Books and Maps—Updated Nov. 2004

You can plan your hike and keep track of your hiking progress with just one book and one set of maps as I did.

 If you are planning a day or two’s walk and rather than focusing on the canal itself, you plan to take a number of side trips to places of historic interest, more reference material will be needed.  We’ll get to that later.

November 2004 update—a new book on the pedestrian pleasures of the Grand Canal and the neighboring countryside has just been published.  I haven’t read it yet, but I will.  I recommend it sight-unseen in the belief that anyone interested in the canal should invest the modest 15 euros to get yet another walker’s perspective on the canal.  Scroll down to page four to read the publisher’s press release on John Mulligan’s Dancing on the Waves. 


*  Essential--Guide to the Grand Canal of Ireland, published by Duchas, the Heritage Service (in cooperation with the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland) is absolutely indispensable.  I have the November 1999 edition, a 65-page spiral bound booklet with a colorful cover and enamel coated pages.  Map scale is about 1.5 inches per mile (or 2.4cm per km). 

The book breaks the 80+ miles into 15 map strips, each identifying the locks (and their identification number), bridges and other overpasses, nearby historic sites of interest and location of nearby services for the traveler. These map sheets are on the left of the fold, and on the right is commentary about the canal and locks, historical information, the rise of each lock, name of the lockmaster, and in which nearby communities facilities such as shops, and pubs may be found.  

An online version of this entire book is found at  It is also available at the Inland Waterways of Ireland Visitor Centre at 6.35 Euros (2004 price).  I strongly encourage you to purchase this superb reference material. ISBN 0-7076-1625-5

*  RecommendedWalking Across Ireland:  From Dublin Bay to Galway Bay, written by Michael Fewer and published by The Collin Press, 2003. I became aware of this highly current book only after arriving in Ireland and didn’t buy it until I had completed my hike.  Fewer uses the Grand Canal for much of his route across the country during which he transverses the midlands on his way to Galway Bay from Dublin.  He strikes off over the Dublin and Wicklow mountains and reaches the canal near Sallins (and on page 74).  At that point he follows the Grand Canal Way all the way to its end at the River Shannon.  So from page 74 to 144 he is on the canal or in the pleasant villages nearby.  Like me, he continued to Banagher.  Fewer has a pleasant writing style, infusing historical events with commentary from locals he encounters.  This book too, is highly recommended.  ISBN 1-903464-39-0


*  Essential—Discovery Series 1:50,000 scale topographical maps published by the Ordnance Survey of Ireland.  Dates vary but all are recent.  These are highly detailed maps that even show locations of buildings (outside congested areas).  Contour lines show elevations, symbols show types of structure, such as church or cathedral, police station, and post office.  For hikers, a critical detail is the precise location of walks, with the marked walks distinguished from the unmarked. The reader can spot where the walking path shifts from one side of the canal to the other, for example.  Canals and other water bodies, bridges, locks, roads and other physical features make these indispensable maps.  I cut my maps into narrow strips, each covering a couple miles either side of the canal, so I could see what towns and villages lay nearby.  I then laminated the map strips and placed them inside a zip-lock plastic bag, safe and dry. 

*  The Grand Canal in the Dublin area appears on map sheet 50

*  The Grand Canal in central and western Kildare and eastern Offaly (Sallins and Edenderry) appears on map sheet 49

*  The Grand Canal area at Tullamore is on map sheet 48

*  The Grand Canal at Shannon Harbour is on map sheet 47

*  Banagher is on map sheet 53

These maps are widely available in Ireland.  The Ordnance Survey is located in Phoenix Park, Dublin 8.  Their website is

Other recommendations

You are encouraged to recommend other books, maps and reference materials.  From time to time I’ll update this page and include some new materials.  You can email your recommendations to me at

Books and maps for local side trips

(To be added later.  Come back and visit soon.)

Press Release

The Collins Press Announce the Publication of

Romania’s Orphans and the Grand Canal

By John Mulligan

Foreword by Brendan Kennelly

The Collins Press is delighted to announce the publication of Dancing on the Waves – Romania’s Orphans and the Grand Canal by John Mulligan which will be in bookstores from Friday 19th November 2004.

The Grand Canal Way is a remarkable 84-mile secret passageway from the heart of Dublin to the River Shannon. John Mulligan set out to walk it with a dodgy knee, the wrong shoes and unfit. Initially he encountered urban lowlife, pollution and a hemmed-in feeling, but on leaving the city behind he emerged into a world of hedgerows, wildflowers, birds, and gems of architecture and engineering. His account of the Grand Canal Way is hence peppered with history, architecture, nature and random encounters.   This book is the definitive walkers guide to the Grand Canal Way, and a lot more besides.

The author’s chance meeting with a Romanian youth on the first morning of the walk turned this journey into something more, a parallel reflection on his voluntary work in Romania’s notorious state orphanage system. He remembers all the classic horrors: children with ‘cot legs’, the ‘seagulls’, transfusions of infected blood, a child’s body handed over in a refuse sack. This ‘warts and all’ description of the Grand Canal ten years after commitment of public funds to its preservation also charts the fate of the Romanian orphanage sector following the efforts of thousands of aid workers and millions of dollars. The canal is in better shape, he concludes!

The author John Mulligan, from Boyle, County Roscommon, has worked with the Electricity Supply Board since 1977. He has worked as a volunteer with Trade Aid, an Irish construction industry aid organisation, on projects in Romania and Russia since 1992. John is Chairman and founder member of Focus on Romania, an Irish NGO and lives in County Meath.  

‘Dancing on the Waves’ is in bookstores from Friday 19th November.  Price: €15.00.

For further media information, photographs or interviews with the author please contact:

Lorraine McEvoy-O’Callaghan, LMPR Tel: 086 6003484 / e-mail:

“This book tells us the story of a small group of Irish people who learned to deal with and outwit…‘wave dancers’ while fighting for human rights in Romania… Let the author, as he says, take you for a stroll along its grassy banks, and he will tell you a story as you go”. 

Brendan Kennelly

Royalties to The Aurelia Trust, An Irish Charity Working With Abandoned

& At-Risk Children in Eastern Europe