IWAI - Dublin Branch - Tips on Cruising the Royal

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Tips on Travelling the Royal Canal by Boat.

Now that it is possible to enter and exit the Royal Canal from both ends many boaters will be looking forward to making a cruise through part or all of this historic route.

While the Guide to the Royal Canal is a vital document in terms of distances, locks, and services available in towns and villages along the way there are still topics left unanswered.

  • “ Are there Lock-keepers” ?
  • “ Where is safe to moor overnight” ?
  • “ Where can I leave a boat for a few days” ?
  • “ Where are there shops, eating places” ?

You can get a copy of the Guide to the Royal Canal from the IWAI shop.  The 1994 version of the guide is online in the form of a clickable map.  While obsolete in parts, it is useful for route planning.

The Navigation.

Dredging has been carried out in recent years , particularly on the western end so boats with a draught of 1 meter (plus) will have no problems. Nearer to Dublin there may be obstructions, particularly under bridges but these should not be a problem for most boats.

Standard Lock Key** (as used on Grand and Barrow) should be carried. Two locks - 16th (Kilcock) and 7th (Cabra) have padlocks fitted to all racks and need a WI lock-keeper to open.

The overall length of the Royal is 90 miles with 46 locks of which 10 are doubles. Of the 12 locks between Blanchardstown and Spencer Dock, eight are double so expect extra time to be spent here (6 – 7 hours)

Lock-keepers, Water Patrollers;

There are at present just 2 official Lock-keepers covering locks 1 to 26. However, WI have agreed to provide cover at other locks on a temporary basis for this year pending an assessment of the future needs. Contact the WI offices at Killucan or Ashtown gate as appropriate 48 hours before travelling.

  • Offices ( Killucan 044-9374940) ( Ashtowngate 01-8680148)
  • Paddy Dixon, Water patroller in Richmond Harbour 0879151400
  • Des Philips Locks 1 to 17, phone 087-2485754
  • Liam Croach Locks 18 to 26, phone 087-6182104
  • Lock-keeper at Tarmonbarry – Liam Cox, 0879222020 if you wish to use the Lock to the Shannon.

The following Waterways Ireland Marine Notice gives the hours of attendance for Summer 2011 for locks 1-17:

Lifting Bridges;

  • Begnagh Bridge (Road) between locks 43-44.  This requires WI staff to lift - contact Paddy Dixon, Water patroller in Richmond Harbour 0879151400
  • Raleighs Farm Bridge. between The Downs and Mary Lynch's Pub - Normal height 2 meters but can be raised by hand.
  • Railway Lifting Bridge (rail) At 1st Lock, Nt Strand Rd, Dublin - Will only be lifted on designated dates ( see dates on  http://dublin.iwai.ie/royal.html  )
  • Spencer Bridge. (Sherriff St) Does not lift - Normal air draught here 2.4 meters – if your boat requires higher headroom you must advise WI in advance to have water level dropped.
  • North Wall Bridge ( exit from Sea Lock to Liffey) - Clearance here depends on tide; it will not be possible to exit this lock for most boats for approx 2 hours either side of High Water on the Liffey (see Tide Tables for Dublin)

Sea Locks;

WI staff control both the Sea Locks from the Grand and Royal on to the Liffey. Contact; Mark Clarke 0872584713


There is but one on the Royal; at Twelfth Lock, Castleknock.


Boats using the Royal should hold an Annual Permit -Mooring and Locks or a Lock Permit to cover the distance to be covered. These are available from the WI offices or from Lock-keepers.

Overnight mooring is safe almost everywhere but urban areas can lead to unwanted attention from revellers.

  • In B'cargy, moor above 35th Lock.
  • In Mullingar, moor at Pipers Boreen
  • In Maynooth, moor east of Mullen Bridge.

Longer Term mooring.

If you need to leave your boat unattended for any period there are a number of spots recommended by users;

  • Dublin area - Twelfth Lock, Blanchardstown.
  • Kilcock - 15th lock (The Maws) 1 mile from village
  • Moyvalley - Fureys Pub
  • Hill of Down
  • Killucan - Thomastown Harbour
  • Coralstown - Mary Lynchs Pub
  • Coolnahay Harbour 6 miles west of Mullingar
  • Abbeyshrule Harbour
  • Clondra - Richmond Harbour

Food & Drink

While the larger towns are well provided with shops and restaurants some of the mooring places mentioned above are miles away from even a small grocery, i.e. Abbeyshrule, Coolnahay, Coralstown, Thomastown, Moyvalley. However, Abbeyshrule, Coralstown and Moyvalley have good eating places

Public Transport.

If you need to leave your boat and return to collect a car you will find that public transport (trains & buses) is quite good at most points between Dublin and Mullingar. West of Mullingar it is almost non-existant.

** Lock Keys and Permits may be bought at any WI office or from Lock-keepers.

BOAT PASSAGE IN / OUT OF DUBLIN (Waterways Ireland Marine Notice 16/2013)

MARINE NOTICE No 16 of 2013

For boat passages in or out of Dublin on the Royal Canal between Spencer Dock & Lock 12 these should generally only be undertaken by pre-arrangement with Waterways Ireland Eastern Regional Office to facilitate the necessary staffing assistance arrangements..

If intending to pass the Irish Rail Newcomen Lifting Bridge a minimum of 2 weeks' notice to the Eastern Regional Office for the scheduled dates is required.  There is a restriction on the numbers of boats that can pass for each lift so this will be operated on a 'first come first served' basis.  At time of making contact, boaters should have available the length, beam, water and air drafts of their craft.  The schedule dates and further details are given below.

Please also ensure you have the following before making passage:
-adequate fuel on board
-competent and adequate crew to operate the boat and locks
  (minimum crew of 3)
-a lock key on board your boat
-mooring lines of adequate length to handle vessel through a lock
  (approx 15m length)
-no known mechanical problems with your boat

Boats will not be permitted to travel the system if their passage is considered to be unsafe by Waterways Ireland and / or if they do not have the appropriate permit.

Relevant Contact Details for Waterways Ireland, Royal Canal, Dublin:
Waterways Ireland Eastern Regional Office (M-F 9.30am-4.30pm) 01-868-0148
Dock Superintendent Spencer Dock: Mark Clarke; 87-2584713
Water Controller, Locks 1 - 12: Des Phillips     ; 087-2485754

Newcomen Lift Dates 2013

                      Tuesday Lifts                Weekend Lifts
                      (11am-1pm)                 (9am-1pm)

April                 16, 30
May                 21                                Sun 5
June                 18                                Sat 1
July                                                     Sat 20
August              13
September        17

Irish Rail have been requested to facilitate opening on the above dates.

Waterways Ireland requires 2 weeks' notice from boaters for use of these lifts; should there not be demand for a particular date, Irish Rail will then be notified by WI that this lift is cancelled

A maximum number of boats passing will be implemented to keep to the times given above for the planned lifts (8 no. for the Tues lifts, and 16 no. for the weekend lifts)

The schedule will be kept under review and if additional dates are required these can be requested from Irish Rail.

Lt Cdr (rtd))
Inspector of Navigation
12 Mar 2013
Tel:  353 90 6494232
Fax: 353 90 6494147

Information collated by Derek Whelan.  
The information is provided in good faith and is believed correct at the time of publication. 
Corrections, additional information etc. welcomed.

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