A beautiful new 30km Greenway from Navan to Kingscourt
By Ed Moynihan, Navan Cycling Initiative
The new Boyne Valley to Lakelands Greenway (BVL Greenway) has the potential to be one of the best. Not to be confused with its close relation the Boyne Greenway (see more here), it begins in Navan, Co Meath and the heart of the Boyne Valley, and flows north to Co Cavan and the historic town of Kingscourt. It follows the route of the old railway line and along its winding journey passes through the villages of Wilkinstown, Castletown, Nobber and Kilmainhamwood before ending in Kingscourt, not far from Dun A Rí Forest Park.
The BVL Greenway is currently in several stages of development. Work has been completed for a number of years in areas such as Nobber and Castletown, while work is progressing in other sections. In Navan, the starting point for the greenway, we were delighted to see work on it finally completed in early 2023. Funding for this Navan-Wilkinstown section was secured in 2019, but the project was held up at the Navan end on Ratholdren Road for a number of years due to ongoing works by Tara Mines, who were installing underground pipes as part of the ongoing work. Councillor Eugene Cassidy, the man who first proposed the greenway to the local council, has been the main driving force in overcoming these obstacles and getting it delivered. Meanwhile, work has recently been completed on the Wilkinstown-Castletown section (funded by ORIS 2021), while work on the Nobber-Kingscourt (funded by TII) is progressing well. We hope to see the full route open soon in 2024.
The greenway currently begins at the old railway line on the Ratholdren Road in Navan (see map below). It should be noted that the official plans of the greenway have it starting just outside Blackwater Park, but work is yet to begin to join the park to the rail-line further up the road. Heading north from Navan, it passes the old Gibbstown station, close to Kilberry and a local favourite, Scanlons Pub and Restaurant, which has recently been renovated, to offer cyclists an ideal resting spot. There are also plans proposed by the Kilberry Amenity and Heritage Group to construct a new path on the R163 from the greenway to the Kilberry Pub & Kitchen.
The greenway then heads for the charming village of Wilkinstown, where you will discover the fantastic new Greenway Services Hub. Constructed by Mace Wilkinstown, the hub is a cyclist’s paradise, with everything you need from sheltered picnic areas, tables and benches, bike repair stations, e-bike charging stations, toilets, dozens of bike stands, as well as some well earned coffee and treats in the nearby shop. After the hub, the greenway continues for a short distance to Castletown, where a fabulous new cycleway steel and timber bridge has been installed over the N52 road. There are also plans underway for a realignment of the N52, which will create an additional crossing (see more information here).
The fantastic new Greenway Services Hub at Wilkinstown.
Shortly after the N52, the greenway passes by popular gastropub Cross Guns, which is sure to be popular pitstop, and is connected to the greenway with a new path. It then runs on to Nobber, with a lovely route running behind the village alongside the GAA pitch and the old church. Since the greenway opened in Nobber, the village has received a huge boost with businesses thriving and lots of people visiting the area, with The Greenways Cafe and the Kick Ass Cafe just two new spots to open in recent times. From Nobber, it passes by Whitewood Lake, which has the potential to be the must see destination on the entire greenway. Whitewood Lake is the home of Ireland’s own Loch Ness Monster, with this report from the archives of RTE sure to be of interest. At Kingscourt, the greenway ends at the site of the old Kingscourt Railway Station, with plans to link up cycling facilities to the beautiful Dun A Rí Forest Park, creating a great loop through the town back to the greenway.
It should be also pointed out that each community along the route has the ability to create their own local loops off the main greenway that will make their own unique attractions and amenities more widely accessible. Slí Na hOibrè, the Nobber loop, has proved a great hit with the locals, while in Castletown, the vast benefits to the local community has gained national coverage. There are also plans for a new Mens Shed and cafe in Castletown, close to the greenway, as well as lots of exciting plans yet to unveiled in Navan. Paths, gates, benches, signage and road surfaces are also improved in villages and areas around greenways, making them a more attractive place to live.
There is often criticism of greenways on old railway lines, with people saying active train lines are needed more, yet if anything the routes and the ability to restore them are preserved. If not for greenways, the land could be sold for development or rezoned, meaning the old railway lines would be gone forever, but greenways like this preserve the route and the history of those lines. And they could, potentially, go back in if the demand was there. Greenways also help to rejuvenate communities and small towns by creating new businesses like bike hire, cafes, restaurants and guesthouses. A 2014 feasibility study, carried out by Kieran Boyle Consulting, found that the BVLC Greenway has the potential to attract 150,000 visitors annually who will bring an estimated spend of €6 million to the local economy.
Out and about on a busy greenway during a Bike Week event organised by Navan Cycling Initiative
Plans for this fantastic greenway are ever-evolving. What started out as proposal by Eugene Cassidy to bring the railway back to life has turned into something much bigger. Recently, a key development for the future of the greenway saw Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), the state body responsible for the development of greenways, committing to allocate funding for it. What this means is that the BVLC Greenway is now recognised as part of a national greenway network – as outlined in the Strategy for the Future Development of National and Regional Greenways – alongside the likes of the Boyne Greenway, the Royal Canal Greenway and the Waterford Greenway.
This is not the only good news for the future of the greenway, as plans are already underway to extend it even further as far as Carrickmacross and Inniskeen in Co Monaghan and on to Dundalk in Co Louth, following the old Great Northern Railway’s Irish North West line. At Dundalk, it could link up with the Great Eastern Greenway (incorporating the Carlingford Greenway), linking Dublin to Belfast. A Scoping Study on the Carrickmacross-Dundalk line has as already been completed by Monaghan County Council.
At the other end, the BVLC Greenway is planned to currently end on Ratholdren Road, but a new proposal could see it continue further south and over the River Blackwater on the old railway line to come out on the Kells Road. This would make it more accessible to the centre of Navan and enable links to the Boyne Greenway on the other side of the town, providing safe cycling infrastructure is put in place through the busy town roads.
This greenway will be a wonderful asset for the people of Meath, Cavan, and beyond, and we can’t wait until it is all finished. There is a lot of excitement and anticipation out there to have it all done, and we have had lots of messages and seen lots of people talking about it. Exciting times ahead!
Cllr Eugene Cassidy, a strong supporter of the Greenway since 2011 and the main driving force to getting delivered; and on the right: an aerial shot of Nobber (photo credit Oliver Daly)
Check back on this page to stay up to date on the latest on the Boyne Valley to Lakelands County Greenway, or follow us on social media. You can also sign up to our mailing list below.
Featured image credit at top of page: Oliver Daly