The Tralee Ship Canal-Walk-Cycle-Jog
As winter sets in the urge to get out and about on either the bike or into the mountains becomes a bit more of a chore. The cold weather be it fog, ice, snow, wind and rain are all conditions that can persuade even the hardiest of cyclist or walker to stay by the fire side for the duration of the winter months and re-appear in the spring. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong in that, it does seem a shame to lose the fitness levels that we may have gained from an adventure packed summer of cycling, walking or whatever your fitness hobby might entail.
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With that in mind taking it a bit easier in so much as distance, time spent out and speed does make perfect sense. Certainly cycling in colder weather is much more difficult than the summer equivalent, with a 60 km winter spin at times feeling like 100 plus kilometers in the summer. Why not look at bit closer to home and check out the public amenities that may have been slowly springing up. Certainly we have a few coming to the fore in Tralee in recent times.
There has certainly been a conscious effort to get walking and bike paths moving in the Kerry capital, although the main feature, the Tralee to Fenit Greenway is only partly completed there is now an excellent and recently completed amenity, stretching from Tralee to Blennerville and beyond, the Tralee Ship Canal Path.
Described as the motorways of the 18th and 19th centuries the canal networks in Ireland and the UK were the lifeblood to many an industrial town, with ships and narrow boats bringing in raw goods for the hungry factories as well as food and supplies for their work force. The emergence of the railways and improved road facilities made these waterways by and large redundant by the 1950’s/60’s and many were allowed to overgrow and decay. Bridges and lock gates allowed to rot and the footpaths became somewhat over gown and dangerous places to wander especially after night fall. Thankfully governments and councils saw the beauty in these former arteries of industry and in many places money has been spent to clean them up and use them as a successful leisure facility.
The Tralee Ship Canal got a make over in the late 1990’s with a big clean up within the canal itself and a maria taking the place of the old basin and docking area. The summer of 2016 saw a fine tarmac surface replacing the old toe path from Tralee to Blennerville as well as extensive lighting and seating installed along a one mile stretch.
The start of the journey begins with a stroll, run or cycle into the Marina Road which is just off Basin View in Tralee. From here you pass a favourably looking appartement development to the right and the Marina to the left. Although void of the potential yachts and leisure craft this area was intended for, the local Tralee Rowing Club has made great use of the area with a fine-looking boathouse the centrepiece of the area. As Marina turns to canal so the new tarmac surface takes over from the pavement and road way. Approximately three metres wide the surface is idea for leisure cycling as well as walking and running. The new state of the art lighting is positioned roughly every 50 metres, with a bench positioned at about every 100 metres, strategically positioned to avail of the stunning views of the Sliabh Mish Mountain range that rises up from Castlemaine in the east, dividing the Dingle Peninsula into two evenly split pieces north and south before levelling out beyond Mount Brandon in the far west.
Certainly the mountain range is a feast of the eyes, but once clear of Tralee town the northern or right side has a nice scattering of green fields dotted with cattle and the occasional horse grazing peacefully. The interest continues as the path closes in on Blennerville village and the white silhouette of the windmill starts to become apparent against the darker mountain back-drop. Don’t miss the small nature reserve on the right hand side, which attracts swans, coots and heron. On approaching Lohercannon to the right the area opens up to a small green area with two bridges visible to the left hand side. Cross the road and enter onto the second part of the walk. This part is a more rugged and open section, with the sights and sounds of the town now a distant memory. The surface on this section is a compact stone and shale pathway which is more than adequate for a mountain or hybrid bicycle and a decent surface to walk and jog on. The area opens up as it stretches out beyond Blennerville and out towards Tralee Bay. Over to the left are the remains of buildings used to work the lockgates and the old house used by its keeper. Finally the path runs into a small parking area that can be crossed for access to a stoney beach known locally as Cockershell beach.
As well as a local walkway this route also forms part of the Kerry Camino the Dingle Way which are in most parts the same route. Take a left turn across the two bridges at Lohercannon and walk towards Blennerville to continue these two routes. A third route the North Kerry Way also shares the path. This routes continues on beyond the lock gates following the Tralee Bay coastline to the village of Spa before winding its way on to Ballyheigue and beyond.
All in all this is a fine amenity for the town of Tralee and county Kerry as a whole. A great way to spend some leisure time filling in those winter months.