Our planning was simple. Park the car in Maynooth, catch the train to Castleknock and walk as far as possible… maybe to Leixlip. We were prepared… fruit, water and a sugar rich fizzy drink… just in case the blood sugar levels took a dip. Junior son pointed out that it was the first time he was on a train in Ireland… so many firsts for both of us.
On exiting the station gates one tends to immediately turn left and head back toward the west. Don’t… turn right… pass underneath the bridge and the 12th Lock comes into view. Start the walk there. It’s amazing how the canal has a soothing effect on a person… even here in the middle of the city. The moored boats all shout fun, good life… great times! Yes, I know I may be romanticising… yes, I know boats can be hard work and long hours… but I’m of the opinion that everything you put in is richly rewarded!
OK… I’ll stop philosophising. From the 12th Lock at Talbot Bridge toward the west a number of structures cross the canal at regular interviews. The whole route is available on map 2 of the IWAI guide. We had a look around at the moored boats before heading west. Float 3, the RCAG boat was tied up, locked and silent. We were aware that she was making her way along the canal to the west.
One is hardly past the boats before going under Granard Bridge and past Castleknock station. There’s a mooring right outside the station gate. Imagine… I said to junior son, your passengers can walk straight off the train onto your boat… wishful thinking?
Before getting to Coolmine Station and Kilpatrick Bridge we entered the ‘Deep Sinking’. This section of canal was excavated out of the bed-rock… imagine, before 1800… carving your way through the rock… with hand tools! In those days it cost more than £40 000 to complete the cut… a massive amount of money, of which apparently £10 000 was spent on tools and gunpowder alone.
Between Kilpatrick and Kennan bridges a newer high level concrete structure crosses the cutting. The ubiquitous ‘new aged modern rock art’ graphically decorating the stark walls and uprights. At Kennan Bridge the towpath crossed to the opposite bank and continues on to Callaghan Bridge at Clonsilla Station. The tranquility along this section can easily let one forget that things are man-made and not quite natural.
We debated the pros and cons of continuing… should we get junior son on the train or would he manage the longer (about 5 Km) section after Clonsilla. To his credit… he was up for the additional walk. On one condition… we have a few rest breaks. This is where we differ. I don’t like stopping… I can’t really sit for long… the old muscles tighten up! 😉 Anyway… we stopped at the graffiti pipe bridge mentioned in Wednesday’s post. Not long after resuming our walk we reached the new Meath line rail bridge. (This bridge, as well as the concrete and pipe bridges are not marked on the e-map.)
Meters after passing the rail bridge we exit the western end of the Deep Sinking and the canal enters the more open countryside, farm land all the way along the north bank… townland along the south bank. The less sheltered areas along the bank are more conducive to flowering plants so the colours are quite vivid. The mauves, purples, yellows, reds, scarlets and pinks… these colours are well offset by the many shades of green Ireland is so well-known for.
Junior son was showing signs of strain now so we stopped a few more times. I promised we would jump on the train at Leixlip Confey… the next station. We passed Pakenham Bridge and stopped briefly at Collins Bridge for a chat with a few WI lads. I was severely reprimanded by junior son when we eventually reached Cope Bridge at Confey Station… the same WI lads passed by in their truck and waved… he was quick to point out that he could have caught a ride with them! We were soon back on a train… heading for Maynooth, wondering when I’ll get to complete the section to Maynooth on foot.
Ed’s note – please click on the first photo to enlarge, then use the forward or reverse arrows below each photo to view the gallery. Forgive the dreary, grey skies… if I have to wait for blue skies I may never get the walks completed!