Tag Archives: hiking

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

Still on my Own

Over the last few weeks I’ve really go into the swing of getting out at weekends and have been averaging more than 3 walks a week. I nipped out on my own for the longer loop immediately after breakfast.


It was a fine winter’s morning – a bit cold but it was dry. Indeed it would have been a very good day for hitting the hills but I wasn’t organised enough. I’m hoping to get out for the day next Saturday. The new boots are still behaving themselves – dry feet again today. I could get used to this.

92 km

Just Me and the Dogs

Normally I’ll have company on the weekend but as it was a bit wet, nobody else wanted to come so it was just me and my regular companions. We don’t mind a bit of rain.


We had a nice walk – it was quite peaceful aside from the distance sound of a chainsaw for the last kilometre or so of the walk.


88 km

Back to the Routine

This was my usual lunchtime walk but as I had company I took the slightly longer route. It was real luxury as it was the first walk with a new pair of boots so I had dry feet. This feeling should last for a couple of months – or if I’m really lucky into the summer when the ground dries up reasonably well.


I tend to save my good hiking boots for day-long walks as the regular walks tends to ruin even the  best of boots. With the best will in the world, it isn’t really feasible to look after boots properly if you’re wearing them every day. So I buy the cheapest I can get and discard them after three or four months.


Due to the exceptionally mild winter, we still have holly berries. The same happened last year and it is very strange as they are usually gone by early December.

84 km

And Back to Winter

After the brief interlude of spring, we had a morning of heavy snowfall and it finally began to stick around 12. But by the time I got out, it had turned to sleet and rapidly disappeared

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It was actually quite a miserable walk as my boots really are past it at this stage so I had soaking feet within seconds due to the slush on the roads. Hopefully I’ll be able to sort myself out with some Lidls boots in the next couple of weeks.

By the time we emerged from the forest at the bottom, the snow was mostly gone and a couple of hours later, there was no sign of it at all.

79 km

Signs of Spring

We got out fairly early this morning ahead of the band of rain that was looming in the form of dark clouds overhead. It was just the children, the dogs and myself for the loop today. The main feature of this week is the start of frog-spawn season. They were actually spawning on Friday but I didn’t have the camera with me, so I’ll have to content myself with a picture of the resulting product.


The other sign of spring is that the early gorse-flower is firmly in bloom. There are a varieties of gorse up on the mountain, so there is generally some of it in bloom for all but a couple of months of the year. Anyway, it is back and nice to see again.


The rain was just starting by the time we got back so it was a bit of a lucky escape.

75 km

Mullingar – Moate by Greenway

Appropriately enough for the day’s walking, I arrived into Mullingar by train at about 8:45 and left got stuck into the walk immediately. The goal for the day was to explore the new greenway that has been laid on an abandoned railway between Mulingar and Athlone.


Mullingar station is a shadow of its former self and the Athlone side of the station is in a relatively poor state of repair. The last service on the line was in 1987 but the line had been in decline from the mid 30’s.



The route starts out along the Royal canal as the last couple of kilometres of railway is still technically active and has been used occasionally for servicing steam excursions. You join the new greenway or “Old Rail Trail” about 2 km out of Mullingar.


The new trail is a tarmac surface and is primarily intended as a cycling route. The majority of people out for the day were cycling with several sets of club cyclists flying along the trail. It was OK as a walker, but I’d be a bit dubious about cycling with wobbly children given the speed that some of these guys were passing.


The trail is laid along the old rails that have been left in place – I assume the scrap value of the rails was less than the cost of lifting them. There is enough space because this was once the Dublin – Galway mainline and so was a double line until the mid 30’s when it was singled due to a shortage of steel an a need for the rails to renew other lines.


As the trail is so new, there is relatively little signage in place except for these very prominent cattle crossing signs mounted on up-ended sleepers.


After a few kilometres I came across a cow who had other ideas about crossing.


The next major feature of note was a short tunnel which was quite exciting. Well, it was somewhere between a long bridge and a short tunnel but as I’ve never walked through a tunnel before I’ll call it a tunnel.


I was making good time at this stage and covered more than 11 km in my first two hours. I was getting ready for a cup of coffee and a spot of chocolate so I stopped at Castletown station 13 km into my trip.


