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Wednesday 7 May 2014

In through the Out Ways–Part 2, the Southern Line

Walking from Celbridge to the Sea via the Grand Canal and the Circular Line.

Yeah you knew it was the Circular Line down there by Baggot St Bridge and Paddy Kavanagh, right? Yeah I thought not. But it is, more on that later.

This second part of my trip had two main objectives. Clearly the first task was to see if I could actually get all the way in without any detours but the more important task was to see if I could take this slightly shorter route immediately after the 32km total of the day before without doing any damage to my feet. If I can’t manage two days without any problems I’m not going to be able to do the cross country walk after all.

As it happens the navigation issue was a non-issue. The route is not only navigable, this one could be navigated easily by anyone. It’s well sign-posted, paths range from well maintained to positively ridiculously over engineered. At least 16km of it could probably be traversed safely in a wheelchair. The number of people who seem to know about this seems to be small, which is a shame, it’s an amazing resource to have within a city.

Anyway the route this time is really simple – turn left outside my door and proceed south until I hit the canal then take another left and proceed until I hit the end of the canal. This one is a clickable link, I’ll have to retrofit the first part with one of these later too, it’s very slick.


Part 2 – The Southern Route

So following my 32km on Sunday I headed out from home at 7:40AM on Monday, hoping to be finished around lunch time. The Canal is about 2.5km south of us here and the first notable point along that route was Hazelhatch train station and the canal bridge at Hazelhatch itself with the now sadly closed Hatch Bar and McEvoy’s pub.

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The way marked route started here for me on the northern bank of the canal, in the car park of McEvoy’s. If you zoom in on the map link you can see just how surgically straight the Grand Canal is at this point, its just a small number of long arrow straight segments all the way in to town, much more obviously artificial than the slightly more fluid Royal Canal, at least in this area on the approach to the city.

There are always quite a few boats here, some are more or less permanent, and it’s a lovely spot for a pint in the summertime. At 8:00AM on a public holiday it’s pretty quiet though.

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The walk is instantly completely rural and in under 10 minutes you are out of sight of anything newer than the 18th Century and at 8:00AM on a Bank Holiday Monday morning there was no sound of the 21st century to be heard either. I stopped and took this 180 degree panorama about 30 minutes along the route to Lucan Bridge. It might as well be in the middle of nowhere, the one bridge I came across just linked two fields together and the only building was an old ruin. Totally beautiful place to go for a stroll.

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And on to Gollierstown Bridge and some more idyllic rural-ness.

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Followed by an old ruined canal building of some sort, and yet more countryside.

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An hour into the trip I got to Lucan Bridge and the 12th Lock around 9:00AM. This is a fairly quiet spot but the change in tone is still incredibly abrupt. In under 200m the scenery changes from 18th Century Canal to 21st Century information hub with some of the large City West\Grange Castle Data Centres from Microsoft and others visible just here, along with their high voltage power lines. The railway and motorways are also just about visible here so we have a sudden collision of 21st, 20th, 19th and 18th century industrial infrastructure right here. Quite mad given how idyllically rural it is less than 200m back to the west.


Lucan Bridge links the main Newcastle Rd out of Lucan to Peamount hospital and Grange Castle, on the way to Newcastle but it also marks the end of the Grand Canal Greenway. This is an amazing 8km section of paved cycle/walk way that runs all the way from Lucan in to Inchicore along the southern bank of the canal. There seems to be almost no information out there about it which is quite bizarre as it has been open since 2010. The route has had a bad reputation in the past but I can say that it seems really well managed to me.


As you can see it’s a well maintained, perfectly straight and flat paved pathway. It’s fully street lit for 8km and there are even ramped cycle friendly cross over bridges like this one that you come across about 5 minutes into the walk. It’s quite unusual to see a bridge totally designed for cyclists, or maybe wheelchairs. Cool though.


Lovely engineering. Security is quite overt along this entire 8km stretch, these CCTV\Loudspeaker combinations are spaced out at about 100-150m intervals.


Next up at around 15 minutes further along was the bridge carrying the R136, the so called “Outer Ring Rd.”, which is not all that interesting. Moving along I came across yet another of these ruined old buildings. All of them have the same general design so I assume they were for feeding\watering either the people or the horses towing the barges along the canals.

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The next significant milestone is the 11th Lock which is about 30 minutes along the Greenway route. It was starting to get a bit damp at this point as you can sort of see in the second picture.


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Next up was the 10th Lock and the Fonthill Rd Bridge.


About 10 minutes I got to the 9th Lock and the 9th Lock Rd that crosses over on the Clondalkin Bridge.


Just after this, at about quarter past 10, just over two hours into the walk I got to the M50. I was getting properly wet at this point and had to break out the rain gear. Even at this hour on a holiday it was incredibly noisy. Still pleasant enough all things considered.

