Built in the 19th century, the Grand Canal developed from an important trade route to a relaxing haven. Connecting the capital city westwards with the River Shannon, this genteel, old engineering marvel winds through the centre of Dublin, on towards fertile farmlands, charming villages and past the tumble-down remnants of the midlands’ historic past.
The Grand Canal was completed at the turn of the 19th century to connect Dublin to the Shannon. Though initially a strategic commercial trail, advances in transportation meant the last cargo barge passed through its bloom-filled corridors in 1960. Today, as a result of restoration work this waterway is well-frequented by users of the canal’s bountiful amenities.
The canal enters the heart of Dublin through Inchicore, where flocks of mute swans breeze silently along the still waters each autumn. The city canal stretches provide close access to all the culture and buzz Dublin has on offer and travelling by boat allows you to change from hectic to rustic at the drop of a hat. Rent a barge, canoe or kayak from one of the providers located along the route. Or for an alternative activity, you could try the thrill of cablewakeboarding in the cosmopolitan Dublin Docklands. Regardless of what craft you choose, drifting through scenic villages and by abundant fishing spots will relax your mind and restore your spirit.
Of course, the pleasant towpaths of the 117km Grand Canal Way allow walkers to enjoy this mighty waterway. Punctuated by the locks that characterise the technology of its golden years, the canal is a portrait of a time when the waterway affected all life surrounding its banks.
Works are ongoing to develop sections of the Grand Canal Towpath to Greenway standard. Click here to view current status.
The Barrow Line links the main line of the Grand Canal with the River Barrow at Athy. The line cuts through waterlogged bogs and grassy farmland in Kildare and Laois before turning towards Athy to join the Barrow’s peaty tide.
The Grand Canal’s backdrop of shallow marshes and rolling landscapes, sings with birds and other wildlife. Whether on-board a boat or alongside the canal, kingfishers, herons and even otters can be spotted dipping in and out of its tranquil waters. The Grand Canal is also a major angling destination and home to numerous competitions annually.
Regardless of how you traverse its waters, the contrasting urban intensity and rural expanses of the Grand Canal ensure your eyes will never tire of the splendour that engulfs it.
Plus, if it’s a leisurely pace or a secluded spot you’re looking for along its banks, calm and relaxation is a guaranteed find.
Click to view our Navigation Guide.