From Longford to Bog Bridge

I got a a good early start and was on the trail from the Harbour area of Longford by 8 am. As expected the town was quiet and there was nobody on the trail except for a few dog-walkers and a few birds.


The remains of the canal are kept relatively clear for the first couple of kilometres around the town and it is quite a nice place to walk.


As I head out along the back of the industrial parks on the Athlone road I leave the walkers behind and once I cross the road it gets a lot less wilder. Since there are no locks on the branch, one would think it would be quite easy to re-open it but there are two major problems -once is that the harbour is gone and there is no possibility whatsoever of re-instating it. Secondly, there are about three road crossings where the road just goes straight through where the canal once was. This makes things a bit difficult.


Anyway, I pushed onwards. The plan was to get to mainline and turn left towards Abbeyshrule. Unfortunately, there is no way of turning left at the junction as there is no path so I had to up to Kilashee and backtrack about 1.5 km to get back to the junction on the opposite side.

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The water level on the main line was considerably reduced as Waterways Ireland were doing overwinter maintenance on this section. It isn’t looking terribly like it will be open by Easter. I headed towards Kilashee and took my first break on the lock gate after about 10 km.


There is finally some sign of life in the trees with some of the willow trees in these parts displaying catkins. There is an interesting wreck in the weeds beside the canal right by the junction. It is amazing how they took these out of the water and just left them to rot.


I pushed onwards towards Kenagh still making a good place of over 5 km per hour. It was perfect walking weather. Warm enough, dry but overcast so that it wasn’t too warm.


I stopped again on the the 15 km mark as I’ve decided to try this time to stop every hour or so and sit down for 5 minutes to see if this helps later on in the walk. After this, I went straight through Kenagh harbour without stopping and continued on towards Ballymahon.


With another stop in the middle of nowhere between Kenagh and Ballymahon, I got to Mullawornia which is an  incredible stretch of the canal where it contours along the side of a substantial hill and offers great views of the surrounding countryside.


From here it was on towards Ballymahon where I figured on stopping for lunch. After the turn at Foyra, it was only a couple of kilometres to go.


However, with the 25 km mark behind me and a break overdue, I decided to pick a nice bank to sit on and eat there. I had a good lunch of soup and a cheese roll until I was rudely interrupted by a farmer spreading lime. This put an end to my break so on I went.


I had a quick pause to fill my water bladder at Ballymahon (or Ballybrannigan) harbour and went on. The overcast skies of the day started to clear and it was turning into a rather fabulous evening. My stop every 5 km strategy was working well and my legs felt like they had a lot left them so I started entertaining notions of extending the walk to marathon distance.


Anyway, I pushed on towards the 30 km mark but decided to stop a little bit early after spotting a nice resting place under a tree near Fowlard’s bridge.

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I polished off the remains of my soup and had a handful of nuts and got going. Fowland’s bridge was a bit awkward as there were works going on that blocked the path under it and so I had to climb up the bank and cross a barbed wire fence and the N55 to get past. It would have been nice for them to have put up a sign at the previous bridge.


It was an easy haul into Abbeyshrule with the evening really turning quite fabulous.


I reckoned up and decided I need to go a few hundred metres beyond Bog bridge and return to make up the marathon distance so I ditched my rucksack and decided to finish it up. On the way out, there were some people parachuting.


I made it to bog bridge with no great fuss and then headed back to Abbeyshrule to head home and eat a huge dinner.


Not a bad day’s walking having added 42.3 km to my yearly total

231 km

The fine weather continues

I’ve got a few days off in a row again due to the St. Patrick’s day weekend and so have managed to do quite a few walks while the fine weather continues

It gets so much easier up in the forest after a dry week since the job of negotiating the soft bits isn’t quite so difficult.


There is still not much sign of buds or willow catkins but there are a few daises appearing. Not a lot else has developed since.


I’ll be breaking my run of forest walks tomorrow since I’ve got a long walk planned. It hasn’t been a bad run of walks with five walks in the last 7 days. It is getting quite rare that I actually have a day where I don’t go to Dublin and don’t go for a walk.

