Ideal 1-2-3 day walks

Walk 1--Afternoon urban jaunt along the canal (less than 6 km one-way)

How about just a few short hours some beautiful day, all within urban Dublin, and certainly not far from a pub if a thirst strikes you. No maps are needed if you have a decent sense of direction and don’t get lost easily.  A Dublin city map would be helpful in keeping your orientation. 

From your base in central Dublin (or elsewhere) walk eastward to the Waterways Visitors Centre at Grand Canal Quay, Dubin 2 (+353 71965 0787).  It’s the perfect place to start; it’s near the beginning of the canal and has some enlightening exhibits about the Grand Canal and other waterways.  According to the centre’s website (www.waterwaysireland.org) :

“The Centre houses an exhibition which explores Ireland's inland waterways, their historical background and their modern amenity uses.

The display(s), which includes examples of art and literature inspired by the waterways and working models of important engineering features, highlights the significance in today's world of a network of inland waterways developed some 200 years ago.”

As I write this, the centre is closed for renovation so call ahead.  Normal hours:  Oct-May, Wed-Sun., 12:30pm to 5:00 pm.  June-Sept, daily 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. There is a small admission fee. 

You’ll be revved to go after visiting the centre, so head west along the canal.  You’ll see the Grand Canal Way signs in brown and white periodically along the route. 

Below you’ll see a segment from my journal that covers this part of my walk.  Bear in mind that it was written in the fall of 2003, so you may find some changes. 

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For the next couple hours I walked along the Grand Canal as it wove its way through the harbour warehouse district east of the heart of Dublin and along through light commercial areas to the south. 

 

When the Grand Canal Way emerged from the warehouse area it began to pick up a tree-lined character, bounded by grassy strips that were tow paths many years ago.

One arched bridge after another carried the city’s vehicular traffic over the canal.  From time to time locks broke the flat stillness of the canal’s waters.  In fact, seven locks stepped the waters down along the 2.3 mile stretch from the former Portobello Hotel to the Ringsend Basin.  The mellowness of the canal’s quiet wooded corridor contrasted with the hectic urban pace just a few feet away.  The old grassy tow paths now contained 3- and 4-foot wide asphalt walking paths down their centers.

Benches and other street furniture made the Grand Canal corridor an inviting respite, not far from the middle of this world class city of a million or more people.

Jet lag was taking its toll on me as I continued my walk westward toward the old Portobello Hotel, now a business college building.  I left the canal at that point, mile 2.3, and wandered back to my hotel near Grafton Street, getting lost a few times even though I knew I needed only to keep moving in a northerly direction. 

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The walk is an agreeable one and may well surprise Dubliners who drive or walk over the many bridges spanning the canal and are oblivious to the canal itself, and especially the walking paths along its banks.

The walk can end where it want it to, of course. You can simply turn around and retrace your steps.  If you have a good city map and don’t mind asking directions, you can easily choose to walk in a northerly or northeasterly direction, away from the canal and return to the centre of the city. 

If you have a city map, you’ll see that this canal you are following loops around old Dublin.  It’s known as the Grand Canal’s Circular Line.  I suggest you walk on to the canal’s intersection with the old Main Line of the Grand Canal at or near the Suir Street Bridge where you’ll find Lock 1.  It’s a good destination and a good place to stop, relax a bit and turn back along the canal way and return to your base. Here you will be less than 6 km from the Waterways Visitor Centre.

When you walk back to the east and come to the Portobello College, you can leave the canal here, walk north to Aungier St and on to the Temple Bar area.  The streets change names and directions and it’s easy to get a bit lost, as I did. 

This short walk is a delightful introduction to the Grand Canal and its foot paths.  Hopefully it will whet your appetite for a day trip on the Grand Canal Way in the mellow countryside west of the city. 

Let me know if you have some helpful information I can add to the next update to this website. 

Walk 2—One short country day:  Hazelhatch to Sallins (12.6 km one way)

This is a favorite of mine.  The walker hops the train to Hazelhatch at Heuston Station and walks to Sallins where he can catch the train back to Dublin…or…visits a pub or two in Sallins and hoofs it back to Hazelhatch (and then catches the train to Dublin).  So the options are 12.6 km and about 3 hours on foot, with the rest on the train…or 25.2 km on foot, and the remainder on the train. This round trip version would involve 6 to 8 hours, depending on walking speed, rest breaks and pub stops. 

