A guide to a through-hike or a day’s stroll through the Emerald Isle’s historic heartland

This website now covers more than the Grand Canal.  See the "March 2011 update" on the right panel.

In a land of 100,000 welcomes and as many historic treasures, the Grand Canal stands out as one of Ireland’s unheralded manmade masterpieces.  This grand old engineering marvel winds genteelly through the centre of Dublin, passes through fertile farmlands and charming villages and past the crumbling remnants of old tower houses and castles in the country’s midlands, on its way 80 some miles later to the River Shannon.

As a canal, it is most commonly viewed in boating terms.  And it is a delightfully peaceful waterway for boaters.  But in recent years, thanks to the Irish government, the communities along its route, and the Irish public, it has become one of the nation’s finest routes for walkers and hikers.  The Grand Canal Way, an official walking trail following the old towpath, hugs the edge of the canal for its entire distance. The way is well maintained, with walking surfaces ranging from grassy surfaces typically a few meters wide to paved surfaces.  At times a local gravel or paved road built on the towpath becomes the way. But at no times is the walker left stranded without a comfortable path.

This website tells the tale of my hike along the Grand Canal from east to west in the autumn of 2003.  With apologies to the Irish, I habitually call this 80+ mile trek a “hike” although I gather it is more commonly called a “walk” in Ireland.

The reader is advised to take my thoughts and recommendations with due caution and confirm distances, lodging, sites, and other details from one or more other sources.  Check Books and maps as a beginning.

What I hope to portray here is the Grand Canal as an idyllic, safe and eminently serene route for both the casual day-hiker and someone who wants to spend several days on foot as a through-hiker.  Or put two days together and enjoy a wonderful weekend in peaceful and picturesque rural Ireland.

I welcome your comments and suggestions.  Email me at GrandCanalHiker@aol.com

I will update this site from time to time, incorporating readers’ suggestions, so come back to visit again.

 

 

My Canal

Well, not literally, of course, but the Muscle Shoals canal, now submerged 20 feet below the surface of Wilson Lake, lies just a few hundred yards from my home and may have been the inspiration for my Grand Canal hike. (More...)

The Grand Canal Hiker

In some ways I’m an unlikely candidate for a solo 85-mile hike in a foreign (to me) country.  In other ways, it doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me well.  (More.....)

  • March 2011 update:
  • This website originated with my fascination for the Grand Canal, and chronicles my 2003 hike along the canal from Dublin to the River Shannon.  At the time I was 65 and hadn’t walked more than 10 miles in a day since my youth.  I actually thought 85 miles alone on foot represented a masterful challenge at my age!  I now blush at the thought.  Since those Fall 2003 days on the Grand Canal, I’ve walked another 350 miles in Ireland (which I describe on this website), 100 in England, 450 in the Benelux countries and 650 miles on the Camino de Santiago.  I wince at how accomplished I thought I was as I walked along the Grand Canal in 2003.  I hope you are a forgiving reader…!