After I had fed and watered myself, I set off again, and quickly got through Confey station. Not long after that I came across the remains of the old Lucan North station which is now a private house but has the remains of a shelter on the up platform just about visible through the undergrowth.
From here on it was beginning to turn into my usual plod once I get beyond 30km. There was the odd train to punctuate my journey and these were starting to get a bit more frequent as the evening rush approached. I checked the timetable on my phone and figured that I had a very tight schedule to make the last train at Ashtown to connect with the 1705 Sligo train.
Amazingly for an area relatively close to the city, there was very little built up around the canal and railway. Perhaps this was something to do with the dividing line drawn by the canal and the comparative sparsity of bridges in the general area.
At Clonsilla, the canal swings away to the left of the railway and the relatively newly reopened Dunboyne branch crosses the canal on a modern overbridge.
The two runners stretching were appreciating and photographing the rather fabulous graffiti on the bridge. I had noticed the same artist must have been at work on a Waterways Ireland weed-trimmer a kilometre or so back.
The bridge was absolutely festooned.
A couple of hundred metres further on, there was a concrete anchor for a pipeline crossing the canal similarly decorated.
Shortly after this, we entered the deep cutting that runs for about three kilometres between Clonsilla and well past Carpenterstown. This was an stretch of rock that had to be blown through with gunpowder when the canal was being built. Due to the expense involved, the towpath rises up to 7 metres above water level in several places and for the whole stretch rarely dips below 5 metres above.
This made life very difficult for the horse-drawn boats and even still the footing is somewhat treacherous particularly for tired legs. It is believed that the awkwardness of the towing arrangements was a contributory factor. A night boat struck the bank near Porterstown bridge and the boat capsized. The facts are somewhat hazy but either 16 or 17 peoples drowned that night. It was the worse accident to have occurred on the canal.
Here you can see the sheer scale of the engineering works required to dig this channel. Remember that this was a hundred years before dynamite was invented. Mostly nowadays we just glide over such engineering on trains or in cars without even noticing and don’t give the slighted thought to the thousands of men who laboured in horrible conditions for a pittance of wages to construct such things. Their sacrifice is so regularly discarded when these things are shut down on a whim only for the mistake to be realised 20 or 30 years later.
Anyway, enough of that. Things were really dragging on and time was getting very tight indeed by the time I reached the 12th lock which is as far as boats can go except by special arrangement.There was a grand-looking pub here and I would have loved to stop for a drink which would probably have quietened down my screaming feet a bit but unfortunately, time was pressing and I had to drive at the other end of my train journey home anyway.
From here, it was on to the aqueduct crossing the M50 orbital motorway which must be Ireland’s most complicated motorway junction, involving a motorway, a major road, a couple of minor roads, a railway and the canal.
From here on it was a real mad dash as the train time was getting closer and closer. There were other options, but the probably would have involved me standing all the way home which I really didn’t want to do.
It really was such a mad dash into Ashtown that I didn’t even get a chance to take a picture. I made the train with literally 30 seconds to spare. Ashtown marks the end of the Royal Canal Way but not necessarily the walk. It was a little anti-climactic to finish the walk of this way, but I will try to revisit it and walk from Ashtown into the city over the next while.