The Grand Canal, which links the River Liffey to the River Shannon, is one of the finest amenities available to us in South Dublin County. The Grand Canal enters South Dublin County at the Third Lock which can be found beside the Blackhorse Luas station. It extends through the neighbourhoods of Bluebell, Clondalkin and Lucan until it passes into Co Kildare near Hazelhatch.
It has served us well for over 250 years. When construction began in 1756, it was one of the most ambitious engineering projects ever undertaken on this island. It took nearly 50 years to build. In it’s heyday it was a thriving commercial waterway. It provided a crucial artery for transporting agricultural produce from the midlands to Dublin and on to England. In the opposite direction, importers from England relied on the canal to carry their produce all over Ireland. Probably the most important product to be found on the canal through the years was porter. Guinness had their own barges and bred their own horses for the task of hauling the black-stuff to the four corners of Ireland.
Things didn’t always run smoothly on this busy stretch of water. In December 1792, there was a major accident near Clondalkin. A passage boat left Dublin bound for Athy. But along the way, one-hundred and fifty people, many of them drunk, forced their way onto barge. The captain warned them that they had overloaded the boat and it would capsize if they did not leave. No one paid any attention until the barge reached the 8th Lock where it capsized. Five men, four women and two children drowned. The rest of the passengers escaped.
These days the Grand Canal is a much safer place. The last working cargo barge passed through the canal in 1960. It has been beautifully restored in the last few decades and has found a new life as a leisure amenity and a sanctuary for wildlife. Here in South Dublin we are fortunate to have one of the finest stretches of the Grand Canal Way, a 117km long-distance walking trail that follows the towpath of the canal from Lucan to Shannon Harbour. More suitable for a Sunday afternoon ramble is the 8.5km Greenway between the Third Lock at Blackhorse and the Twelfth Lock at Lucan, which opened in June 2010.