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.
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.
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