Walk, cycle or fly – the 130km Royal Canal Greenway to open this summer

Tourism businesses hope for a ‘canal dividend’ on Ireland’s longest greenway

Robert Crilly’s Midlands Cycle Hub at Cloondara offers one-day and multi-day tours of traffic-free cycling along the Royal Canal Greenway. Photograph: Alan Betson

Robert Crilly’s Midlands Cycle Hub at Cloondara offers one-day and multi-day tours of traffic-free cycling along the Royal Canal Greenway. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Robert Crilly is hopeful his new Midlands Cycling Hub premises, strategically located at the end of the Royal Canal Greenway in Co Longford, will see tourists pouring his way when it opens this summer.

The State’s longest greenway yet, the 130km Royal Canal Greenway from Maynooth in Co Kildare to Cloondara, Co Longford, is to be officially launched by Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan on Wednesday.

The towpath route beside the 225-year-old canal passes 90 bridges, 33 locks, 17 harbours and four aqueducts, not to mention dozens of shops, B&Bs, restaurants and pubs.

After Covid-19 restrictions saw Crilly’s cycling hub plans put on hold last year, his hopes are high that his year business will be brisk.

The hub is one of dozens of businesses along the route that are very much now hoping for a “greenway dividend”.

The Royal Canal Greenway at Abbeyshrule, Co Longford, is Ireland’s longest greenway. Photograph: Alan Betson
The Royal Canal Greenway at Abbeyshrule, Co Longford, is Ireland’s longest greenway. Photograph: Alan Betson

In the first nine months of the opening of the Waterford Greenway in March 2017, there were 250,000 visitors, most of them spending €25-€100 a night.

Business in the midlands would be a welcome relief from Covid, says Crilly, who is hoping to offer a route into the famine museum at Strokestown Park House, about 18km away in Co Roscommon. The trail follows the ill-fated journey of 1,490 famine emigrants who walked from Strokestown Park to ships in Dublin in 1847, at the height of the Famine.

Accommodation

At Abbeyshrule, Susan Egan of Abbeyview B&B, 100 metres from the canal, is investing in “pods” in her grounds.

“Because necessity is the mother of invention,” she says, explaining that they are ideal for people who want their own space during Covid-19 as they are socially distanced and have their own kitchenette, bedroom and and en suite facilities.

Susan Egan of Abbeyview House B&B & Glamping is investing in pods to accommodate visitors to the new greenway. Photograph: Alan Betson
Susan Egan of Abbeyview House B&B & Glamping is investing in pods to accommodate visitors to the new greenway. Photograph: Alan Betson

“There was always lots more to do in the area than people thought,” she says, citing a long list including the availability of flying lessons at nearby Abbeyshrule Airfield.

Mullingar is about 30km away and offers a route along the Old Rail Trail Greenway into Athlone. The Royal Canal Greenway route also passes well-known isolated hostelries such as Mary Lynch’s where the canal meets the M4 at Coralstown; Nanny Quinn’s bar and restaurant near Killucan; and Furey’s tin-roofed bar on the edge of the canal at Moyvalley.

Also offering bike hire at the eastern end of the canal is Royal Canal Bike Hire, which offers cycling tours based out of Enfield or Maynooth, which are just 20km apart. The company is keen to offer people the opportunity of multiple days’ hire and will collect bikes at pre-arranged guesthouses along the way.

Royal Canal Bike Hire did not open for business during the short period available during Covid restrictions last year. Now they are confident, with the official opening of the Royal Canal Greenway, that this year it will finally get off the ground.