This walk enjoys the great good fortune that trains make frequent runs toward the west and the southwest, stopping in both Hazelhatch and Sallins.  The train stations are not far from the canal, and in fact, the Sallins station is within eyesight.  I haven’t added the short distances from the canal to the train stations so a weary walker would learn that the 12.6 and 25.2 km walks are actually about 14 km and 27 km. 

Several trains leave Heuston Station for Hazelhatch and Sallins each day, and as many return.  For current timetables, check www.irishrail.ie .

Below you’ll find the section of my journal that covers the Hazelhatch-Sallins walk.  I see that when I wrote this in 2003 I so enjoyed it that I said I would like to repeat this day’s walk on a future visit to Ireland.  The boat in the picture below was moored just a few meters from the Hazelhatch Bridge.

 

(An alternative to beginning at Hazelhatch is to start at the new train station in Adamstown, maybe a couple kilometers from the 12th lock/Lucan Road Bridge. This is a 17.2 km walk to Sallins, not counting the short distances from the canal way to the train stations.)

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I wasn’t especially hungry when I reached Hazelhatch, the frequent blackberry snacks blunting my appetite, but lunch is a good excuse to stop and rest for a few minutes.  The train station with service back to Dublin was about a half mile north, so I planned to eat and return to the city. On the north side of the canal, at the Hazelhatch Bridge, was a tempting-looking pub with its tables and chairs spilling out onto an open air patio right on the canal.  How better to snare thirsty boaters!!  I walked in and asked about food.  Unfortunately they didn’t serve food and the bartender told me the nearest restaurant was a mile or two to the north.  I thought about the additional walk up to the restaurant and back to either the local train station or the now more enticing option—walking on to Sallins and catching the train there.  Here it was around 12:30 or so.  The weather was fine today, but what would future days hold?  I was still game for a few more miles today, I thought, so why not take advantage of my good fortune.  I didn’t have to weigh the pros and cons for long.  In a few minutes I was off along the tow path again, this time the town of Sallins my destination for the day. 

Of course this decision was made consulting my maps and guidebook.  It was clear that the Sallins train station was just a few hundred yards from the canal, so I shouldn’t have trouble finding it.  I passed more charming countryside, walking on a soft green path.  More cattle farming and wheat fields alongside, scattered country cottages nearby.  If I get a chance for a return walk along the Grand Canal, this section is one I certainly want to experience again.

  The remainder of the hike that day was uneventful except for the beginnings of some muscular soreness on my left shin.

  Mention of one of the lockkeepers in the guidebook piqued my interest.  From my genealogy research I knew that the earliest Irish ancestor on my mother’s side we can trace was named Martin Fogarty.  And there in the guide book, was a Martin Fogarty, shown as lockkeeper for locks 14 to 18, and showing he was based at lock 15.  My notes (reviewing them now 60 days later) said that there was an old, recently abandoned lockkeeper’s house, at lock 14, but there was no house at lock 15.  I didn’t inquire about Mr. Martin at the houses nearby. 

Mention of one of the lockkeepers in the guidebook piqued my interest.  From my genealogy research I knew that the earliest Irish ancestor on my mother’s side we can trace was named Martin Fogarty.  And there in the guide book, was a Martin Fogarty, shown as lockkeeper for locks 14 to 18, and showing he was based at lock 15.  My notes (reviewing them now 60 days later) said that there was an old, recently abandoned lockkeeper’s house, at lock 14, but there was no house at lock 15.  I didn’t inquire about Mr. Martin at the houses nearby. 

By about 3:30pm I arrived in Sallins and looked southward where my map told me I’d find the station.  As I left the tow path and walked south along the road I heard a train.  For a few seconds I wondered if I could reach the station in time to catch the train.  But when the station was at last in sight, I saw the train stop for what seemed like a few seconds and then move forward. It was heading toward Dublin.  When I got to the platform and found the daily train schedule I learned that I had by just a minute or two missed the 3:38 into Hueston Station.  Fortunately at that time of day trains passed through Sallins on their way into the city almost hourly.  I was tired by this time, and took advantage of my missed connection to relax on a bench.  For a time I was all alone.  But soon others appeared, those on my side of the platform, waiting for the 4:38pm to Dublin.  I didn’t have a ticket, the ticket window was closed, and didn’t know how to go about getting one.  I approached a middle-aged lady who was waiting for the Dublin train and inquired, telling her also that I was coming back to Sallins by train the next day. She asked why I was in Sallins, and I told her I was planning to walk the length of the Grand Canal and I had just walked from Dublin.  The surprised expression on her face was priceless. She may never have heard of anyone in recent years so foolish as to walk here from Dublin.  After regaining her composure she told me I could buy a ticket on board, and I should ask for a return (round trip) ticket with a bus connector into city centre.  I did, and paid 12.5 euros, about $14.  The train trip back to Dublin was a treat.  After the longest one-day hike or walk of my non-military life, I was settled into the comfort of a fast train, taking me in a few minutes what had taken me many hours and two days to complete.  The contrast in speeds was not lost on me, as I dosed lightly on my way to Heuston Station.  In front of the station I boarded bus # 90 which followed along the north side of the Liffey.  I stepped off as it approached O’Connell Street.  My first long leg of the journey was over, about 20 miles, but without a backpack. 

