I set off for a late start without really having much of a plan for the day. I had originally planned on parking the car somewhere and doing 20 km or so out and back from the car but when I was offered a lift, I took the opportunity to just do a one-way. The objective was only really to get out and try to improve my fitness a bit.
So I set off eastbound from the rather unimpressive Fowlard’s bridge where the N55 crosses the canal with a lightly loaded pack at around 12. I didn’t bother bringing lunch as I figured I’d only be out walking for three or four hours.
So heading onwards, I quickly came to a slightly prettier bridge – there are a few more normal canal bridges between Fowlard’s and Webb’s bridge in Abbeyshrule. This one, Guy’s bridge, is oddly situated right on a bend. The roads often curve at strange angles as one cost-cutting measure they used when building the canal was to always have the bridges cross at right angles. There are a few exceptions but for the most part, it is the road rather than the bridge that makes the adjustment.
Not a lot further on and Eithne, the River Inny starts her dance with the canal and both the canal and the Inny will weave around each other for the next few kilometers. I pushed onwards at a reasonable pace and make it to Abbeyshrule a bit more than an hour into my journey.
No rest for the wicked though and I resolved to continue at least as far as bog bridge. There was somebody doing touch-and-gos at the airfield but there wasn’t really anybody else about which was a bit unusual. You normally meet somebody out walking their dog around Abbeyshrule
I actually didn’t bother stopping at Bog Bridge as I didn’t really feel like it and so continued over the empty bog between Abbeyshrule and Ballynacarrigy. This is a very remote part of the canal and there can quite often be no sign of human activity at all. Today, I had only the aircraft from the airfield to keep me company.
Towards the end of this stretch I came across somebody trying to make it down the opposite bank which would be a bit of a hike. I stopped at the first lock near Emper for a quick coffee and a snack and then continued on.
I kept going through Ballynacarrigy with only a brief chat with a couple of walkers to see if the way was clear to the next lock as there were works under-way still. They said it was passable although a bit muddy. I found out about a kilometre later that I would need to go through a building site to continue on but as there was nobody about I decided that it was reasonably OK to continue.
This odd stand of trees becomes visible a couple kilometres to the east of Ballynacarrigy and is part of what looks from the survey map to be a quite a rich vein of ancient heritage in the area. As you continue on, there seems to be some sort of fort or something built on the hill .
At this stage, it was looking pretty sure that I would make Coolnahay and perhaps push on even further so I kept on moving. I quickly ran into another building site and a further set of signs that everyone seemed to be ignoring. They seem to be extending the greenway from Coolnahay a few kilometres westwards and there was a partially complete gravel surface that was quite nice to walk on. This continued on and off as far as Coolnahay.
There is amazing variation in the state of the lock-houses around here. Some of them have been refurbished and extended into beautiful little cottages while others have decayed to the point where they are barely visible. This one isn’t even the worst.
I reached Coolnahay around 5PM and figured I’d have about an hour left so stopped for a quick coffee and a bite of chocolate before continuing. Coolnahay is a lovely little harbour.
At this point, I was starting to lose the light and so didn’t really bother too much with the camera. It was a case of just putting the head down and pushing on to complete the walk as I had only really planned on doing 20 km and was now well past the 25 km mark. This milestone was about 2 km short of Ballinea harbour and I had to use the flash to take a picture.
I arrived into Ballinea shortly after 6 and it was almost completely dark so I did’t manage a reasonable picture at all. It was a nice day’s walk and totted up to 28.5 km in a shade over 6 hours including a couple of 10 minute breaks so not too bad a day’s work.