Royal Canal Greenway
Maynooth – Enfield – Mullingar – Longford – Cloondara
Royal Canal Greenway
The Royal Canal Greenway, at 130Km will be the longest off-road Greenway in Ireland when completed. Most of the works are now completed and the greenway is due to launch on the 24th of March 2021. The Greenway runs along the towpath of the Royal Canal which was constructed between Dublin and Longford at the turn of the 18th century to connect the River Liffey to the River Shannon. To date, Waterways Ireland have developed the Greenways for recreation purposes between Maynooth in Co. Kildare to Longford Town and Cloondara. The Greenway passes through counties Kildare, Meath, Westmeath and Longford.
Video by Waterways Ireland
The Royal Canal Way follows grassy towpaths, gravel and sometimes tarmac canal-side roads from the Dublin suburb of Ashtown and runs 105 kilometres to the village of Cloondara in County Longford. Some sections of towpath can be muddy and lack signage but work is underway by the relevant local authorities to upgrade all sections of the route.
There is a good range of options for overnight accommodation along most of the route, however it is relatively easy to walk some sections and return to your starting point by public transport. Apart from the wonderful unspoilt stretches of the countryside that the route provides, there are a number of significant examples of late 18th century industrial heritage buildings to enjoy along the way.
At Mullingar, County Westmeath, the Royal Canal Greenway meets the Old Rail Trail which then runs in a south westerly direction to Athlone. Plans to further develop this Greenway as far as Galway are well advanced and when completed will form part of the EuroVelo network of long-distance cycling routes in Europe which will extend from Galway to Moscow!
About The Royal Canal Greenway
Work began on the construction of the 146km long Royal Canal in 1790. Constructed to connect the River Liffey in Ireland’s capital city, Dublin, with the upper River Shannon, the canal was completed in 1817. It operated in competition with the Grand Canal which ran on an almost parallel route never more than 30km to the south. Both canals were made redundant by the advent of the railways in the mid-19th century. By the 1950s the Royal Canal had fallen into disrepair and was officially closed to all navigation in 1961, much of it has been restored for amenity purposes in recent decades and was reopened to navigation in 2010.
The towpath is now designated as a national way-marked way – The Royal Canal Way. Along its route there are bridges which are over 200 years old and buildings in Abbeyshrule that are over 800 years old. Some superstitions along the canal have also survived – the 13th Lock for example, is reputed to be haunted – the old boatmen would never moor there overnight. Angling is popular activity along the canal, with roach proving to be one of the most popular fish, along with pike, tench and bream.
Royal Canal Greenway - Dublin
While two short stretches have been completed in Dublin, the majority of the Dublin section of the Greenway (which is located on Dublin’s north side) is either at planning or construction stage and are dues to be completed by 2021.
- A 0.5km section between Guild Street and Upper Sheriff Street has been completed.
- A 2.5km stretch has been completed between Ashtown (Lock No.10) and Castleknock (Lock No.12).
For updates on the development of the Royal Canal Greenway visit: https://www.waterwaysireland.org/royalcanalstatus
Royal Canal Greenway - Kildare
Maynooth is the starting point for the Royal Canal Greenway.
Royal Canal Greenway - Meath
Approximately 22km of the Royal Canal Greenway runs through County Meath, with the main access points at Enfield, Longwood and the Hill of Down. Meath County Council have recently installed storyboard signage at these points which provide information on the natural and cultural heritage of the areas.
Situated on the main Dublin to Sligo rail line, and with hotels, self-catering and B&B’s available, Enfield is a lovely location to overnight on your Royal Canal Adventure. In Irish the town is known as An Bóthar Buí (the yellow road) which came about due to the cattle markets that were traditionally held in the town. This often left the main street of the village covered in yellow hay. The historic River Boyne enters County Meath near Longwood, where you can also connect with the Boyne Blueway Trim.
There are some great aqueducts along the rural section of Greenway between Enfield and the historic university town of Maynooth. The quiet section of Greenway between Enfield and Longwood is ideal for those looking to immerse themselves in nature.
Royal Canal Greenway - Westmeath
The Royal Canal Greenway is well-developed and stretches for 46km through County Westmeath, all the way from the border with County Meath in the east, to the border of County Longford in the west of the county. A 4km Loch Owel spur runs northwards from the Royal Canal Greenway at Mullingar to the picturesque banks of Loch Owel. From Mullingar, you can also access the Old Rail Trail which runs along the route of an old rail track between Mullingar and Athlone. Plans are well underway to continue the Old Rail Trail as far as Galway – creating a direct off road route between Dublin and Galway!
