I’ve teamed up with The National Famine Way, to tell you more about this very special walk, and hopefully to inspire you to check it out for yourself.
In 1847 a group of people made their way from Strokestown Park in County Roscommon to Custom House Quay in Dublin, in the hope of a better life in Canada. It’s hard to think of the lives they had already endured and the gruelling walk of 165km to reach the ships, followed by the horrific journey to Quebec. Many didn’t make it. Twelve-year-old Daniel Tighe is one of the people who did. The National Famine Way Interactive Historic Trail reimagines Daniel’s story in vignettes written by award-winning author Marita Conlon-McKenna.
The walk starts at The Memorial Glass Wall at The National Famine Museum, at Strokestown Park, the wall lists the names of all the people who left Strokestown in 1847. While you are there you can explore the National Famine Museum, this immersive experience will give you a powerful insight of what happened in Ireland during the Great Irish Famine.
Each section of the walk is broken down into distinct sections from 1km to 15km, and it goes from Roscommon, Longford, Westmeath, Meath, Kildare, Fingal, ending in Dublin City Centre. I explored the Roscommon and Longford sections, I like that there are recommendations of things to see and do in each area, so you could easily build a holiday around the walk. In some ways it’s very much like an Irish Camino.
Along the course of the walk, you will find over 30 pairs of 19th-century bronze children’s shoes, at each of the stops, you can listen to ‘Daniel’ telling his story, via the free app. You can also hear the history of each location. You have a choice of buying a passport/guide, you can get your passport stamped along the way, and the pack will give you other benefits, such as free tea or coffee in participating places along the route. You will also get a personalised ship ticket naming a family who walked the route in 1847. The walk ends at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, Dublin, and you can collect a certificate of completion.
I left Sligo early in the morning, it was beautifully atmospheric, with the sun rising through the mist. I love exploring different areas and I had never visited the Royal Canal Greenway before, most of the walk takes place here, and you can either walk or cycle the trail.
I’d recommended spending some time at Strokestown Park, not only for the National Famine Museum, but also to explore the woodland and the stunning walled garden.
When you leave the park, you will follow the signs and walk through the town, you will see the former fever hospital, from here you will take the Old Dublin Road.
The walk is a mostly flat and will take you along rural roads, through tunnels of trees, with hedgerows full of life; birds, bees and butterflies brighten up the walk, as they stop at the wild roses and fuchsia.
Scramoge was very scenic, and you will catch a glimpse of Sliabh Bawn – ‘From our cottage every day we gazed at the beautiful morning, but now Sliabh Bawn is getting further and further away.’ Daniel’s story – Re-imagined by Marita Conlon.
Tarmonbarry is a thriving village, and home to a beautiful marina. It’s well worth exploring this area, I had a lovely chat with some of the people who had their boats moored there and I really enjoyed looking around. I’ll be back to visit again.
The village of Cloondara in Longford is home to Richmond Harbour and is also where the Royal Canal meets with the River Shannon and the River Camlin.
I was encouraged by the app to explore the graveyard at Saint Brendan’s Church, this also contains the ruins of a medieval church, I had a little robin following me around and the graveyard was full of a variety of birds.
Just across from the church is the old mill. This was built in the 1700s and has now been converted to apartments. I spent quite a bit of time at Cloondara, I loved seeing the life on the water, there’s a great buzz about the place, with a lovely children’s playground, and you can also hire bikes here too if you want a break from walking.
Walking is a fantastic way to explore an area, you’ll see places that you might miss if you were in a car. I saw old cottages and rural farms, dragonflies, fish, and birds. At the locks I watched spiders making webs and saw ‘fairies’ from thistles blowing around in the breeze.
The National Famine Way is poignant and thought-provoking, and I’d really recommend you explore part, if not all of it. It’s a very special walk and a credit to those who have created it.
When you arrive in Dublin, you will walk alongside the famine statues and see The Jeanie Johnston – a replica famine ship.
Your final stop is EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, here you will learn the fate of the families who made that journey, and what happened to the survivors when they arrived in Canada. It’s a heart-breaking part of Irish history, but one that we should never forget.
This is a sponsored post, but all views are my own. Thank you to Lesley and the team for inviting me to check it out.
I’m adding a gallery so you can see more photos from my walk.