Soon be known as the Dublin to Galway Greenway
The Royal Canal Greenway is 130km of level towpath passing through the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East to the Hidden Heartlands, taking in the counties of Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Westmeath and Longford. Starting from the completed route from Maynooth (over 100km in total) – with sections still under various states of development in Dublin – it runs west toward Athlone or Longford Town, depending on what branch you take.
The route is planned to eventually become part of the Dublin to Galway Greenway, a very ambitious and exciting ‘coast-to-coast’ greenway. It is seen as being the ‘centrepiece’ of the Government’s National Greenway Strategy, with having lots of other greenways and popular cycling routes linking up with it. The Dublin to Galway Greenway will also become the western section of EuroVelo EV2 Capitals Route, a whopping 5,000km cycling route connecting Galway, Dublin, London, Berlin, Warsaw, Minsk and Moscow. Who’s up for Galway to Moscow in one trip? Pack the sambos!
In Dublin, the Royal Canal Greenway starts in the busy Dublin Docklands at the River Liffey, where the newest section was recently opened, which included a new bridge over the railway tracks near North Strand (see pic below). There are several more phases in Dublin which are at various levels of construction or feasibility stages, with a final section near Castleknock still some way off being completed. From Maynooth on, the route is complete the rest of the way.
For a more detailed kilometre-by-kilometre report of the route from Athlone to Maynooth, see IrishCycle.com’s blog HERE
The Royal Canal in Meath
Approximately 22km of the Greenway is set in County Meath. There are access points located at Enfield, Longwood and Hill of Down, so you will be spoilt for choice if starting off in the Royal County. Storyboards and map-boards at the access points will help you to choose what direction to take, with lots of sites to see as well seating areas for you to pause and enjoy your surroundings.
In Enfield, a rapidly expanding town thanks in large part to the presence of the greenway and railway line, the charming industrial heritage is showcased by the nearby the railway station, signage and signal boxes, still in use today. The Enfield Royal Canal Leisure Park and the boating centre also offer a nice attraction. A few kilometres up stream the Blackwater Aqueduct carries the canal over the Blackwater River. Further on at the Hill of Down, you may even spot a barge or two before you travel onwards to Killucan.
With a bit of county hopping from Meath to Kildare and back to Meath again, the canal continues into Westmeath toward Mullingar, and a few kilometres past the town the route splits between continuing along the canal itself toward Longford Town and the River Shannon, or by taking the ‘Old Rail Trail’ toward Athlone, which is the planned continuation of the Dublin to Galway Greenway.
The final section, known as the Galway to Athlone Cycleway, went to public consultation in 2021, with lots of areas all contesting to be part of the route! Greenways are big business. They offer a lot more than just a cycling and walking route to the towns and regions they pass through. They offer huge tourism and economic benefits to areas, so deciding the right route will be important. After four rounds of public consultation, a report will be published outlining what feedback was received to decide the final route, but early reports suggest that ‘Red Route 5’ – heading to Shannon Bridge, Portumna, Gort, Kinvara, Clarinbridge, and Oranmore – is the likely route. You can see the plans in full here.
The potential of the Dublin-Galway Greenway, incorporating the Royal Canal Greenway, is huge, not only in terms of being a 270km off road, quality greenway in itself (the longest in Ireland), but also in terms on linking up the East coast (Dublin) to the West coast (Galway), with all the areas in between. There will be so much to see and do along the route, cyclists will be spoilt for choice with different routes to plan, places to stay and sites to see.
In county Meath, the full length of the planned Boyne Greenway runs all the way to Trim, with plans to then connect it up to the Royal Canal at Longwood. This could have huge potential for the region. By connecting the Boyne and Dublin-Galway Greenways, it will open up the option of off-road cycling routes from the likes of Trim and Navan and the wider Boyne Valley region to either Dublin or Galway. Get planning now, because the possibilities will be endless!
The official launch of the Royal Canal Greenway by Waterways Ireland took place in March 2021. See more information here, or check out the promotional video below.
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