Finding your path


We all know the benefits of getting out for a walk or a run but sometimes it can be difficult to know where to find the best trails and pathways. Some people like the cool shade of wooded areas, others prefer to be kept on their toes with a running track, while many others enjoy the peace and tranquillity of walking and running beside water.

Bernard Phelan is the secretary of St Cocas Athletics club in Kilcock, Co Kildare which is located on the Royal Canal Greenway and its 450 members have access to several great routes for walking and running.

“The Kilcock to Maynooth via Jackson's Bridge route is approximately 7km long and is very popular with walkers, runners and cyclists,” he says. “It passes the North Kildare Rugby Club and takes in the harbour at Maynooth. While the Kilcock to Ferrans Lock trail, at roughly 4km, includes the route for Kilcock parkrun and is again popular with all, particularly runners.

“Then the 5km Ferrans Lock to Cloncurry route is also nice and takes in some lovely woods along the way. It also includes an open road section at the end but is generally quiet and preferred by walkers, runners, and cyclists for that very reason. And lastly another place I would recommend, would be the beautiful Donadea forest Park which is within easy reach of Kilcock for those using the Royal Canal.”

Another area which is perfect for getting out and about in nature is Mullingar and Greg Duggan, PRO, and vice-chair of Mullingar Harriers Athletics Club, says there are many options to choose from.

“We are totally spoilt here with Belvedere House and Gardens which has a nice, hilly 2km cross country course outside the grounds,” he says. “Then inside the estate itself there is a 3k looped woodland trail down by Loch Ennell which is a beautiful place to run and walk. The surface is soft and gravelly, with some tarmac and it’s sheltered out of the rain and wind in the winter – so the whole place is absolutely fantastic.

“Apart from Belvedere, we also have the trail along the Royal Canal, which is surfaced for miles either side of Mullingar, so you can head off for as long or short as you want, looping across bridges as you go. It is particularly lovely to be by the water and I would say it’s suitable for people of all ages and abilities, whether they want to walk, run, cycle, or even stroll with the dog.  

“And if that isn’t enough, the old rail trail along the railway line between Mullingar and Athlone is a 30-mile trail which, unless you are an ultra-distance runner and want to do the whole lot, it can be joined at various access points and car parks along the way – you can also loop into the canal walks if you want. So all-in-all, we really have plenty to choose from.”

Over in Enfield, Co Meath, Na Fianna Athletics Club has been around for half a century and chairperson, Maggie Higgins, says there are also many great trails in and around the club which are utilised by both their 130 members and the general public.

“We mainly train at Enfield GAA pitch but different groups train in other locations depending on their needs and the Royal Canal Greenway gets a lot of use by our members,” she says. “Enfield towards Blackwater Bridge is a 5k route which is tarmacked for the first 1k and then becomes a mix of sand and shale.

It makes for a very pleasant walk or run because it curves along the canal rather than being a long straight route.  It is measured out in 1k signs up to 6k just before Furey’s pub which can be a great incentive for people to know the distance they've done.

“There is another route from Furey’s up to Ribbontail, Longwood and while the surface is the same as the first route, with tarmac and shale, this 4k trail runs along the far side of the canal and once you reach the end of the tarmac you can nearly see all the way along the path to your destination as the lack of a ditch on the right gives an open view to the fields beyond.

Towards the end of the route the path curves to the right and narrows slightly into the tarmac horseshoe shape of Ribbontail, which is the base for the local canoeing club.

There is a car park close by where there is usually a coffee/tea stall and sometimes there is ice cream one there at weekends.” 

Along with these two routes, another popular trail in the area is a path along the left side of the canal which starts off as stone but becomes a natural clay grass path. Maggie Higgins says this is ideal if you prefer softer natural ground underfoot or for dog walking. 

“During lockdown the canals were very busy especially, on Sundays and while it has quietened down now, you will always meet a few people walking, running or cycling – who will flash a smile or a friendly hello.  That is the effect that being beside water has on people – it’s soothing and calming – so time well spent.”

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