Tolka Valley to Ashtown and back by Royal Canal

This walk takes us through the Tolka River linear park to Ashtown, a distance of three and a quarter miles, or a little over one hour walking at a reasonable pace. We return to Glasnevin by the Royal Canal, a similar distance.

Starting at our normal starting point, the main gate of Glasnevin Cemetery, we go in the direction of Finglas, (westwards, away from Dublin City). We pass the entrance of Claremont Court and the Topaz Garage:

Continue past the entrance to the Willows estate and the Church of the Latter Day Saints, a nice piece of architecture dating from the 1970s:

and on past the entrance to Glasnevin Industrial Estate and the Esso Garage.

Passing Ballybogan Road, brings us to Finglas Bridge, from where, looking left over the bridge wall, we see a small waterfall on the Tolka River, created by a weir installed to control the flow of the water.

A lone salmon was spotted in the pool here in 2013!

Finglas Bridge is also where the Finglas River, underground now except for a small stretch approaching this point, joins the Tolka River. Scarcely noticeable now, the overground stretch, viewed from the opposite side of Finglas Road, is masked by heavy growth of trees and shrubs behind a railings securing the area for wildlife:

The Finglas River comes under the road join the Tolka River on our side, before the combined water-flow crosses back to the north side, to wind its way between Violet Hill estate and parkland on one side and Glasnevin Cemetery on the other, then on to the Botanic Gardens and, eventually, to Dublin Bay.

Unlikely to spot a salmon, as we stand on Finglas Bridge, we could be lucky enough to get a glimpse of a heron, spotting fish at the point where the two rivers meet,

or a colourful king-fisher watching from an overhanging branch. We are also likely to be acoustically bombarded by a chorus of blackbirds, robbins, wrens, tits and other song-birds, not forgetting the magpies, wood-pigeons, linnets and starlings. The river system, combining with the Royal Canal and railway line provides an access to Glasnevin for an abundance of other wild life, including foxes and badgers (more noticeable at night) and grey squirrels (most easily spotted in the Botanic Gardens and Cemetery).

We pass over the elongated, but barely noticable Finglas Bridge. Just after this we come to a pedestrian gate, on our left:

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Passing through this gate, we take a pedestrian/ cyclist path that leads us past the adjoining Tolka Vale Apartments to join the Tolka River Linear Park:

If we came by this woodland section in the early morning or at dusk, we would often find baby rabbits playing on the track.

On our left-hand side is the Tolka River.

On the other side of the river, we can see the Tolka Valley pitch and putt course.

Old bridges formerly used for traffic are now pedestrianised. For a shorter walk, cross over the bridge, exit by the pedestrian gate you come to, and go straight on, crossing Ballybogan Road, to come to Broom Bridge, a bridge over the Royal Canal. Enter the canal walk at Broom Bridge from where you can return to Glasnevin or on to Phibsborough at Cross-Guns Bridge. We continue our walk up the Tolka Linear Park.

Beside this bridge we find a reed plantation, that helps clean ground water before it seeps into the river.

No objection is made to electricity pylons in this park: after all it is on the North Side.

Perhaps more visually obtrusive is the City Council's depot.

We continue past a pond, served by the river. Here we can enjoy the swans and ducks and other birds.

The blooms we see along the way depend on the time of year. The following photo shows the yellow blossoms of Spring-time in the grassland.

This Bridge, seen in the picture below, brings us under the Finglas/ Cabra motor route to join the next section of the linear park. We are now half-way to Ashtown. 

Again, the old bridges are preserved. We stay to the right of this bridge, but we could just as well cross over to the left side.

Several new apartment complexes were built during the years of the Celtic Tigre, along the Royal Canal, which we can now see successively to our left. Actually, it was these developments that funded the development of this part of the Tolka Linear Park, as well as contributing to the significant improvements of the Royal Canal itself.

The park being in its infancy, there are several thousand newly planted trees and shrubs, which will add enormously to the present amenities as they mature. Here we see some vincas (common or garden periwinkles) beside the robust seat provided for our leisure.

