Ashtown to the City Centre
I had managed to set aside a day for walking so the plan for today was to finish off the 10 km or so of the Royal Canal that remained after the end of the official way and make a start on the Grand. This was to be quite an interesting route across the city which involved walking through some of the slightly less salubrious areas of the city.
I got off the train at Ashtown at about 8 am which is probably about the test time to make a pass through Broombridge. It certainly wouldn’t recommend doing so while carrying a camera or any other obvious valuables of an afternoon or much after 11 am on a weekend morning as it is an area of deserted ground that does tend to attract some of the rougher elements of society.
Ashtown has one of the better areas of development done during the boom and has a fantastic urban village feel with high density apartments over shops really close to a train station. With the canal nearby for walks it looks like a really nice part of the city.
I settled into the walk and started towards the city. It was barely after dawn at this stage and the sun was very low on the horizon which somewhat complicated taking pictures. This is the view from the bridge over the canal at Ashtown just past Lock 10.
The canal was quite straight here and there was a general sense of bustle about the canal with people cycling or walking to work and others walking their kids to school. It was easily the busiest stretch of the canal for walking that I had come across so far. After a couple of km, I came towards Reilly’s bridge which is currently being replaced by a massive steel bridge that will cross both the canal and the railway and help clear up massive local congestion caused by the level crossing.
A few hundred metres past this we come across Broombridge. This is one of the typical lob-sided humpback bridges that was obviously extended from the original canal bridges to cross the railway as well. It is named after a William Broome, a director of the Royal Canal Company – most of the canal bridges are named after either directors or investors.
But it is much more famous as the place where Sir WIlliam Rowan Hamilton came up with the formula for quaternions while walking to Dunsink observatory. He supposed write the formula on the bridge.
Nowadays the graffiti is considerably less inspirational but the area is probably on the way up. The station got a bit of a tidy up recently and doesn’t seem to have been wrecked yet. The waste ground next to the station is slated to become a tram yard which should bring the area back to life.
After Broombridge station, we pass on old water tower for filling steam engines and pass under a very low bridge into an area that is surrounded by railways. It is a curious area of land with no development at all aside from a massive old factory that has been deserted for as long as I’ve been taking the train.
There is some disruption on the railway this morning due to flooding and the trains are being routed into the city on a little use alternate route. The reason why becomes obvious as we cross-over the rail link between the two major city stations.
This is really quite a strange part of the city. We are only about 3km from the city centre as the crow flies but from what you can see, you may as well be in open countryside.
As I plod on, I catch sight of the Poolbeg power-station chimneys through a gap in the hedge
This wild stretch lasts for about a kilometer until we arrive in towards Phibsboro. There is a bit of a basin here with some old warehouses – some of which have been converted to apartments
Just past this point is where the canal originally turned to the right and would have terminated at Broadstone. But early in the canal’s history they dug a branch down towards the docks and built a new basin at Guild street to make it easier to transfer cargo to sea-going ships. The original line was filled in when they started building the railway and a lot of the land was taken up with Broadstone station which in turn closed and became a bus depot.
So from Phibsboro, it was a quick walk in to Binns Bridge in Drumcondra but here I came to my first diversion and had to head off towards town. But I got back on the canal quickly enough near Croke Park.
I made it for about another kilometre until I came to the North Strand and here I was definitely at an end without making a rather large detour. The canal is blocked here by a lifting railway bridge that heads into Connolly station by way to Newcomen curve. This section of railway is rarely used but was in heavy use today due to the flooding.
Obviously with all the railway tracks, it isn’t safe to walk near here, even if you could get in so I turned off and headed directly for the Liffey so that I could cross over and get to the Grand Canal basin for the next section of walk. I passed a Dublin bikes stand at the pedestrian bridge and was sorely tempted to take an hour off my walk by cycling up the canal to Portobello.
It has turned into a fabulous sunny morning and the views over the Liffey are fantastic.
After crossing the river, I paused to take a quick shot of the Jeanie Johnson which is looking rather fabulous in her new coat of paint.
I couldn’t ignore what as become the most photographed bridge in Dublin
I’m almost at the end of this section with about 12 km walked so far today. At this part of the Liffey there are a lovely old buildings which were originally built as shipping line offices. They obviously used their commercial rivalry to try to outdo each other in the ornamentation of their buildings.
Finally, I am nearing the basin and turn right onto this rather different modern urban canyon.
When I get to the end of this street, that will mark the end of my first section of walk as I arrive onto the Grand Canal basin which is the first part of the Grand Canal walk.