It is often said Navan is an ideal base for touring the historic Boyne Valley, and what better way to see it than by bike?
By Ed Moynihan, Navan Cycling Initiative
At present, the Boyne Greenway begins in Drogheda on the south banks of the River Boyne and continues alongside the river and the Boyne Canal for 4km to the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, located at Oldbridge. It is a wonderful amenity which has attracted a huge amount of visitors to Drogheda, the Battle of the Boyne and the surrounding areas. With the popularity of and need for greenways in Ireland at an all-time high, and the huge success stories of the likes of the Waterford Greenway and the Great Western Greenway, Navan Cycling Initiative firmly believe the Boyne Greenway has the potential to be the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Ireland’s greenway network.
Setting out from St. Dominic’s Park in Drogheda, it flows inland under the huge Mary McAleese Cable Bridge, taking in a riverside boardwalk section, before reaching Oldbridge. Plans for the Boyne Greenway and Navigation Restoration, Drogheda to Navan section, went to Public Consultation Stage 1 early in 2021 (see more details below), and we look forward to seeing those plans progressing throughout the year.
When we talk of the Boyne Greenway, we refer to the full extent of the original plans which first appeared in The National Cycle Network Scoping Study 2010 (and subsequently developed further in the 2013 Greater Dublin Area Cycle Network). In those plans, a greenway from Drogheda to Trim was identified as ‘Corridor 13’ of the National Cycle Network, and was officially called the ‘Drogheda, Navan, Trim Cycleway’. Plans to develop the Greenway in Navan go back even further, however, as does the history of the Navan Ramparts itself. Depending on who you ask, there has been talk of developing the trails along the Boyne for almost 40 years! Local TD Peadar Tóibín brought a motion to Meath County Council to develop the project as far back as 2008, over 13 years ago.
As it stands now, the Boyne Greenway is largely associated with the existing facilities in Drogheda, stretching as far as the Battle of the Boyne for a total of 4km. Yet that is only ‘Phase I’. The question is, whatever happened to the rest?
The full extent of the Greenway, or Corridor 13, The Drogheda, Navan, Trim Cycleway, is a 52km route from Drogheda following the Boyne to Slane, Navan and Trim before connecting to Corridor 2, the Dublin to Galway Greenway, at the Royal Canal near Longwood. If developed, it would be possible to cycle off-road from Navan to Dublin or Galway along Corridor 2. At Drogheda, the Boyne Greenway will extent to the coastline at Mornington to join up with Corridor 5, also know as ‘The East Coast Trail’, which would see it joining with the planned Fingal Coastal Way in North County Dublin. These Mornington section of the Boyne Greenway are currently under review having gone to public consultation in 2020, and we eagerly await their development. Another plan connecting ‘Newgrange to Newbridge’ was unveiled in 2018, largely following the same route as The East Coast Trail and following the Boyne Greenway inland.
This could be a vital part of the long-term outlook for the region. It would connect the Boyne Greenway to The East Coast Trail’, and join it with a greenway all along the coast from Dundalk to Wexford. It would then be possible to travel from the heart of Dublin to Malahide, Donabate, Rush, Skerries, Balbriggan, then further north to Mornington, Drogheda, and all the way to Navan and all the attractions of the Boyne Valley. With the Boyne Greenway ending at the Royal Canal along Corridor 2, it would open up a loop which could have huge potential for the region.
Beginning in Drogheda – or eventually Mornington, see above – the Boyne Greenway runs alongside the River Boyne for a 4km completed section as far as the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre, located at Oldbridge. After that, the plans (currently as Public Consultation Stage 1, see below for more) follow the flow of the Boyne Navigation alongside the beautiful Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site. The river continues toward Slane, where the ramparts at Slane Bridge provide existing walking routes. Passing closely by Slane Castle, there are potentially exciting plans to link the Greenway into and around the grounds of Slane Castle itself, which could make you feel like a rock star while cycling your bike. It then continues toward Ardmulchan and the Broadboyne/Stackallen Bridge, which marks the start of the existing Boyne Ramparts Walk, running for approximately seven kilometres to Andy Brennan Park in Navan. At present, it is possible to make a trip along the full length of the route from Drogheda to Navan, as there are sections which have some rough paths such as Slane and Newgrange, although it certainly wouldn’t be a comfortable one!
Boyne Valley Greenway video. Credit Discover Boyne Valley
Meath County Council is currently reviewing plans of the Boyne Greenway Non-Statutory Public Consultation Stage 1 Feasibility report highlighting the proposed route options (view Navan Cycling Initiative’s submission here). This will identify the preferred route, and develop the Boyne Greenway and Navigation Restoration to provide a high-quality walking and cycling route (as well as restore the Boyne Navigation including the canal sections and associated locks), all the way from Andy Brennan Park to the main gates at the Oldbridge Estate, thus joining up the Boyne Greenway all the way to Drogheda.
The total distance of the proposed greenway from Navan to Oldbrige is 26.5 kilometres and incorporates a study area extending across the full river valley. The greenway will predominantly encourage tourism and recreation while offering potential for an attractive alternative transport choice for school children and commuters, bringing significant environmental, economic and health benefits to the wider community. It is also essential that Meath County Council commits to the development of a network of safe cycling infrastructure in Navan itself to enable locals to access this fabulous amenity and also to encourage visitors to spend time in the town.
The potential for this new completed Greenway cannot be overstated enough. We have visited Greenways all around Ireland including the Waterford Greenway and the Great Western Greenway and we firmly believe it could rival anything in the country. There is a huge amount of ancient and historic sites to see along the route from the Ramparts in Navan, Dunmoe Castle, Ardmulchan, the Broadboyne Bridge, Slane Castle, Slane Bridge, Newgrange and Brú na Bóinne, the Battle of the Boyne, Oldbridge House. We could go on! And that doesn’t even take into account the potential to develop the full route of the Greenway past Navan to continue to Bective Abbey and Trim Castle, and eventually link up with the Dublin to Galway Greenway. At a time when investment in sustainable transport and the development of greenways is happening at a rate never before seen all around Ireland, the Boyne Greenway is one which needs to be delivered to truly reveal the potential of the Boyne Valley.
We will be keeping a close eye on the full plans and proposals for the Boyne Greenway and will urge all our followers and people who cycle to support its development. The scheme is currently reviewing submissions for the Non-Statutory Public Consultation Stage 1. This is to identify the preferred route, while a condition study has been undertaken of the Boyne navigation including the canal sections and locks. A detailed route design option analysis process will then be completed in order to put forward plans for the preferred route, at which stage Public Consultation Stage 2, Detailed Options Assessment and Navigation Feasibility Assessment, will take place, due some time in mid-2021 (edit: now delayed until early 2022). See here to learn more, and be sure to check back on these pages for more details. We live in hope that the process can be delivered as soon as possible so the magical Boyne Valley can be enjoyed by all for years to come.