Located at the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East just 79km from Dublin, the busy market town of Mullingar in County Westmeath is the ideal location to base yourself for a day or weekend exploring the Royal Canal Greenway. Boasting excellent facilities, award-winning hotels, guest-houses and activities to suit every age, you will be spoilt for choice during your visit. The Royal Canal Greenway can be explored in either direction from Mullingar.
Unique to this section of Greenway is the 22km Royal Canal Blueway. Starting in Mullingar Harbour, the Royal Canal’s Blueway trail travels 12km east to McNeads Bridge and 11km west to Coolnahay Harbour. This paddling trail is ideal for experiencing what it’s like to take to the water itself! Located in Mullingar Harbour, the Blueway Activity Zone is the ideal location to hire a bike from Mullingar Bike Hire or begin your on-water Blueway Adventure. The activity Zone also offers parking, toilets, showers and changing facilities. www.bluewaysireland.org
There’s a lot to explore on your journey east from Mullingar towards Killucan. This section of Greenway takes you through open countryside. Bike hire is available at weekends and can be pre-booked for your return journey from Mullingar Bike Hire’s mobile unit located at McNead’s Bridge.
Travelling west from Mullingar brings you towards Coolnahay Harbour and Ballynacarrigy. The ideal place to stop and enjoy a picnic, spend some time in Coolnahay exploring the quaint historic lock-keepers cottage and watching boats pass through the lock.
|Access Point||Distance from Meath Border|
|D’Arcy’s Bridge, Hyde Park, Killucan||3km|
|Riverstown Bridge, Killucan Station||6.5km|
|Footy’s Bridge, Porterstown, Killucan||8km|
|McKnead’s Bridge, Coralstown||10km|
|The Downs Bridge (Mullingar Pewter), The Downs||13km|
|Baltrasna Bridge, Marlinstown, Mullingar||17km|
|Piper’s Boreen, Millmount, Mullingar||20km|
|Dublin Bridge, Mullingar||21km|
|Harbour Bridge, Harbour St., Mullingar||22km|
|Green Bridge, Dominick St., Mullingar||22.5km|
|Kilpatrick Bridge, Kilpatrick, Mullingar||26km|
|Belmount Bridge, Belmount, Mullingar||28km|
|Ballinea Bridge, Ballinea, Mullingar||28km|
|Shandonagh Bridge, Shandonagh, Mullingar||30km|
|Coolnahay Harbour, Coolnahay||32km|
|Ballynacargy Bridge & Harbour||40km|
Suggested Routes along the Royal Canal Greenway in Co Westmeath
- Mullingar to Coolnahay Harbour (11km)
- Ballynacargy to Abbeyshrule (7km)
- Mullingar to The Downs (9km)
- Coolnahay to Ballynacargy (8km)
- Mullingar to Abbeyshrule (25km)
- Mullingar to Meath Boundry (22km)
- Meath Boundary to Abbeyshrule (47km)
- Mullingar to Ballynacargy (18km)
Royal Canal Greenway - Longford
The Royal Canal Greenway firstly travels in a westerly direction from the border with County Westmeath through County Longford – from Abbeyshrule to Ballymahon. The route then takes a sharp turn in a northerly direction up through the county to the harbour village of Cloondara located on the banks of the River Shannon and on the border with County Roscommon. At Cloonsheerin Bridge (8km before you reach Cloondara) there’s an option to take the 8km spur to Longford town. This completely flat route provides an excellent way to enjoy some of Longford’s unspoilt landscape
One of the biggest towns along the Royal Canal Greenway, Longford offers lots of great accommodation options and places to eat and drink after a busy day walking or cycling along the Greenway. Located 122km from Dublin and 91km from Sligo, Longford lies on the Dublin to Sligo line of the Irish railway network so is easily accessed by train or by car. A great place to stop along this section of trail is the Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre located close to the Greenway at Keenagh.
The Greenway can be accessed in County Longford at:
- Longford Town
Bike-hire & Tours
Royal Canal Bike Hire
Royal Canal Bike Hire offers bike-hire, ‘bike & barge’ day trips as well as multi-day cycling holidays. Their experienced team have designed tours to cater for all ages and abilities through the towns, villages, countryside and wildlife of Ireland’s Ancient East and Hidden Heartlands.
