Lessons Learned:  The Grand Canal Hike in Fall 2003

In no particular order, some of the lessons learned during my hike:

  • * Although the Grand Canal passes through some undistinguished countryside for about half of its route, lacking the flair and drama of Ireland’s legendary mountains and coastlines, it possesses a quiet and serene beauty that is mighty good for the soul. I felt a deep sense of spirituality there, alone with just the birds and the still waters
  • * There is no sure substitute for careful, thoughtful planning before your hike.  I was about 90 percent prepared.  I missed on two accounts.  I began my conditioning hikes much too late, starting only about three weeks before my trip.  And I had no good information on lodging between Robertstown and Tullamore. 
  • * It doesn’t always rain in Ireland!!  Of the six days, only during one morning did it rain, and then only lightly. 
  • * There are not as many little villages and towns along the canal as I had thought, even though I had access to good detailed maps. So plan accordingly.
  • * Off season (I hiked in late September) the Grand Canal Way is essentially deserted.  I saw only one other hiker, a man using the way as his route between Dublin and Naas.  Of course there were local walkers and people out walking their dogs, and some probably using the way to get from one village to the next, but no through hikers.  But an older man in a pub in Pollagh told me that during the summer, hundreds of hikers passed through.  
  • * Boating also must be highly seasonal.  I saw only one boat underway other than two or three Celtic Cruisers tour boats. 
  • * Americans also are a rare breed that time of year.  I saw no other Americans during my several days away from Dublin.  Quite likely it would be unusual to encounter Americans even during high season out in the western County Kildare and County Offaly countryside since it doesn’t have the tourist appeal of other regions.
  • * Blackberries in Ireland taste just like the blackberries in Tennessee and Alabama USA!  But they ripen two or more months later due to the cooler temperatures. 
  • * A light daypack is all that’s needed for a rewarding hiking or walking experience.  Careful packing—rolling your clothes and similar articles—works wonders. 
  • * The Grand Canal Way is an easy walk or hike.  For much of the route, a grassy surfaced towpath eases the impact of the many thousands of footsteps a hiker will take.  And as some of the Grand Canal Way literature claims, the way is ideal for older walkers. 
  • * For those who want to limit their hiking or walking to just the most scenic and pastoral regions, a quick train trip from Dublin to Hazelhatch or Sallins, picking up the way at one of those points, is highly recommended. 

Can someone tell me what this means?  The sign was near a road construction site in Northern Ireland.  Are there "man-eating” plants there?