After a quick break and a chat at Castletown, it was back to the trail again. There is a constant but slight gradient uphill all the way to this point but shortly after Castletown the trail peaks and then the gradient is downhill.


The most striking thing about this trail is how arrow straight it is. There are two long sections of almost 10 km each without any sort of a curve on it. This must have been a very fast stretch of railway – much better than the surviving Sligo line which is very twisty in comparison.


All of this straight levelish trail doesn’t make for the most exciting of walks so it was a bit of a relief to come to the ruins of Streamstown station where the old Clara branch split off. This also meant I was past the half-way point between Mullingar and Moate.


Not long after this, I came across the what I think is the Hill of Uisneach.


At this point I was on the home stretch towards Moate. I probably had enough legs to head on to Athlone but I wasn’t in the mood to completely wear myself out and the hard tarmac surface is a bit hard on the feet – particularly when wearing hiking boots.


I arrived into Moate stations just before three which was a good time for 30 km. The station is derelict but very well looked after.


The water-tower is in particularly good condition which is amazing when you consider it probably hasn’t been used for 50 years.


There is also this particularly impressive looking telegraph pole on the edge of the station.


Anyway, I had an enjoyable day’s walking and it was nice to get a new trail mostly done. I’ll probably try to get back another day to finish it off as it does look as if the most interesting section is that between Athlone and Moate.

870 km

Several Weeks’ Walking

The weather over the last few weeks has been somewhat mixed so I’ve not got out for a long walk. However, the local walks have been going on and I’ve managed 12 since my last long walk.


Anyway, it’s been good walking in the forest and the weather for the most part has been holding out so it is quite dry up there.


However, autumn is really upon us now and the leaves are well and truly turned. One good autumn storm and that will be the end of them.



This set of walks puts me near the 850 km mark so it looks like I won’t have too many difficulties reaching my goal for the year.

840 km

Kilronan Loop Again

This walk is becoming a bit of a habit – this is my third time this year doing the entire walk and I’ve done part of it a fourth time. Anyway, it’s a nice walk and quite close to home so it doesn’t require a lot of planning. It is basically a matter of parking up in Keadue and setting off at a reasonable hour of the morning.


After a couple of kilometres of a road-walk towards Arigna, you quickly start to ascend for fabulous views over the countryside.


There is a good steep climb up an old foot-path until you come to a sweat house right by the pass. I had a look in here on a previous walk but I didn’t bother stopping here.


After this, you’re properly up on the mountain in peace an quiet. The heather up here is even more spectacular than that on my home walk. The weather was quite annoying with regular light showers that just got heavy enough to make you put your rain jacket on before stopping.


There is the usual view of Sliabh Aniarann covered in clouds. The only time I’ve managed to see the mountain from here was an inverse view where everything else was covered in clouds and the peak was poking out.



I trundled on towards the wind-farm that runs along the ridge. It was becalmed today though so nothing was moving.


I wasn’t exactly making great time but then I wasn’t in much of a hurry. I stopped for a snack at the abandoned mineworks before rejoining the road for a bit. The way-marking here is a bit weak but I know the way so it isn’t so much of a problem. In particular, you need to very careful about leaving the track towards the saint’s grave. There is an abandoned engine which you need to pass on the track above it. From here, a single waymarker is just visible in the distance. If you pass this engine with it on your right, you’re going the wrong way.


From here it’s another couple of kilometres before you join the Miners’ Way track that leads you down towards Ballyfarnon.


This track winds its way down the mountain and gradually turns into a proper road before crossing a stream and heading back towards some form of civilisation. I stopped again for coffee and a snack for a few minutes and resolved to have a lunch break at Ballyfarnon.


From here the route is mostly a lowland road walk but it’s mostly along very minor roads and a couple of kilometres are along a green road. I arrived into Ballyfarnon at about 1:30 and had a 20 minute break for soup, a sandwich and some crisps.


I had a nice final few kilometres through the Kilronan castle grounds. I spotted this interesting little fungus on the forest track.


After passing through the old castle gate, I made my way alongside the road into Keadue. I stopped at the graveyard there to try to find O’Carolan’s grave but didn’t have any luck. I made into Keadue around 3:30 a bit over six hours after I left.

790 km