189 km

Drying out

I’ve managed three walks in three days which is pretty good going. At the rate I’ve been going this year, I’ll manage my hundred walks by the end of September. Anyway, we’ve had a couple of dry weeks and the difference up the forest is amazing. Quite a bit of it is drying out nicely and it is a pleasure to finish every walk with dry feet.


There even seem to be a few more people around there. There was a car parked up this morning and I am pretty sure I heard a dog barking in the forest yesterday so it is nice to see the place being used.


That’s really about it. Amazingly we still have holly berries on a few bushes which is really very strange at this time of year. But spring certainly seems a bit late – there is very little budding activity so far.


176 km

Plodding Along

Not a lot to report over the last couple of walks – a quick early morning loop on Sunday and a lunchtime loop today. The main news is that the first of the primroses are out.


Not a lot else aside form that. I managed to get around both times without getting wet.

163 km

Change for the better

It was a fine sunny morning so we all got changed and out for a walk immediately after breakfast. It was a really beautiful  spring morning which made for a change after all of the stormy wintry weather we’d had during the week. The frogs have certainly been busy – the whole path was covered in frogspawn in one spot.


The gorse is also getting going into full flower after its brief couple of months of partial dormancy. It seems none the worse for wear after the last couple of weeks of cold weather.


We came around to the fallen tree which is quite awkward having fallen right across the path but we can manage.


Anyway, it was nice for a change to have a walk where we weren’t battling rain and wind.

Stormy Wednesday

Wednesday morning arrived along with storm Jake – our 10th named storm of the season so it was quite a nasty wet morning with flurries of snow. However, by lunchtime it had dried up quite a bit even if it was still quite windy and cold.

So we donned our boots and braved a quick look in the midst of the storm. This proved to have been somewhat unwise as in one spot we came across a fallen tree that couldn’t have been down for more than an hour. Quite spectacular really – you could smell the roots in the air.


After this, we beat quite a hasty retreat and didn’t hang about since it was quite likely that another might come down after it.

154 km

More lunchtime walks

I had a fabulous day for walk on Wednesday with some fine wintry sunshine even if it was a bit cold.

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I got out again on Friday when it wasn’t so great. But still it wasn’t raining which is always a positive. Not a lot to report as I was somewhat lost in thought and away with the fairies while walking.

146 km

From Brí Leith to the Canal

Today’s walk was a somewhat strange quest – the idea was to do a walking canvass in support of a local Green party candidate who is running for election. In practice, we know it wasn’t going to be much of canvass as I wasn’t likely to meet many people but the idea was to draw people’s attention to the fantastic resources we have in the area that are being so woefully underused. I’ll have to apologise for the photography on this way – the weather was so wet that I had to stow my camera so most of the pictures were taken on my phone.



Today the plan was to leave from my back door rather than driving to the start of the walk. This was for two reasons – first I didn’t want the hassle of picking up my car and second I wanted to walk some of the roads up on Brí Leith (or Ardagh Mountain). So I set off as soon as it was bright enough to be safe on the roads.

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My route took my straight up the mountain past the entry point to my usual forest walk and I quickly got to a point where I was treated with the fabulous view over the plain from the top of the hill. Although this part of the country is somewhat lacking in mountains, when you do get to the top of a hill, you are rewarded with spectacular views. Unfortunately, it was a bit dreary today to make the most of it.


I didn’t go right to the crossroads at the top as the map had little shortcut up a track and I figured I may as well do a bit of exploring. This lead past what I think was a water storage tank. By now a bit of drizzle had started which was annoying and was to become a feature on this walk. It was interesting to see the other side of the mountain while walking along this road.


This track turned back into a road and I found myself walking a dead straight road for about 3 km. There wasn’t much traffic about – just a couple of farmers getting a start on the day and a single runner. It was on this stretch that I managed to get rid of my own canvassing literature of the day. Anyway, this road took me towards Carrickedmond and Monument cross roads where I saw this somewhat appropriate warning sign for the day.

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After this, I headed towards the N55 and cross this on the way towards Colehill. I used to be cycle these roads quite a lot and was always somewhat taken aback by the number of deserted houses in the area but on foot this is even more start – it is depressing to see fine buildings just being left to decay over the years.


