The “Green & Silver” route: Royal Canal – River Liffey – Grand Canal – River Shannon – Camlin River (in any direction)
With the re-opening of the Royal Canal in late 2010, it is now possible to complete the circular route formed by the Royal Canal, River Liffey, Grand Canal, River Shannon and Camlin River.
The total journey is approximately 356km with a total of 93 locks. It comprises ~77km on the River Shannon (including ~27km across Lough Ree) and 2 locks, 132km on the Grand Canal (44 locks), 1km on the River Liffey, 145km on the Royal Canal (47 locks) and either 1km or 5km on the Camlin River depending on route. At an extreme push, it could be done in 7 very long days (subject to the restrictions noted below and nothing going wrong mechanically), but one should take a more leisurely approach! You can get an idea of typical progress by looking at the logs of some of the boats that have completed the circuit.
In an effort to encourage people to make the circular journey, the Dublin Branch has commissioned a certificate and plaque to be awarded to vessels completing the route. We’ve taken the liberty of naming the route the Green & Silver route.
Why the “Green & Silver route?
On the 25th of June 1946, Tom and Angela Rolt left Athlone aboard, Le Coq, a 28ft x 8ft converted ship’s lifeboat, on a voyage that would inspire both their contemporaries and successive generations of waterways enthusiasts, for, unlike most of us, Tom Rolt documented this voyage in his book “Green and Silver” published in 1949.
From Athlone, they journeyed down the Shannon and entered the Grand Canal at Shannon Harbour. From there, they voyaged to Dublin and then returned to the Shannon via the Royal Canal. Then, they voyaged north to Lough Key and back south to Lough Derg, also taking in the West Clare Railway of Percy French fame.
In her foreword to the 1993 edition of the book, Ruth Delany wrote: “… Green and Silver became a classic and was an important element in the campaign launched by the small group who founded the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland in 1954 to save the Shannon navigation from strangulation by low bridges… It captures for all time the waterways as they were then, at their very lowest ebb, and his enchantment at what he experienced shines through strongly“. Indeed the IWAI’s logo and burgee colour-scheme derive from the title of Rolt’s inspirational book. Incidentally, Ruth Delany was aboard Hark, the last boat to do the circular route of Royal and Grand canals in 1955, prior to the canal’s closure in 1961.
With, the closure of Ireland’s Royal Canal in 1961, Rolt’s Green and Silver offered successive generations of boaters the only opportunity to experience this journey by boat. His book offered a glimpse of what might be experienced if, and when, the canal was restored. Rolt was the first to document a successful transit of the route in Green & Silver, a book which had such a positive influence on the development of the Irish waterways. It seems fitting therefore to name the route the Green & Silver route. The name Green & Silver also echoes the mixed urban & rural nature of the route.
If you intend making the journey, we’ve organised a scheme to recognise your ambition and your achievement on completion. Have a look at our record of boats which are known to have completed the journey. Some of our participants are making the trip over the course of a year or more.
Do get in touch with Dublin Branch by email if you’re interested in undertaking the trip. Those planning the journey can get:
- Logbook to stamp along the route as evidence/souvenir of passage – some lockkeepers have been provided with “stamps” and have kindly agreed to stamp your log book – at the moment we’ve stamps distributed for Athlone, Richmond Harbour, Spencer Dock, Shannon Harbour, Lowtown, and Grand Canal Dock – you can also download your Logbook – we recommend you print it on manila paper for best effect (cut down a standard office manila folder to A4 size);
If you prefer, we’re happy to send you a logbook free of charge.
- An especially commissioned burgee based on the cover design of Rolt’s classic book at a cost of €25.
On successful completion of the journey, we will present you with:
- a numbered certificate (free of charge) – certificates are numbered in the order of completion or as notified to Dublin Branch by email.
Note that where more than one boat completes the journey in company, we expect the organiser to indicate to us the order in which the boats completed the journey.
- a commemorative plaque at a cost of €25 – the plaque has an oval space where you can engrave your completion number!
Guidelines for those considering the journey:
- The journey is a circular journey, clockwise or anti-clockwise – e.g. two separate trips from Athlone to Dublin via the Grand and Athlone to Dublin via the Royal do NOT constitute a G&S journey. The journey can be done over several stages – many are taking more than one year to do the trip.
For those who wish to do the trip in company, there are usually a number of boats heading into Dublin in late April, early May to participate in the Dublin Rally, departing from Dublin in late May, early June – just let the organising committee at Dublin Branch know.
- Partial journeys completed prior to the opening of the Royal Canal in October 2010 do not count towards the award of a certificate.