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Once I got under the M50 bridge I was basically in Park West with the 8th Lock ahead just by the hotel.

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The rain was still quite heavy but I was pleasantly surprised by this spot, it’s quite nice. The swan had a lot to do with it I think, it had loads of attitude.


The 8th Lock and the Park West Avenue Bridge just beyond it, barely visible in the trees here, mark a change from fairly pleasant office zone to much heavier industrial buildings although the canal area remains very nice here throughout. The name Greenway is not a mistake to be fair


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Next up, another 10 minutes along the route is the 7th Lock and the Ballyfermot Bridge & Footbridge at Killeen Rd.

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Next up is the 6th Lock at Kylemore. This was a fairly short 10 – 15 minute wander through what really is an industrial semi desert but the Greenway itself continued to be clean and well kept, and despite losing its signs the lock here was still perfectly operational. Immediately after this I came across some of Dublin’s urban horses hanging about just beyond the Kylemore Rd bridge.


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Within 5 minutes I was at the 5th and 4th Locks. The 5th also had all its signs removed but the area is pretty pleasant and there was a nice friendly bunch of blokes fishing just below the 4th lock.

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You can see from this zoomed shot that the drop into the city is pretty clear here looking down towards the 3rd Lock at Inchicore and you can even see the 2nd further in, if you quint a bit.


The 3rd Lock was actually in use. This was a real bonus for the trip. The guys from Waterways Ireland were great, full of chat and telling me about other parts of the canal system. I got a ton of shots of the 3rd Lock in action but these are a couple of the best.


The poor bloke on the boat really didn’t want to be the centre of so much attention but the lock keepers more than made up for that I think. They were very keen to let me know that they would be taking 50 or so boats down the canal next Saturday.


Inchicore marks another major change in tone. The greenway ends here and we’re now in the city proper. It’s urban parkland, Luas lines and lots of built up cityscapes from here to the sea. It’s funny how Inchicore becomes quite a clear marker between the green zone further out and the city in my head now, in the past I’d just have thought “Industrial wasteland”. It’s a nice change to have happen.


Just after the lock we have the Luas Red line coming in the Naa Rd and meeting up with Tyrconnell Rd. here at the Blackhorse Bridge and from further along I got another view of our friend as he followed me along down to the river. I was easily outpacing him I have to say.


Next up was the Drimnagh Luas access footbridge followed by the 2nd Lock and the Goldenbridge footbridge. I was standing on the lower lock gate as he opened the sluices and let it fill. Damn but there’s a lot of water moving in there very quickly and I was quite shocked when the lock gate decided it needed to “settle” a bit with the couple of hundred tons of water that had just arrived. Lesson learned, don’t stand on lock gates when they are filling/emptying.



Another 5 minutes along I reached Dolphin’s Barn and Lock 1. It’s interesting that this is Lock 1, I know there are quite a few more before we hit sea level. Anyway this is a really interesting intersection, with lots of transport stuff weaving around.

First off we have the lock and this large harbour zone that actually stretches back to Lock 2, this was clearly a major way point back when the Canals were fully active.


The lock is quickly followed by the Suir Rd.bridge ( apparently called the Harcourt Bridge) that has the now sadly orphaned half of ADW’s “Broken Hearts” stencil/mural on it. This area is an old canal junction, and clearly there was a direct route straight ahead but now the canal only takes a sudden turn to the south. The Luas line passes over at this point on the Anne Devlin Bridge and continues on straight following the arrow straight line the canal has been taking since up by Park West. Weird. You can’t actually navigate under the Anne Devlin Bridge on foot for some reason, something I was oddly annoyed by. Anyway it’s interesting to see that sign that says “Main Line” . What’s that about?


So I had to detour back out from under the bridge here, up and over the Luas Line and back onto the Canal, now heading somewhat south rather than due east and then over the pedestrian only Griffith Bridge. Just after this is a really odd sign. “Circular Line” ? What?


Apparently this part of the Grand Canal, from here to Grand Canal Dock no less, is not actually the Grand Canal it’s the Circular line and all its locks are numbered C1, C2 etc. The Grand Canal used to keep on going on what is now the Luas line into Rialto eventually turning south into Guinness’ and ending in Grand Canal Place just to the north of Thomas St in an area that used to be called Grand Canal Harbour, right next to where the Guinness Storehouse is today, because that is what it was, a harbour on top of a hill. Gotta visit it sometime.

While being amazed by this discovery my friend in the barge disturbed the swans and I got one half decent shot.


Over the next 20 minutes or so I was happily plodding through the fairly green route going under the Herberton Bridge, the Camac Bridge, the Parnell Bridge and Robert Emmet Bridges as the route winds along Dolphin Road and then Parnell Road on the way to Portobello the last lock on the Circular Line, Lock C7.




