Canals were constructed over 250 years ago to allow barges (flat bottomed boats which could be towed and carried people and goods) to transport goods throughout the country. These goods included turf, whiskey, bricks and even Guinness!
Canals operated like the Ireland's first motorway cutting right across the countryside. The main difficulty was trying to dig through a country that was not flat. To overcome this problem locks were required on the canal to move barges through the huge steps needed to allow the canal to become a complete inland waterway in Ireland’s bumpy countryside.
Have a look at this video below which shows the workings of a lock.
Where does the water in the canal come from and how does it stays put? The canals were lined with puddle clay which made it in impermeable/waterproof. Water is fed into the canals from springs, lakes and reservoirs.
The canals took approximately 50 years to complete and for many years they were a hive of activity. In 1853 passenger boats were withdrawn as steam trains were invented. Steam trains ultimately led to the decline of the canal as a means of transport as trains proved to be faster, cheaper and more flexible in route than canal systems.
While canals don't see the same level of use they did all those years ago they are still a hive of activity! The decline in barge traffic saw an increase in biodiversity along the canals. They are also a source of leisure for tourists and many people who live along them.