Mullingar Bike Hire
Mullingar Bike Hire has bikes and accessories to suit all ages and fitness levels – hybrids, electric bikes, road bikes, kids bikes, fun tandems, trailers and child seats. With an extensive fleet of new alloy bikes, they cater for all families , work groups and hen parties. They have direct access to the Royal Canal Greenway and Old Rail Trail Greenway and offer free parking on site, toilets and showers, helmets and hi-vis jackets, locks are also supplied with detailed maps of the local Greenways.
Outdoor Escape Mullingar
Outdoor Escape Mullingar is located within 100m of the Royal Canal Greenway, the Old Rail Trail, the Westmeath Way, and other cycle routes.
Cycletours Ireland offer a five-day Midlands Historical Bicycle Tour which starts from €850 and covers approx 80km. The tours takes in the 2,000 year-old bog road and museum at Corlea Trackway, the1840s Famine Walk on the Royal Canal, a visit Strokestown Park House and National Famine Museum and Gardens and a visit to a 13th century Norman castle. The tour includes 5 nights accommodation with breakfast and evening meals, luggage transfers, bikes and helmets with guide.
Tel: 353 85 112 5411
Royal Canal Greenway FAQ
How much of the Greenway can I do in one day?
Please have a look at the section breakdowns above to gauge how much/ many sections of the Greenway a typical user could do in one day.
Where can I rent a bike to do the Greenway?
There are numerous outlets renting bikes along the Greenway – See the Bike-hire and Tours section above.
I haven’t cycled a bike in years, can I still do the trail?
Yes! The trail is mostly very flat and easy to cycle, so is manageable for anyone who is reasonably fit and healthy.
Can I do the trail with young kids?
Yes! Kids can do the Trail on their own bikes, in a child-seat, in a tow-along or on an adult/ child tandem which most bike rental outfits should be able to provide.
Should I use an electric bike?
Electric bikes will add about 30% extra power to your cycle so will certainly make the journey faster and more comfortable! Please note that the pedals on an electric bike still need to be peddled so is not suitable for users with problematic knees.
Can I rent an electric scooter for trail?
Electric scooters are not regulated in Ireland currently so they are not available to hire.
Rules of the Greenway
- Do not enter adjoining farmland
- Respect the habitat that is the Greenway and its flora & fauna
- Do not litter the trail – take home your litter
- Keep Dogs on leads (scoop the poop)
- Cyclists should wear a helmetHigh-Vis jacket/ top is recommended – “be safe be seen”
- Take special care at junctions
- Cyclists should give clear hand signals and use bell
- Walkers be aware that cyclists may be approaching from behind
- In case of emergency dial 999 or Mullingar Garda Station (044) 9384000
- Royal Canal Greenway employs the Leave No Trace Principles – http://www.leavenotraceireland.org
Main towns of the Royal Canal Greenway
Dublin – Ireland’s vibrant capital, is located at the mouth of the River Liffey on the country’s east coast. From medieval churches to the Georgian quarter, Dublin has a host of architectural gems from every important period in history. The city is steeped in history which dates back over 1,000 years so history buffs will have plenty to explore. Once the second city of the British Empire, Dublin has always maintained a pretty cosmopolitan outlook. In the last three decades the city has embraced diversity and multiculturalism – a trend which can be seen in the city’s style, its people and its restaurants.
For more on Dublin visit: https://visitdublin.com
Located 24 kilometres west of central Dublin, bustling Maynooth is dominated by the local campus of the National University of Ireland (NUIM), whose students make up nearly a half of its population during term-time and who add a liveliness to this country town lined with stone-fronted houses, shops and lively bars. Although a small town, Maynooth has a quite a grand history. For hundreds of years it was the home of the Fitzgerald family – the Dukes of Leinster who were the centre of power in Ireland for centuries and built local landmarks Maynooth Castle and Carton House. Maynooth is the commercial heart of north Kildare, with a number of big outlets offering lots of retail options.
Famous for its musical heritage, ancient myths and legends and its surrounding lakes, Mullingar offers great shopping, accommodation and outdoor experiences. Some of the town’s best attractions include the 18th century Belvedere House, Gardens & Park on the shores of Lough Ennell and the impressive, Renaissance-style Cathedral of Christ the King with its famed mosaics. The three lakes of Lough Owel, Lough Derravaragh and Lough Ennell offer plenty of opportunity for water-sports. A thrilling day’s racing can be enjoyed at Kilbeggan Racecourse close by, where you can also enjoy a trip to the world’s oldest licensed distillery!