Although technically it is the first lock that I met on the day it is the last lock on the Circular Line. I was really fairly wasted at this stage and in need of a break but everything around Portobello was closed for some reason. At 12:15 on a public holiday I’d expected a bit of a buzz but clearly everyone else was “resting”.  Anyway I was tired and hungry at this stage so I forgot to get a good picture of either the Lock or the La Touche Bridge but I did get this quick snap at least which has both in it.

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Next up was Charlemont Bridge, 5 minutes later. At least I remembered to get the lock this time, Lock C6 this time, but neglected to get a good shot of the bridge. Clear signs that I was losing my edge in the battle against fatigue. 



As I got to Leeson St Bridge, ( Eustace Bridge ) and Lock C5 I by chance took a backward looking shot towards the Charlemont Bridge and you can see the Luas Green line bridge in the trees, something else I forgot to capture as performance levels trailed off. Apparently it’s called the Simon H. Perry Bridge, or perhaps it’s just dedicated to him. The shot of  Lock C5 isn’t great either but I was rather keen to get to Baggot St. and rest at this point.


5 minutes later and I was having a chat with Paddy Kavanagh, breaking the news to him that he needed to re-title some of his poetry to use the words “Circular Line” rather than “Grand Canal”. “Lines Written on a Seat on the Circular Line, Dublin” would surely halve helped the city realise what the thing was actually called I reckon.


It was 12:40 more or less at this point and it had taken me almost exactly 5 hours to walk from home to here, where I work,  just around the back of those trees behind Paddy’s head on Ladd Lane.

Happy with that progress and very tired and hungry I baled out temporarily in order to get some food on Baggot St.

When I got back, 30 minutes later and feeling a whole lot better I got cracking at the last few locks and bridges.

First up was Lock C4 just before Baggot St Bridge. This is one I’ve walked across about 1000 times and I’ve only realised today what that Lock C4 actually means. Finding out that Baggot St Bridge is actually McCartney Bridge was also news to me. For some reason we don’t seem to care about the correct names for canal bridges.


Crossing back over to the walking path there is this “296 miles to Braunston” marker that I assume symbolises some partnership with the Grand Union Canal across the Irish sea and Tim’s special emergency culvert under Wilton Terrace that he may well end up living in one day when he turns his hand at being an under bridge troll, or an under road troll as it would be here.

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Back on the trail heading over McCartney bridge the route goes down parallel to Herbert Place and the walking route is only viable on the north side of the canal from here on. The trip from Baggot St. to Lock C3 at Huband Bridge took less than two minutes. Everything is very close together at this end of the city and these last few locks and bridges are really only 2-3 minutes apart.


And then it was just another 2 minutes to Lock C2 at the Northumberland Rd. end of Percy Place with McKenny’s Bridge just visible.


The view back up the bridges and locks is very picturesque here, I must come back some day when the light is better, and my aim isn’t so crooked.If you stand on Lock C1 I think you might be able to get three bridges and three locks into the one shot.


I was very close to the end now. At Lock C1 I came across another barge – this time one of the restaurant boats coming up the canal. These shots show just how tight the fit is for a full length barge. You can also just see the last road bridge before we hit the docklands here – Macquay’s bridge.


Technically this is the end of the canal. From here on it is Grand Canal Dock but I was going to the very end. No way was I stopping here. You can’t actually cover this last 100m or so beside the canal, both sides are now closed off in one way or another but I snuck in between some buildings on the north side to get this last shot before the dock. The canal takes a short dog leg here after Macquay bridge before going under the Victoria train Bridge and into the Grand Canal Dock.


At this point we’re at the end and just haggling over specifics. First up there is the general mooring area with the McMahon Bridge that splits the dock and carries Ringsend Rd into Irishtown and Ringsend and is the last (or first I suppose) bridge over the canal.


So I’d finally made it to the end. I just had a five minute wander along to go around Hanover Quay to the entrance with its sign lurking our by the river entrance to the three access ways into the dock: The Westmoreland, Buckingham and Camden Locks.

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I’d hit the end at 13:47, just over six hours after leaving home, and a map distance of 23km. That was only slightly slower than the day before and not bad at all considering how tired I’d been the previous evening. I’d also managed to do it with only one fairly minor blister which gives me some confidence that I can tackle the real thing without too many concerns.

I wasn’t quite finished with my walking. I wanted to actually close the loop so I crossed back over to Spencer Dock and then headed back into town along the North Wall Quay which got me this quite nice shot of some Dublin bikes.


Between the two days it’s been 60km circling the city along the canals. I’m quite pleased with myself I have to say.

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