"And the Auld Triangle,
Went jingle jangle,
All along the banks of The Royal Canal"
Such is the significance of the Royal Canal to Dublin's Northside it was immortalised in song by playwright Brendan Behan in 1954.
While the 'jingle jangle' of the triangle mentioned in the iconic tune refers to a metal one which was rung to wake inmates at Mountjoy Prison, the fresh air and freedom experienced while walking along the canal is a far cry from Dublin's infamous jail.
However, Mountjoy is a good starting point for what is one of the most underrated and pleasurable walks in the city.
The Phibsboro facility is a short walk up Dorset Street to Binns Bridge in Drumcondra which lies in the shadow of the behemoth of Irish sport, history and culture, Croke Park. It's an ideal spot to begin your leisurely journey to the north western suburbs.
When you arrive at the bridge, it's quite apt that Behan himself is one of the first figures you meet as his statue sits on a bench overlooking the canal posing as if to invite passers-by to sit down for a chat.
On a sunny day, you'll find the route to be quite busy with people throwing a few fishing lines, dog walkers aplenty and cyclists whizzing by. If you are lucky enough to own a bike, the Royal Canal is right up there with the best of Dublin's routes.
Once GAA season hits fever pitch, you'll find the place dotted with the blue jerseys of Dublin and other counties as the Croke Park pitch is a mere stone's throw away.
As you walk up the canal, a handy way to measure how far you've gone is to keep track of train stations along the Maynooth commuter railway line. It pretty much runs adjacent to the canal with stations appearing every few minutes where you can hop on a train back towards Connolly or Pearse stations whenever you wish.
However, if you're still not finished your walk away from the city, it won't be long before the scenic path takes you to Broombridge, a suburb behind Cabra which will soon be served by the new LUAS cross city line.
By now, you should have worked up something of a thirst as another stretch of the path leads you on to Ashtown. Here, if you've stayed alongside the canal, you'll spot the first watering hole you'll have seen since Drumcondra. The Canal Bar is a relatively new establishment which looks directly onto the Royal Canal and the adjoining Ashtown Railway stations.
Here, you'll spot people taking in the sun in the front beer garden and you'll do well not to be tempted to join them. Sunday afternoons often offer live music so it's a great place to call things to a halt if you've decided you've had your fill of exercise for the day.
Otherwise, a quick jaunt off-route to the Navan Road will lead you to the Halfway House, a famous northside pub which is so-called because it was seen as halfway to Dublin City for Meath farmers who were heading into the markets. An ideal spot to grab a pint and a bite, perhaps before taking a detour to the Phoenix Park which is just across the road.
Alternatively, if you wish to continue all along the banks of the Royal Canal, a comparatively short, brisk stroll further would bring you to the Castleknock section of the embankment. Your peaceful, leisurely walk will soon be interrupted by the zooming of cars as you duck under the M50 bridges at the Castleknock/Blanchardstown junction.
With that out of the way, it's onwards and upwards from there as you arrive at the 12th Lock hotel and restaurant just before Castleknock train station and if you haven't rested your weary legs before then, this is the perfect opportunity.
Called the 12th Lock as it sits next to, you've guessed it, the 12th lock on the canal, it's the perfect way to end your walk as you sit sipping coffee, beer or wine while looking out on the houseboats that call the lock their home.
The bar and beer garden blend seamlessly into the surroundings of the environment and they even do ice-cream cones if you feel like a well-earned treat!
If the Royal Canal Way is something you haven't yet experienced, then what are you waiting for? Starting off in town and taking the train back from Ashtown or Castleknock, there's no better way to kill a few hours in Dublin on a day where the sun is out and fresh air is there to be taken.
An integral part of the capital's history, we can't think of a better way to experience the Northside.
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