A Grand Journey on the Grand Irish Canal

In Kenneth Graham’s book, The Wind in the Willows, the author writes “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”. This is nowhere truer than on the wide, lazy Grand Canal that connects Dublin with the River Shannon 82 miles away via 43 locks.

Construction, and the Early Days of Ireland’s Longest Canal

The Bog of AllenThe earliest attempt was in 1715. Although the Irish Parliament paid for the first two miles of the canal, the banks collapsed when the contractor filled it with water. In 1772, a group of leading, moneyed citizens restarted the project. They soon realized The Bog of Allen was their biggest challenge.

In those days they were not particularly concerned about destroying Neolithic boardwalks. Their concern was whether to drain it, go around it or press on through it. Eventually, they drained it in 1797 after a series of expensive mistakes. By 1810, they were making good money from passenger ships and barges.

The Present Route Followed by the Grand Canal in Ireland

Although many of its side branches have fallen victim to trains and motor cars, the Grand Canal itself continues regally on. Leaving Dublin Grand Canal Dock, the first notable site is the famous Guinness Brewery. Do take a bottle of what does you good with you and salute it from the deck of your cruiser.

On your journey, you pass Kildare, Carragh, Prosperous, Robertstown, and Salins. After crossing over the River Liffey on an aqueduct, you continue onward through Edenderry, Tullamore, and Rahan. Then you glide gently into magnificent Shannon Harbour where there are two pubs in the village, The Canal Bar and McIntyres.

Pleasant Detours to Explore along the Way

Where you find vestiges of old feeder canals still open, do explore them – after taking local advice of course. These were once the highways of Ireland many people passed through. You will discover characterful pubs and hostels, still spiced by the spirits of the water people that stopped there for the night for centuries on end.