Some of my daily walks take in a small section of the Old Rail Trail Greenway path that runs along the canal in Mullingar for a time before heading off towards Athlone. The Greenway follows an old railway line that runs between Mullingar and Athlone. The old railway line is still visible as you walk along it.
I had been thinking what a wonderful walk it would make as the path is quiet with you only meeting cyclists, runners and fellow walkers. There is no traffic to contend with and with a lot of entry and exit points it’s easy to hop on and off its 42 km. On the maps it has it broken into three sections so I thought this would make nice easy from and to points for me to follow, but really you can hop on and off as you want. The first section marked out from Mullingar (from the Newbrook bridge, 15 on the map) to the station at Castletown (10 on the map) has a length of 11.4 km. I decided to head to Castletown and back giving me a walk length of 22.8 km, this is just over 13 miles, the distance of a half marathon.
So with this all in mind I got up early Saturday the 1st of June and headed off to the start/end point I’d be using in Mullingar. Parking was easy that early in the morning in the dedicated car park as no one was up and about and I knew in about an hours time the regular users of the Parkrun would be gathering for their Saturday morning meet up and run. I had planned to be gone past the part that they use by the time they arrived.
The pathway is tarmac so for the day I chose to wear my regular road runners as hiking boots would just have been too heavy and clunky on the path plus it’s flat terrain with not even the slightest hill. For any of my walks and hikes I always opt for exercise leggings as they wick away any moisture and are light and comfy, added to that I wore a sleeveless top under my light jacket, again exercise gear, for that early in the morning and I was as comfortable as I could be. I brought with me a small day back pack with some water, a change of socks, some plasters and some fruit. My phone and ipod were charged and that was all I carried.
As I said the path is flat and tarmac so the walking is easy going even if the tarmac makes for a hard surface to walk constantly on. I was really glad I’d opted for the road runners by the time I’d made it the first 11.4 kms. The path runs under bridges, and tunnels, through open farmland and along forests and the scenery is as always lovely. You can hear the traffic at times from the main road but that’s as close as you get to traffic until you reach the Castletown station, at which point you cross the main road before getting back on the pathway and from which you can just continue on again. There are picnic benches dotted along it’s length so you can stop at various points and rest and have a snack, which I did at Castletown, the point where I was turning and walking back.
I didn’t make any stops on the way back as I’d planned on grabbing some much needed lunch and a coffee once I got back to the car. The return walk didn’t feel as long as the first part, but that’s always the way with journeys lol and when I got back my muscles definitely had that tired but happy feeling from exercise. They did stiffen a little later in the evening and the next day but a gentle walk on the Sunday evening loosened them out again.
I have to say it was the most enjoyable walk I’ve been on, due in most part to the distance and it finally stretched my legs long enough that I was happy and satisfied by the end, but I like the longer distances for walks as I’ve said often. I think what would have made it better is if it had been off road along some trails and forest paths but that’s only because that is a whole lot easier to walk on for long periods plus it offers up a little interest and variety to the walk.
I am planning on walking the next section, from Castletown to Moate which will cover 16.3 km one way, again as I would be parking at Castletown I would have a there and back journey so a total of 32.6 kms/ 20 miles. When I’m going to do this next section I’m not sure but I do hope to eventually complete the whole pathway, even if it’s in stages and then the aim would be to perhaps get dropped in Athlone and walk the entire distance 42.2km/ 26 miles (a marathon) back to Mullingar.
Now wouldn’t it be something to walk from Mullingar to Athlone and back again 84.4 kms/ 52 miles. Now that’s a goal!