Waterways Ireland, in partnership with four local authorities, has launched a new winter "Make a Connection" campaign to encourage people to go green and blue this festive season and enjoy connecting with the outdoor spaces of the Royal Canal Greenway during the most wonderful time of the year, in a bid to reduce stress and boost overall wellbeing in the winter months.
Studies show that simply spending time in nature may be one of the best — and most accessible (and cost-effective!) — ways to boost your mental health and reduce your stress, quickly. And as a double boost to wellbeing, some studies have also found that being around water has similar positive benefits. The blend of both blue and green space, such as that the Royal Canal Greenway offers, may help ease anxiety and relieves stress, according to a team at King's College London.
The new research also shows that walking along a canal or riverbank can boost your mental health.
A study of nearly 300 people revealed that walks along bodies of water led to significant improvements in well-being and mood. Out of the 299 participants, 87 were living with mental illness.
The "Make a Connection" campaign has been launched by Waterways Ireland in partnership with Westmeath County Council, Kildare County Council, Longford County Council and Meath County Council.
Further research shows that spending at least 120 minutes a week outside and in nature can promote better health and overall well-being. And even better, the activity does not matter – whether you are physically active or just relaxing, the act of being outside is what matters.
A representative from Waterways Ireland – said: "Since launching, the Royal Canal Greenway has played an important role in providing a place for people to re-energise and destress.
"We know that from research there is a positive association between encountering green spaces, wildlife, nature, bodies of water such as canals and rivers, and mental wellbeing.
"The 130km canal route has an abundance of trees, plants and wildlife which means it's capacity to improve mental wellbeing is likely to be due to the multiple benefits associated with both green and blue spaces, and indeed the social, community connection with other people.
"We are encouraging as many people to visit the Royal Canal Greenway as possible this winter in a bid to access this free amazing space, which can play such a vital role in our wellbeing."
Discover winter's natural beauty
The Royal Canal Greenway travels from cosmopolitan Maynooth, through Enfield and Mullingar to charming Cloondara in Longford. A mostly flat trail, the Royal Canal Greenway is steeped in history and was once the domain of placid barge horses, which today has become the realm of walkers, runners and cyclists of all ages and stages.
Many people find that packing a lunch and a ramble along the flat path, passing through picturesque waterside villages is one way to enjoy the Royal Canal Greenway.
It is also home to many welcoming cafes and coffee boxes to stop at for both food and drink, often with outside seating, as well as picnic spots, playgrounds and attractions so you can support local businesses whilst socialising with friends and family.
Enjoy active experiences
Whilst the winter months can make it more difficult to get outside, there are still a wide variety of outdoor activities that can get you moving on the Royal Canal Greenway, for all ages. whilst staying active.
There is also a number of fitness events scheduled to take place on or near the Royal Canal Greenway in the coming weeks and in the new year including weekly Parkruns in the scenic village of Kilcock and in Mullingar. Westmeath will also host the annual Mullingar Half Marathon on 17 March 2023.
Stay and unwind
The Royal Canal Greenway, is also home to many hotels, guest houses and B&Bs who enjoy the views of both the Green and Blue Spaces. The location of these allows enjoyments of the path at a pace that suits all age-groups and abilities.
As the trail passes through four counties all the way from Ireland's Ancient East to Ireland's Hidden Heartlands, there are plenty of places to stay overnight at and relax. Many are offering special winter discounts so you can enjoy a festive staycation at an affordable price.