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Sunday 13 July 2014

Beyond the Pale

The Pale, that famously useless 14th defensive ditch that stretched in a loop through the counties neighbouring Dublin, runs south somewhere through Kilcock heading towards Clane as far as I can tell. Some of the remaining parts run in a line between Clane and Kilcock at any rate. My target for today was to go beyond it, and brave the lawlessness on the other side. We’ve come along way apparently because all I met were friendly walkers, cyclists and fisherfolk.

I decided to do an out-and-back route because I was unsure about how long it would take and didn’t want to end up in the middle of nowhere with blistered feet and an expensive taxi call as the only escape route. Kilcock is about 18km from home, taking the most direct route to the Royal Canal at Louisa Bridge in Leixlip. Yesterday I comfortably handled a 25km walk in the other direction, into Phibsboro along the canal and then down into town to get a bus home. I also really wanted to equal my best previous walking distance so I decided to go to the 17th Lock, Ferns Lock, at McLoughlin Bridge which is about 3km west of Kilcock. Total trip ended up at just over 43km door to door. If I’d kept heading out west I’d have comfortably made it to Kinnegad which is quite cool. Might try that next time.

The Royal Canal way is beautifully maintained along the section I covered. It’s a bit rutted from lots of bikes between Louisa Bridge and Maynooth but that’s hardly noticeable as a walker. The rest is well maintained, hard packed gravel surface or closely cut grass. Perfect for walking.

The route took me from Louisa Bridge on the eastern edge of Leixlip, past the new Matt Gough Bridge (impressive but very modern and plain), Dee Bridge and the 13th Lock, Pikes Bridge (the dock at Carton Estate), Mullen Bridge (Tasteful modern bridge beside the original, very nice engineering), Maynooth Dock and the pedestrian walkway over to the train station, Bond Bridge ( again a very nice modern bridge), past the grounds of NUI Maynooth, Jackson’s Bridge (a wonderful construction with four arches, one of which is for pedestrians, Bailey’s Bridge (a very ugly 20th century bridge), North Kildare RFC where I stopped to watch the cricket for a few minutes, Chamber’s Bridge and the 15th Lock (very nice 18th century stonework), Kilcock and it’s fantastic harbour, Shaw’s Bridge in Kilcock ( another excellent modern bridge), the double 16th Lock, Allen Bridge (a dull 20th century functional concrete slab affair), and then finally a km or two right along the Meath/Kildare Border between the canal and the Rye Water until I just barely crossed into Meath at Ferns Lock, the 17th, and McLoughlin’s Bridge.

I think I got there around 12:30PM, almost exactly four hours after I set off. Total distance at that point was 21km. My pace was relatively slow because I was taking pictures along the way out and was always aware that I was going to have to cover every step again.

Heading back I slowed down a bit more and the return trip took me over 5 hours but I stopped three times to rest and give tired muscles a bit of a break. And have a pint or two. This was a Sunday stroll after all.

The weather was perfect for walking, not so good for taking pictures but I got a few more shots of bridges, locks and scenery that should match up with the list above.

The only downside is that yet again I was stupid enough to get sun burned. Never forget to put on sunblock, even if there’s dense cloud cover.


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