For more on Mullingar see: (link to Mullingar section Old Rail Trail page)
Longford is a friendly, bustling town with excellent restaurants, pubs, boutiques and shopping opportunities. Explore the modern side of Longford at the local theatre where culture lovers flock to see top class musicians, comedians and dramatic performances. The town is full of history and has a thriving arts scene.Walk the bustling streets of Longford and visit the towering St Mel’s Cathedral and its incredible stained glass windows. Use the town as a launchpad to explore some of the best preserved dolmens in the country.
Attractions Along the Route
Belvedere House is situated within an abundant 160-acre lakeside estate just 5km south of Mullingar on the N52. The estate comprises the fully restored Georgian house itself, a Victorian walled garden and an 18th century designed parkland punctuated with Romantic follies, including the largest in Ireland – the Jealous Wall. The house was built in the 1740s for the first Earl of Belvedere, the so-called “Wicked Earl” who falsely accused his wife Mary of having an affair with his brother Arthur and imprisoned her for the next 31 years at a nearby dwelling. The house itself, which commands beautiful views of Lough Ennell, has been painstakingly restored and authentically refurbished by Westmeath County Council. It holds some gorgeous fireplaces of carved Irish oak with Italian marble insets, but is most notable for the exquisite craftsmanship of its Rococo stucco ceilings.
Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre
Hidden away in the boglands of Longford, not far from Kenagh village, is an inspiring relic of prehistory – a togher – an Iron Age road built in 148 BC. Known locally as the Danes’ Road, it is the largest of its kind to be uncovered in Europe. Historians agree that it was part of a routeway of great importance. It may have been a section of a ceremonial highway connecting the Hill of Uisneach, the ritual centre of Ireland, and the royal site of Rathcroghan. Inside the interpretive centre, an 18-metre stretch of the ancient wooden structure is on permanent display in a hall specially designed to preserve it. Don’t miss this amazing remnant of our ancient past.
The Old Rail Trail
The Royal Canal Greenway meets the Old Rail Trail at Newbrook, Mulingar and travels south towards the bustling town of Athlone. Between these two towns, you will hear nothing but birdsong and the whirr of the spokes on your bike as you lose yourself along the spectacular 42km cycle path. A converted stretch of the Midlands Great Western Railway carved through rich fertile farmland, the Old Rail Trail Greenway leads visitors through the very heart of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. The route traces the historic Midlands Great Western Railway track, past restored station houses and under pretty stone arched bridges. Linking the mighty River Shannon in Athlone with the Royal Canal in Mullingar, it passes through areas of unique biodiversity and heritage along the way.
Mullingar Blueway Trail & Activity Zone
Unique to this section of Greenway is the 22km Royal Canal Blueway, developed by Waterways Ireland in 2018 with support from Westmeath County Council. The perfect addition to your Greenway journey, this paddling trail is ideal for experiencing what it’s like to take to the water itself! Located in Mullingar Harbour, the Blueway Activity Zone is the ideal location to hire a bike from Mullingar Bike Hire or begin your on-water Blueway Adventure. The Activity Zone offers toilets, parking, showers and changing facilities. www.bluewaysireland.org
National Famine Way
Along the Royal Canal Greenway you’ll discover the National Famine Way, a waymarked 167km walking trail which marks the poignant ill-fated story of assisted emigration in Ireland during the Famine in 1847 when 1,490 poor and hungry tenants were forced to walk the 165km from the Strokestown Park Estate, County Roscommon to Custom House Quay in Dublin. They travelled onward to Liverpool and almost a third of them perished crossing the Atlantic in “coffin ships” bound for Canada.
Hill of Uisneach
As Ireland’s mythological and sacred centre, the Hill of Uisneach captivates visitors with its remarkable collection of prehistoric and medieval earthworks and monuments. A short 6km diversion from Castletown Railway Station will take you there. Guided tours are available daily by passionate locals. The Hill of Uisneach is on private land so tours must be booked in advance. www.uisneach.ie
Other Useful Websites
- Royal Grand Canal official website (coming soon)
- Galway to Dublin Greenway:
- Eurovelo Routes
- Newcastle Woods to the Royal Canal Greenway
- Royal Canal Greenway, Westmeath – brochure
- Review of Athlone to Maynooth route
- Royal Canal Greenway, Meath – brochure
- Tracks & Trails TV programme – Mullingar to Longford route