The Grand Canal Approach, Hazelhatch to Sallins, Co Kildare
Start: Hazlehatch Bridge, 600m from Hazelhatch and Celbridge rail station.Finish: Path ends at Sallins.Distance: 12.6 km.Takes 4 hours if you want to explore slowly.Suitability: Easy. Bring food, water and warm
from Adamstown in west Dublin
Shannon Harbour, Co Offaly. The area in between Hazelhatch and Sallins is a best microcosm of it– a half day’s walk in between 2 towns serviced by a train whose own history is knotted because of the canal.
I set out from Hazelhatch, where houseboats line the channel. This requirement to be Dublin’s a lot of chaotic and inspiriting row of homes: the barges are cream, red and highlighter blue, fat and slim, tall and squat. The towpath is embellished with bicycles, tables, old kayaks, wheelie bins, photovoltaic panels and wood sculptures. Smoke boosts from their chimneys, but no one emerges from listed below deck, so I stroll on. Work began on the Grand Canal in 1756 in Clondalkin. But progress was slow, and it took more than two decades prior to the 20km channel to Sallins was open. Further west, the enormous Bog of Allen nearly sunk the job when clay walls built to support
it failed. The Grand Canal finally reached the Shannon in 1803, however the age of fast rail travel was looming. For those who generally walk the mountains or coast, the canal is a completely numerous animal. While hillwalking is daring, canal-walking is ponderous– you need not stress over navigation or the surface area here, the towpath just carries you constantly forwards.
However our canals play an essential eco-friendly role, connecting rivers and lakes that would otherwise be separated. And their landscape makes you bear in mind for its subtler advantages, like a moorhen hiding in the sedges, or bubbles breaking on the water’s surface, possibly launched by a tench consuming grubs on the floor of the canal. Like a forgotten roadway it slips behind fields and country estates. It’s concealed from Kildare’s contemporary commuter towns, and has an architecture all of its own. I passed steep stone bridges, run-down lock-keeper’s cottages, and an old canal-side church and school
at Ardclough. I walked by the old Lyons demesne, with its enormous Georgian manor, and Oughterard, where Arthur Guinness is buried and Daniel O’Connell removed John D’Esterre in a pistol battle in 1815. Bring a map though: normally these features lag high walls or rows of ivy-wrapped trees. About half method to Sallins, the light started to break down. Colour drained pipes from the landscape, leaving just the black trees and the shadows they cast on the dark water. Strolling in the half-light was amazing, nevertheless, and dead silent other than when my existence sent terrified birds yelling from the trees. Quickly I passed under the train bridge right before Sallins. The Grand Canal Organisation fought the structure of the trains, and this bridge showed essential: as soon as the Great Southern and Western Train Service won the right to bridge the canal in the 1840s, the rail network might extend to Cork, Limerick and Galway.
Just twenty years in the future, the mass transport of people and items on the canal was ended up. Source