And here we see some young white cherry blossom trees:

Some of the planting is for environmental benefit, supported by EU funds, as we are informed by official notice boards.

Another section of the new apartments along the canal.

Some of the native trees and shrubs preserved by the development:

We are kept informed about the trees and shrubs by notices along the way, giving the names of samples in Irish, English and Latin:

Finally, we exit the linear park by the gate at Ashtown. In the future, the park will, no doubt, be extended to Blanchardstown and beyond, to the west, and right back to Dublin Bay to the east. For the moment, Glasnevin to Ashtown is the most extensive part developed.

Outside the park, we find signposts informing us of multiple desirable venues for our future attention in this area,

Including the continuation of River Road to Blanchardstown. This, however, is very unsuitable for walkers, since there is no footpath and the busy road is scarcely wide enough for two cars to pass.

We continue, instead into "The Village" at Ashtown. Actually, this is Rathbourne Village (Rath Broin in Irish). The name on the building below is "The Village Centre." What a useless denomination! It should state "Rathbourne Centre," so that you would actually know what village centre you are entering.

If you have brought sandwiches, you could have had them before leaving the Tolka Linear Park. Today, my wife and I have no portable sustenance as we intend stopping for a meal at Douglas & Kaldi's:

Here we have a substantial, tasty, and reasonably priced lunch. The menu offers breakfasts, snacks, sandwiches, soup and main courses, including a plat de jour.

Otherwise, we could have stopped for a meal at the nearby "Canal Bar."


We continue home by the Royal Canal. 

The Apartments are still on our left-hand side, as we are proceeding in the opposite direction.

In between apartment complexes we find extensive park-land.

Peeking through the apartment complexes, we have a view of West Finglas, on the other side of the Tolka Linear Park), and see the steeple of the Church of the Assumption. We are, of course, at a higher elevation than we were when walking in the Tolka linear park.

The canals of Irelan are in the care of Waterways Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement, and they have done trojan work restoring and maintaining the Royal Canal and developing its walkways/ cycleways. We see a maintenance team here at work at the 9th lock.

A pleasure craft is mooring at a key provided by Waterways Ireland.

The 8th lock and Reilly Bridge. The bridges are named after the engineers who designed and supervised the building of each bridge.

From Reilly Bridge, we can see work in progress on the motorway that and bridge that will span the canal at this point.

The wayside is illuminated by wild flowers and planted shrubbery.

Broom Bridge

It was here, in October 1843, as he strolled by the canal, that Sir William Rowan Hamilton, in a flash of genius, discovered the basis of quaternian multiplication, and cut it in a stone on the bridge, Dubin's first grafitti.

Not pyracantha berries, but spring blossom.

Gorse in season.

At the 7th lock we will depart from the canal walk, by the quite insignificant gate we see on the left here, in front of the white building. Alternatively, we could have continued along the canal bank until we reached Cross Guns Bridge, at the boundary between Phibsboro and Glasnevin, with the Brian Boru pub on the Glasnevin side.

We go through the pedestrian gate,

which leads to this passageway that preserves an essential public right of way, the only access to this stretch of the Royal Canal other than at the bridges. The City Council has promised to upgrade the passage when funds permit.

The passage leads to Glasnevin Industrial Estate, more a ware-house estate than an industrial one. We turn right from the passage exit and continue right at all junctions to bring us back to the Finglas Road.

We pss Café Fifty Three on our right.

Soon we will see Des Kelly's premises on the left. Des Kelly is famous for providing and fitting carpets at unbeatable prices. Originally, there was a partnership between Des and his brother, Matt. However, the partnership broke up and the brothers went their separate ways, with competing businesses.

We pass by some neat red-brick warehouses to our left and see the white building housing "Taste of the Sea" further down the road

Taste of the Sea provides a huge range of fish, frozen at sea to bring them as fresh to your table as if you caught them yourself. However, I hear the premises is for sale. Liddles is behind this building and seems to be doing a roaring trade.

Woodies (DIY store) is to our right as we come near Finglas Road.

We turn right at Finglas Road, to bring us back to our starting point.

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