Walk 3—2 or 3 days with B&B layovers:  Sallins to Tullamore (61.8 km one way)

This walk takes advantage of the train service to Sallins and Tullamore.  Travel by train from Dublin to Sallins, on foot to Tullamore and then by train back to Dublin.

For someone who walks the rather easy pace of 4 km an hour, not counting stops, this is a 15 hour walk.  Kick up the pace a bit to 5 km an hour and it’s a 12 hour jaunt.  So depending on your pace, your physical condition, how frequently you take breaks, and how much you enjoy just lolly-gagging along enjoying the scenery, this takes 2 or 3 days.  I suggest opting for the more leisurely pace; after all this is Ireland and you need to soak in its beauty when not soaking in other well known Irish attributes. 

The options require either one or two overnights. Depending on arrival time in Tullamore and the train schedules back to Dublin, another night here might be called for.  Bed and Breakfast accommodations are ideal for walkers and there are several choices along the canal.  I’ll discuss that later. 

Let’s see how the distances stack up.  Starting from Sallins (arriving by train from Dublin) these are the distances between key places on the way to Tullamore:

            Sallins to Robertstown is 11.6 km                  

            Robertstown to Edenderry is 17.2 km (includes walk into town from the canal)       

            Edenderry to Daingean is 21.4 km

            Daingean to Tullamore is 13.6 km

The 2-day walk for the peppy

A 2-day walk for the speedy and well-conditioned would start in Sallins and continue to Edenderry for day 1.  It’ll be about 29 km.  But if the walker is leaving Dublin by train that first morning, his actual walk will begin around mid-morning, not an ideal departure time for a long day.  But it will work.  I caught a 9:05 train out of Heuston and arrived in Sallins at 9:40 so it was 9:45 before my feet hit the tow path.  Normal start time for a long 29 km would be 7 am or so. 

So the faster paced walker leaving Sallins would arrive in Edenderry about 6 hours later, not counting stops, food breaks, etc.  Robertstown, just a couple hours into the walk, offers good food and a nice canal-side park for those inclined to picnic.  The somewhat slower walker would get to Edenderry in 7 hours, plus the stops. 

Edenderry has three or more B&Bs (see my link on Lodging along the way) and plenty of food choices.  And it’s a reasonably-sized town for most of the walking/hiking support services you might need. 

For the 2-day walker, the final leg of the journey is a bit longer, probably close to an hour so.  It’ll be about 35 km and longer than most will want to attempt. The mitigating factors, though, are the soft walking surface most of the way and the lack of any hills to climb or descend. 

The 2-day walker will want to ease into a hot tub in a nice B&B in Tullamore and enjoy one of its fine pubs at the end of that long day.  If you want to spoil yourself, check into the first rate hotel in the centre of town. 

Read the September 26 and 27 entries in my journal—My Hike: Dublin to the River Shannon for what I encountered along this segment of the walk. 

Don’t hurry home if you don’t have to.  Take some time to visit this pleasant town and especially don’t miss the Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre (www.tullamore-dew.org) . 

The 3-day walk for the wiser

With a distance of over 60 km, 3 days makes more sense for most of us.  After all, a walk should be a time to see and enjoy what’s around us, with eyes not focusing on our footsteps but scanning the countryside for the interesting, the different, the beautiful.  

The 3-day walker also starts in Sallins and also spends the first night in Edenderry.  Yes, it’s a fairly long day of about 29 km, but the longest day will be over, and the next two days are easier. 

The next night is about 21 km away at the town of Daingean.  This is still a healthy distance, not a wimp’s walk.  The shortest walk is the 3rd day when the walker has only about 14 km to cover as he reaches Tullamore. 

Robertstown is a recommended stop for lunch on day 1.  Mid-day food stops are hard to find for days 2 and 3 so packing plenty of water and food is recommended.  The B&Bs may be persuaded to pack a light snack for you.