Gone Bike About

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Enfield – Mullingar – Longford – Clondra … Enfield – Dublin Docklands – Clontarf – Howth – Dublin Airport

 

260 kms

A hungry feeling’ came o’er me stealin’

And the mice were squealing’ in my prison cell

 

And the old triangle went jingle jangle

Along the banks of the Royal Canal. 

 

 
 Brendan Behan  
 
 
 

Well, he wasn’t referring to a bicycle-frame triangle… but now with the relatively new 144 km Royal Canal cycle route from the River Liffey in Dublin to the River Shannon in Longford, the old triangle takes on a whole new meaning! 

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The old triangle
The Royal Canal route

On our visits to Darina’s homeplace, we always saw the Royal Canal pathway from the train window, and wondered how far it would take us. So, this Christmas, we decided to give it a go on our bikes. It mightn’t be the perfect travel season for Ireland but we had friendly smiles the whole way, and a warm shower at the end of every day!

Due to our late arrival in Dublin, we took a Citylink bus (5€/bike) to Enfield, from where we had a short night ride to the Moyvalley Hotel & Golf Resort. Sounds posh – and so it is! But they had very reasonable corporate rates for late stragglers like us. And their restaurant wasn’t bad either!

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Moyvalley Hotel & Golf Resort

Days are short in December, and so the next morning we were up bright and early for a full Irish breakfast, and we were on our bikes at the crack of dawn. Under an overcast sky, we followed the old life line of the midlands, while a heavy mist worked wonders on our complexions!

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A perfect start to the day!
Heading out at first light
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The canal was often on an elevated dam, affording us views of wintery fields left and right. Before Mullingar, it was carved into rocks for a bit of variety. There, a Greenway leads off on an old railway line to Athlone, a project that will be continued all the way to the west coast.

No tractors, motorbikes or horses
dav
Ballinacarrigy
And the sheep are as happy as Larry!
Bogland outside Abbeyshrule

We stayed on the canal until it was time to turn off to Darina’s family in Moydow. In total we had done a 100 km on pleasant surfaces ranging from hard gravel to tarmac.

Brrrrrr!
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Clondra, Co Longford

After the turkey and ham, we cycled the arm of the canal that leads to Longford; a stretch that seemingly should be done up this year (2019). It was a bit unkempt and muddy in places, but rideable. Another day we made it to the River Shannon end of the canal at the lovely Clondra harbour.

In Clondra, there is a monument commemorating the largest known group to have walked the length of the Royal Canal: The 1490 Strokestown Famine Emigrants in May, 1847. 

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Famine emigrant memorial
It's well signposted
There are 46 working locks on the canal
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What a difference the sun makes

Once the turkey sandwiches were eaten, we took the train to Enfield and cycled the part of the canal we’d missed on the way down. That day we had lovely sunshine but apart from Maynooth harbor, there was a serious lack of picnic spots or cafes. 

From Maynooth to Leixlip it was still easy riding, but at Clonsilla the path dwindled from a walking trail to a hiking trail three metres above the water on a slope full of wet roots and mud in between.

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While the going was good!
OK in relatively dry weather
Before it got really tricky
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Where the canal enters the River Liffey

We decided to do the last stretch into Castleknock station (12th lock) on safe residential roads, before rejoining the dedicated cycle lane from there to the end at the River Liffey in Dublin’s Docklands. And as we passed Mountjoy prison, we missed the jingle jangle but a hungry feelin’ came over us stealin’ and Kurt had a serious craving for fish ‘n chips!

We can conclude that for cyclists with time on their hands and a desire to explore the Atlantic coast, the Royal Canal cycle route could be a pleasant and peaceful way to get there under their own steam. We would certainly use it again. 

 

 

Dublin city was full of festive lighting. Whether it was for us or Christmas we never found out, but we loved it anyway!

 

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The Docklands
The General Post Office
Trinity College
A quiet corner of Temple Bar

Well, Kurt got his fish ‘n chips and washed the lot down with a pint of local brew, as a few musicians entertained us with  political, patriotic, romantic and lustful Irish ballots including… The Auld Triangle!

Fish 'n chips
A pint of Smithwicks

It certainly was a scenic route to the airport, as we cycled in glorious sunshine along Dublin Bay to Bull Island and on for a loop of Howth Head (the steepest we had on this trip). After a delicious lunch, thanks to Mary and Tony, we were ready for the last stretch to the departure gate, where Ryan Air managed to turn a simple baggage-drop-off procedure into a tedious, disorganised chaos!

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Bridge out to Bull Island
Great coastal bike trail
The way it should be!
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Dublin Bay

And since we started poetically, we’ll finish with an adjusted verse:

 

May the road rise to meet you and


May the hedge cutters be always at your back

Saves you fixing endless punctures

Like a demented maniac

 

Kurt Bähler