- Lift-outs around locks are permitted for canoes and small boats
- A limited lift-out is permitted to avoid a notified obstruction to navigation (e.g. lock under emergency repair).
- Evidence of completion of the journey shall be provided to the organising committee on request – evidence may include a stamped LogBook, photographs, evidence of lock passage and similar.
- No “speed” records which involve necessary violation of the Canal Acts will be entertained.
- The skipper should pre-register his/her intent to undertake the journey by notifying the organising committee at Dublin Branch by email.
- The skipper should be a member of the IWAI or another approved organisation including the Royal Canal Amenity Group (RCAG), Heritage Boat Association (HBA), Irish Canoe Union (ICU), ISA and UK-based IWA. If you’re not a member of any of these organisations, you can join the IWAI online!
- The boat should be sound and suitable for the journey and suitably equipped for a canal journey (see article here for some advice).
- In terms of permits & fees, boats have two options for using the Grand and Royal canals. The first option is an annual licence covering both passage and moorings: this covers all fees, including locks, for all those waterways. Alternatively, you can pay a monthly mooring fee plus a small charge per lock: the total due has to be paid in advance for the entire length of the journey. Fees are payable to Waterways Ireland who control the waterways. Boats over 10hp must be registered with Waterways Ireland (no charge at present). NOTE that currently Waterways Ireland are only issuing the Annual Permit – see “Permits & Registrations” section here
Click on the relevant link for further information (including on-line charts) about Navigating the Grand Canal, Royal Canals and River Shannon including on-line charts.
Paper charts or guides for all three navigations can be purchased from the IWAI shop.
See also our Tips on Travelling the Royal Canal
- In undertaking this journey, be advised that the organising committee or Dublin Branch is explicitly NOT organising an “event” – it is simply helping you the boater commemorate an achievement. No responsibility attaches to the committee or Dublin Branch for any actions of inactions of others or damage or injury to vessel or crew during this journey.
- For a sense of the journey as it was in 1949, we recommend you read Rolt’s book, Green & Silver, now available from the IWAI shop.
- Boats doing the journey multiple times will NOT be recorded again except where a different crew undertakes the journey.
- In the event of any dispute, the committee’s decision is final.
- These guidelines or terms & conditions are subject to change without notice.
News/Current Restrictions or challenges!
Like all canals, the urban sections of both canals can suffer from dumping – clothing, plastic, duvets and the like. Some boats lead a charmed life while others seem to attract every chocolate wrapper in the canal. Take it gently through the city sections. Weed can be an issue late in the season (July onwards). The later in the season, the more weed and algal blooms you’re likely to encounter.
At left is the one passport stamp you don’t want to collect. We’ve issued this “loyalty” stamp to Irish Diving & Marine Contractors Ltd. who’ll happily apply it to your passport if you need their assistance!
Those intending to use the section of the Grand Canal between Locks 1 and 12 of the main line should give 2 days notice to Waterways Ireland – Waterways Ireland have issued Marine Notices governing boating on the section of the Grand Canal between Ringsend, Portobello and onward to 12th Lock. In essence, it involves giving two days notice of travel since you must be accompanied by lockkeepers during the transit. See the Marine Notice concerning movement of boats in Dublin on the Grand Canal.
There remain some minor obstacles to what should be a straightforward journey, all at the Dublin end of the Royal Canal. See also the Marine Notice concerning movement of boats in Dublin on the Royal Canal.
- There are some limits to times of operation of locks/bridges:
- Begnagh Bridge (Road) and a Bord Na Móna (rail) bridge between locks 43-44. These require WI staff to lift – contact Paddy Dixon, Water patroller in Richmond Harbour 0879151400 – it won’t be lifted out of hours!
- Locks 16 and 17 are usually locked and require WI staff to unlock them.
An Irish Rail lifting bridge needs to be lifted and Irish Rail have only agreed to lift the bridge on certain dates – Dates for 2018 are:
Newcomen Bridge Lift Dates 2018
Lifts will not happen if there is no demand. For further information, or to make use of a scheduled opening please contact the Waterways Ireland Eastern Regional Office on 353 (0)1 868 0148
3. Closer to the Liffey, the Sheriff St. bridge doesn’t lift (clearance at “normal” levels is 88″ or 2.2m) but Spencer Dock will be lowered to let you get under Sheriff St. bridge.
4. The Scherzer rolling bridge which lies between the Sea Lock and the Liffey is now bolted in place. You can only access the Liffey near low tide.
5. The underwater profile of Neads Bridge in Mullingar may cause problems for full size wide-bottomed craft such as traditional GCC M-boats (or even B boats).