Grand Canal Way
The Grand Canal was designed to connect Dublin, Ireland's capital city westwards through the midlands with the River Shannon, and although construction work began in 1757, the waterway was not completed as far as the Shannon until 1804. It closed to commercial traffic in 1951, but in recent decades the canal has been restored for amenity use, and is well-frequented by pleasure craft of all kinds. The Grand Canal Way follows pleasant grassy towpaths, gravel and sometimes tarmac canal-side roads from Lucan Bridge near Adamstown in County Dublin 124km to Shannon Harbour on Ireland's longest river. The route is an informal linear park punctuated by the locks that characterise canal technology, carefully restored surviving lock-keepers cottages, and the towns and villages whose existence is owed to the trade and commerce the canal brought in the 18th and 19th centuries. Much of the landscape through which the route passes has been untouched by modern agriculture and remains a linear oasis for the flora and fauna that was originally common throughout our countryside. The many towns and villages along the way provide walkers with accommodation possibilities along the route, and as public transport options are good, these places can act as starting and finishing points for those who want to sample only sections of the route.
Maps and other information
Floor 2 Block C,
At Start - limited space - do not to get locked in behind barrier at end of road beside Engineering firm
At End - space at Griffith Bridge and also at 36th Lock
31 kms or 26% of the Way follows local roads. There may be issues with waymarking at some points along the trail.
***Dogs under effective control allowed. Please clean up after your dog***
Guide to the Grand Canal of Ireland - Waterways Ireland & Inland Waterways Association of Ireland
At Start: Bus to Shopping Centre in Lucan (about 2km off Way) and also to Milltown (about 1.5 km off Way) - Check timetables at Dublin Bus/.
At End: Limited bus service to Dublin (Monday to Friday only). Check timetables at Bus Eireann.
Brian from Ireland
Day 1: to Robertstown
Day 2: to Tullamore
Day 3: to Birr (via Shannon Harbour of course!)
As only sections are a proper cycleway, it can get tough depending on the bumps and length of grass etc. Our hybrid bikes were well able for it.
We used Google Maps at the bridges to check which is the best path to go on. There were some sections under construction but not a huge amount, some stretches were very remote.
We did the Royal Canal in 2 days and felt the extra day for this trip was perfect.
I'd recommend it and although it would be great to have a finished greenway, it was nice working some of it out as we went along, more of an adventure!
AJ from Dublin
It's a flat trail, which makes it easy for any age, but the variety of terrain makes it difficult to do in its entirety over 2 days. We ended up coming off the trail three times for breaks from the bumps and gravel. The first was to give our arms a break with some pavement between Lowtown and Allenwood. Then between Ticknevin Bridge (Green Road) and George's Bridge (St. Mary's Road) per the advice of bikers coming from that direction, who said it's under construction and quite difficult. It gave us a chance to go into Edenderry for snacks. Finally, between Rhode Bridge and Watertown, which has a decent sized hill on the sometimes busy R402.
The lack of accommodation during the pandemic made it hard as well. We had to get all the way to Ballycommon House 8 kms short of Tullamore if we wanted to get past half way on day 1. And then the pub was closed.
Day 2 was much easier and shorter, so we had time to stroll around Tullamore town for breakfast, and take more breaks along the way. It was very nice to pull into Shannon Harbour near lunchtime but, again with Covid, there wasn't much open.
For accommodation and lunch, we headed up to Shannon Bridge. Although it didn't have much open either, except a Gala shop and SuperMacs. Pubs were re-opening the next day, so there was a good vibe in the air.
The final day had us cycling 25kms to Athlone, where we enjoyed a brunch, pints, and a train trip back to Dublin.
In conclusion, if it were a paved trail, everyone would be doing it, and it wouldn't have been as peaceful. Next time, I'll be taking a better bike with some suspension.
NOTE FROM WATERWAYS IRELAND:
The Grand Canal Way has been a much-loved long distance waymarked trail for walking, and is only now being upgraded for shared use as a Greenway. Certain sections therefore may be unsuitable for cycling. The current status of development works can be found at https://www.waterwaysireland.org/Pages/Development-of-the-Grand-Canal-Greenway.aspx
Helen from Offaly
Paul from Dublin
I followed the maps on this website, and while more detail would be beneficial, they were useful to have. It seemed to take us about 50mins per map. The terrain for the most part is very good, predominantly tarmacked track, but in parts (about 30%) it is just fairly rough grass track. Having said that it was possible to cycle all of it. The Grand Canal Way pathway is mainly on the north bank of the canal, but you do need to pay attention at bridges and follow the signs as it does shift to the south bank quite a few times (eg. approaching Robertstown). At times there are no signs at all, at others they are aimed at walkers rather than cyclists – where we’d often have been better taking the other, tracked, bank.
Day 1 took us from Sallins Co. Kildare to Tullamore (70kms). It follows a lovely path through beautifully isolated countryside. We stopped for a lovely lunch in Larkin’s Pub in Edenderry. But beware: the canal bank for kilometres either side of the town is long grass and is draining. We cycled on to Daingean and had a pint Seery’s Pub. We stayed in Tullamore at the end of six and a half hours’ cycling. We stayed in Court Hotel, Tullamore which is just a couple of hundred metres from the canal. The pool here was very welcome, and our bikes were locked securely in the hotel overnight - €65 pps.
Day 2 saw us leave Tullamore and head for Shannon Harbour (45kms). The track either side of Tullamore is suberb. It was easy going as far as Pollagh. Thereafter there’s a three-kilometre stretch where the terrain is long grass, before it gives away – thankfully – to pathway again. The final stretch into Shannon Harbour is lovely with some beautifully kept locks.
Day 2 took us about three hours. We then headed northwards to get the train from Athlone to Dublin (a 90 minute cycle). Overall it was well worth doing. It’s a pity that it not getting the same investment as the Royal Canal. It could be a greater asset to tourism with some upkeep, signage and marketing. Whether you do it on your own or with friends you’ll really enjoy it.
Martin from Waterford
Would highly recommend the trip, soft going in places, had to lift bikes over gates, fences etc. & with panniers on board you need a helping hand. MTB is the way to go, although suspension not really required. 2 punctures from pinching on heavy gravel. Most of the trip spent on right hand side going West, but at Pullough (nice place for a pint) we switched to the left for the remainder. Some paths under repair & really unfit for hiking which made the trip all the more challenging. It's a summer spin, we got lucky with a blue sky day in October, weren't so lucky the following day.........
Helen from Offaly