two days over two weekends this September. We took the train to Longford at 0800 on Saturday, about 7km on road to the trail head where the Royal Canal meets the navigable river that joins the Shannon. About 6km of excellent bike path until the Longford canal spur.The trail then alternates between rough track and no track with short runs on paved local roads until just outside Mullingar where there is a top class bike track (really special this bit).Very tough going, most likely only possible in a dry weather patch.

Except for a section of about 10km outside Enfield and surprisingly around Castleknock, the trail was easy going right up to Croke Park. However the beauty of the section outside Mullingar is in stark contrast to the section outside Dublin.

Nevertheless a great amenity by Waterways Ireland and well worth the effort.

A word of caution: stick to the side that the Royal Canal Way signs direct, although a road on the other side looks good it soon stops and the canal becomes impassable and you must turn back and follow the Canal Way.


Paul from Dublin

Royal Canal Cycle, Aug. 2014

I cycled the Royal Canal Way on my own in August 2014, and it was fantastic. It took me two days’ cycling (150km) and a total of 16 hours in the saddle. I started in Cloondara in Longford and finished behind Croke Park in Dublin. I really enjoyed it and would heartily recommend it. It’s a pity that it’s not utilised more – I met only a few walkers and cyclists. Hopefully the planned work on this will bring out its huge potential.

I followed the maps on this website, and while more detail would be beneficial, they were useful to have. It seemed to take me about 50mins to one hour per map. The terrain for the most part is very good, predominantly tarmacked or a linestone track, but in parts (about 5%) it is just fairly rough track. Having said that it was possible to cycle all of it. The official Royal Canal Way pathway is mainly on the south bank of the canal, but you do need to pay attention at bridges and follow the signs as it does shift to the north bank quite a few times.

I took the train from Dublin to Longford and cycled the short distance to Cloondara, Co. Longford. Day 1 took me from Cloondara and follows a lovely path through beautifully isolated countryside that looks untouched in 200 years. I stopped for lunch in Ballymahon, but a far nicer stop – if you can wait – is the Rustic Inn in Abbeyshrule, Co. Longford. Ballynacarrigy in Co. Westmeath is also a nice little village. I stayed in Mullingar at the end of seven hours cycling. I stayed in Novara House B&B which is just a couple of hundred metres from the eastern loop of the canal around Mullingar ( €40 per night.

Day 2 saw me leave Mullingar. Mary Lynch’s pub and B&B at the Downs outside Mullingar looked very nice. The next stop I made, following a swim in the Boyne aquaduct, was at Moyvalley where I had a beautiful lunch in Furey’s pub – well worth a stop ! After lunch I passed on through Enfield, Kilcock and Leixlip before arriving at the outskirts of Dublin. Oddly it was in Dublin that the route was at its worst – some parts of it are hard to traverse, and steep and a tad dangerous.

Day 2 took me about nine hours – mainly due to some poor terrain. But it didn’t detract from the overall pleasure of the trip. Whether you do it on your own or with friends you’ll really enjoy it.

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