On our hotel website http://www.grandcanalhotel.ie/ we list a number of ways to get to the hotel from various access points to the country. There’s car, train, taxi and even walking but we’d never thought of putting directions down by Canoe. Yeah you read that right!
On Wednesday May 26 a remarkable couple arrived at the Grand Canal with a couple of canoes on the roof of their car. The canoes sparked the interest of our Duty Manager, Eoin Byrne, who enquired about the boats. He was more than surprised to find that Lesley and Chris Collins had just completed an eight day canoe journey from Shannon Harbour along the Grand Canal, which is just a stones throw from the hotel.
Canoeing along a canal may not seem alien to some of our international friends but to people in Ireland it is very unusual. The canals have only in recent times been dredged and re-opened (although the Royal Canal is not due to open for a number of months). So the thought of anyone taking this mode of transport to the hotel is a novel one…to say the least.
Chris explains why they decided to give it a go. “Believe it or not we’ve just recently taken to canoeing. We live in North Kerry and liked to take the canoes out on the canal. We took two weeks off and decided to head to Dublin along the canal. We'd canoe five hours each day and it took us eight days to get to the Grand Canal Hotel.
Passing through stops Shannon Harbour, Pollagh, Tullamore, An Daingon, Edenderry, Robertstown, Sallins and the Clondalkin along the way Chris says it was a surreal experience and noted that they very much felt that they were one of the few people to use the canal. “It was very strange at times seeing these places. The canal is not utilized enough and a is without a shadow of a doubt one of Ireland’s hidden secrets. There was no commercial or pleasure crafts."
Chris believes that there is plenty of potential for the canal and that the authorities still have a bit of work to do. “Certain places were a bit run down. For instance, Edenderry has its own basin but there was only one other barge there and they had some American’s on it. They could do so much with it.”
Not that Chris is knocking the canal. “I would recommend it to anyone. It goes right through the middle of Ireland and there is a lot to see on the way. Although it was a bit of a challenge it was well worth it,” said Chris.
Chris and Lesley’s only concern was coming into Dublin and says that his friends were horrified at the thought of them canoeing through parts of Dublin and were genuinely worried for their safety. “They thought we’d be murdered. So we got up at 6am to avoid the gurriers. When we got to Clondalkin there were a group of kids on a bridge and we had a bit of friendly banter with them. They wanted to get into the canoe so we let them in. They even helped us carry the canoe across the last three lochs…for a small fee of course,” he added. “But we had no trouble at all and arrived at the hotel at 10.30 this morning.”
Next on the list for the active couple is the soon to be opened Royal Canal on the other side of Dublin. “We are hoping to take on the Royal Dublin Canal next. We’ll probably do it for charity and raise some money. We are really looking forward to it.”
Fair play to you Chris and Lesley. If anyone out there would like to contribute to their charity canoe you can contact Chris here.