The Athlone Canal
I have been on the river most of my life so I was surprised to discover the Athlone Canal. Yep, there is a Canal in Athlone! It is no longer in use as a navigable waterway, but much of it is now a pretty linear park.
So yesterday, I met a friend and we went for a walk along the Canal to do a bit of exploring. Well, when I say exploring, it was all new to me. But not to the people of Athlone, as the park was busy with walkers.
We started at the Luan Gallery. There are a few steps at the Gallery that go down to a path that runs along the river, around the back of the boat club, and under the railway bridge. The road turns sharp left, but the footpath now becomes a linear park and continues along the river.
The Athlone Canal entrance
There are several benches, and some fishing stands on the route. It goes almost as far as the motorway bridge, where you can just about see the entrance to the Canal to your left. On the right there is a stone walk out into the river about 20 feet or so, with a large block at the end. It used to be a diving board, and children jumped off it and swam to the other side of the River. This seems incredibly dangerous to me – the river is wide here, has a fast current on it, and was busy with cruisers and other craft. But before the motorway bridge was built, the channel was apparently a little narrower.
If you are coming downstream by boat, go under the motorway bridge, and look over to the far right. There is a slip immediately below the bridge, and the canal entrance is just below that. It isn’t clearly visible by boat as there are some tall trees along the edge, and your navigation will swing to the left, through a narrow channel towards the Jolly Mariner.
The foot path turns away from the River to run close to the Canal. However, it isn’t really visible until the park ends and the walk continues along Talbot Avenue. Houses on Talbot Avenue look out over the Canal. And what a pretty view they have! The canal is beautiful, with several landing jetties, some open boats, large flower pots, and it is all immaculately kept. And the water is clear, but shallow and not navigable for cruisers.
Where road and rail cross the Athlone Canal
We come to the junction between Grace Road and Magazine Road. The road bridge over the canal is completely filled in, with a large pipe running across the channel on one side of the bridge. There is a railway bridge – the large buildings beside this are derelict but used to the original railway station for Athlone. But the Canal continues and we can see the next bridge. We do not walk any further as my time did not permit unfortunately.
Turning back and retracing our steps, I notice that there is also a walk on the far side of the Canal, which goes as far as the motorway bridge. I will return and continue walking this area, as well as following the Canal to its end, where it re-enters the River Shannon below the Lock.
More information on the Athlone Canal
I found this great article with far better explanations and more on the history of the Canal. We picked a fine day to go walking, and it looks great in the sunshine. The Canal is being beautifully kept and the path and Canal are a lovely amenity for Athlone. I agree with BJG that spending money restoring this canal for navigation would be a waste. But keeping it as a pretty linear park makes it one of Athlone’s little gems.