The rain was getting a bit stronger by now and it was all getting a bit grim before I even got to the canal. My pre-amble to the main walk was turning into a bit of a slog and I was glad to see Abbeyshrule when I got there. I had a quick stop here to grab a mouthful of coffee but conditions weren’t really amenable to a sit down so it was literally a minute of a stop.

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Normally you’d see a few walkers out around Abbeyshrule but this wasn’t to be today. It was a bit of a mucky morning, but it was only really drizzle – not serious rain. Anyway, for whatever reason I had the canal to myself as I headed across the Whitworth aquaduct. I was making quite good progress at this stage – well above my 5 km per hour goal.

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They have extended the proper surfaced track all the way back to Abbeyshrule on the opposite sign although it was still blocked off at the Abbeyshrule end as it isn’t completed. When I got to bog bridge, I noticed that the unsurfaced side which is the original Royal Canal Way was very badly torn up by machinery so I decided to cross over to the track.

This stretch of the canal is about the wildest part there is. As you cross the bog here the solitude is just amazing. You are completely alone with your thoughts. Only once I have a met somebody on this strange and it is so remote that the only sound of humanity you will hear is that of overflying aircraft.

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I pushed on towards Ballynacarrigy but by the time I got to the lock at Kelly’s bridge, the rain had eased off enough for a bit of a sit down with coffee and chocolate. Lock gate arms make for excellent picnic benches and are a good spot for a quick stop. It would be nice if there was a bit more attention given to spots for a bit of a sit-down along the canal. The odd bench or picnic table would be very much appreciated.


Anyway, Ballynacarrigy arrived quite quickly and I had another quick stop to replenish my water bottle. This is quite a nice feature of this part of the canal. The harbours at Ballymahon, Ballynacarrigy and Coolnahay all have taps that you can use to replenish your water supply. This is especially nice in summer when I can easily get through 5 litres of water in a day’s walking.

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Somebody has been busy since the last time I was here as there are a load of new distance signs along the route. These are a welcome addition – the first time I walked the route I had no idea of what kind of distance I had left and it is nice to know. After Ballynacarrigy, I planned on stopping at Coolnahay for a spot of lunch but I started to hit the Wall a bit early at this point. My lack of recent long walks was showing so me legs started to give out at this point.

So when I got to the series of locks about 2.5 km from Coolnahay I gave up and sat down to a lunch of soup, bread and cheese on a lock arm. I also broke out my emergency Coca Cola at this point which is always good for giving me the zip for another few kilometres. My brother rang at this point to see if I wanted to meet up so we made arrangements to meet up at Ballinea and perhaps some of us would walk on into Mullingar while he went running.


The Coca Cola worked its usual magic and I managed to get enough energy to get myself into Coolnahay which was unusually deserted. By now the rain had cleared off and it was quite a pleasant day for walking. I had another quick stop to put a bit more water in my bottle and pressed on towards Ballinea.

That is about it really for my story of the walk. My brother called me again to let me know he was in Ballinea and we changed the plan since I was slower than planned so they would walk towards me and I’d finish up at Ballinea. I met a runner and a cyclist on this stretch but they were both going a bit fast for me to try stopping them for a canvass.

So that was my day on the canal. I wouldn’t say that I was planning for the day to be so solitary but I was surprised to see absolutely nobody for 20 odd km of the canal route even if it was a drizzly February Saturday. We have this amazing network of trails in Longford and Westmeath and it so under used. There is 100 km of canal trail in the area and another 45 of the greenway built on the old Mullingar to Athlone railway.

137 km

Signs of Life

We are getting close to the best time of year in the woods and the signs are on things stating to wake up. We have the frogspawn and the beginnings of gorse flowers but now the birdsong is starting up again. In the bottom part of the forest, there is a single wood-pigeon on the go for the last few walks.


I spend this walk dodging showers – it was most bizarre. At my usual leaving time it was pouring rain yet the entire country was dry according to the radar image. Anyway, I gave it 10 minutes and it became quite a nice afternoon for a walk.

100 km