Opening of new Greenway from Mullingar to Athlone

Dublin Cycling Campaign member Paul Corcoran reports on the grand opening of the ‘Old Rail Trail’ on 18th October 2015.

We started off on our cycle in Mullingar railway station beside the Royal Canal for the 30kms trip to Moate for the opening ceremony of the facility. As we left the station the only thing to guide us was the straight line running south west out of Mullingar as the most obvious location for the greenway since Westmeath County Council are still in the process of acquiring signs for these sections of greenway. After about one km in the chilly morning air, we saw the spur leading from the canal and the brand new tarmacadam surface of the greenway. It was noticeably easy to cycle on. There was an old platform further down with intricate designs in the stonework and lots of wildflowers still in bloom in mid-October.

There were lots of interesting old buildings associated with the original railway that are lying derelict but some have been renovated with plenty of tourism potential. We met many different kinds of cyclists on our way - from children learning to cycle on their ‘balance bikes’ to the Sunday morning ‘sportif’ groups taking advantage of the smooth riding surfaces. There was many old stone bridges crossing the track that made for interesting stopping points for chats and to admire the stonework.

Interestingly the line is also famous for the Great train robbery movie starring Sean Connery and Donal Sutherland and one can see the bridges used in the film stunts in which Sean Connery ran along the tops of the train carriages ducking under bridges as the train approached them. Our first major junction was Castletown with the station house renovated. Unfortunately, there is (as yet) very little in the way of soft features along the greenway such as picnic tables, chairs and park benches to relax on. Not too far from this location I’ll be attending my friend’s wedding in the ‘glamping site’ in Castletown-Geoghan and will rent a bike for a spin after the celebrations. Onward bound at approx. 20 km/h for most of the journey we rolled into Moate train station. It was fully restored with bunting and flags ready for the opening ceremony. An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD arrived and was welcomed by Westmeath County councillors at the Dún na Sí Heritage Centre and Park and met all the people involved in establishing the new greenway. The local school children arrived with their new bicycles that they had bought for PE class that they will use regularly I’m sure. The entourage moved back to the train line to the official opening and speeches from An Taoiseach and local councillors. He promised €100 million for the next 10 years in funding for greenways across the country and promised to do the cycle in the next few weeks for charity.

A quick spin into town followed where the locals in Moate had decorated their gardens with bicycles and there was lots of fanfair in the town with fire breathers, stunt bikes and screens for the Ireland vs Argentina match! After some tasty food at the Grand Hotel, we were on our way to Mullingar. All in all, 65 km cycled in just over 3 hrs. The scenery is not as interesting as the Western greenway but it’s a perfect route to cycle along with ease from Mullingar to Athlone and with interesting places to stop off en route for lunch and to meet the locals. Overall, a great way to spend an afternoon!

Pictured above are Dublin Cycling Campaign / Cyclist.ie members Mairead Forsythe, Damien Ó Tuama and Paul Corcoran. More photos available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/dublincycling/

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

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