Canal History

The Grand Canal  is the southernmost of a pair of canals that connect Dublin in the east of Ireland, with the River Shannon in the west,via Tullamore and a number of other villages and towns.  The main line of the Grand Canal  is 82 miles (131 km) long with 43 locks, 5 of which are doubles. There are in addition three sea-locks linking the Grand Canal Basin in Ringsend with the tidal River Liffey.

A wonderful history of the Grand Canal has been written by Ruth Delany.  This is
-The Grand Canal, reprinted in 1995 by Lilliput Press. It is a brilliantly written and scholarly work by Ruth Delany who has written extensively about the inland waterways of Ireland.

The main line of the  Grand Canal is entirely navigable and a tow path along the full length of it’s banks offers  walkers and cyclists a wonderful opportunity to explore this fantastic amenity.  Books that would  be of interest to anyone wishing to navigate, walk or cycle the Grand Canal are:
- Guide to The Grand Canal of Ireland. published in 1999 by Ducas The Heritage Service. This details all the locks, pump out facilities, lock keepers, bridges, moorings etc.  It is available from Waterways Ireland Tel: 01 868 0148

- Towpath Tours: published in 2005 by Collins Press.  This is the journal of one man’s cycle along the tow path of the Grand Canal.

The Grand Canal was first conceived in 1751  when a group of private investors and public officials established a working group called “The Commissioners of Inland Navigation”.  The intention of this group was to consider the commercial viability of a canal that traders would pay to use to transport goods to and from Dublin.  Typical cargos on such trade boats would be barrels of Guinness leaving Dublin for rural towns and cargos of turf coming to Dublin to be burnt in urban fireplaces.  The Commissioners of Navigation obviously concluded that there was money to be made from such a canal and thus work on the physical building of the Grand Canal started in 1756.  The very first trade boat passed from Dublin all the way through to the Shannon in 1804.   The last working cargo barge passed through the Grand Canal in 1960.[1]


Until 1950 the Grand Canal Company had ownership of the canal, when the Transport Act, 1950 transferred the canal to Córas Iompair Éireann. This situation continued until the Canals Act, 1986 gave it to the Office of Public Works. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, a new all-Ireland body called Waterways Ireland was established in 1999 and assumed responsibility for most inland navigable waterways including the Grand Canal.

Grand Canal Way

The Grand Canal Way (IrishBealach na Canálach Móire)[5] is a 117-kilometre (73 mi) long-distance trail that follows the towpath of the canal from Lucan Bridge, near Adamstown, to Shannon Harbour.[6] It is typically completed in five days.[6]It is designated as a National Waymarked Trail by the National Trails Office of the Irish Sports Council and is managed by Waterways Ireland.[6] At Robertstown, the Grand Canal Way intersects with the Barrow Way, which follows the Barrow Line extension to the canal to Athy for part of its route.[7] There is also an 8.5-kilometre (5.3 mi) long greenway between the 3rd Lock at Inchicore and the 12th Lock at Lucan, which opened in June 2010.[8]

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