Ireland’s official Famine Heritage Trail is  an adventurous 165 km cross country pilgrim walk layered with history, art and culture. It weaves through country lanes, villages, towns and Dublin city mostly along the banks of the Royal Canal.  It can be done in sections or all at once – as you choose. Follow the story of Strokestown’s Famine Emigrants whose journey is marked by bronze shoe sculptures along the route. The trail is topped and tailed by  iconic museums – “The National Famine Museum” at Strokestown Park in Co Roscommon and “The Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship” and “ EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum” at the Dublin end.

Download our App now to hear   little twelve year old Daniel Tighe tell his story from Black ‘47 and also learn all the interesting local history around you in this area. Better still why not become an Official Walker with our Passport Guide, Ship Ticket  and Certificate of completion. Learn more at  www.nationalfamine


The children’s bound shoes that are cast in bronze along the National Famine Way were discovered by a local farmer, in the roof of a ruined nineteenth-century cottage. He donated them to the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park. We know nothing of the child they belonged to, but local folklore holds, that such offerings were made to invoke good luck. These evocative shoes symbolise the hopeful journey that our 1,490 emigrants embarked on, especially taking in the fact that two thirds of them were children. The binding evokes the difficulties they encountered and the eternal bind, to the place they were leaving.


At the height of the Great Famine in 1847, Mary Tighe was left a widow with five children to feed. In a desperate attempt to save her family, she availed of the ‘Assisted Emigration Scheme’ offered by Major Denis Mahon in Strokestown. She succeeded in her mission to save her family, but paid a high price. Mary Tighe, her  brother, and three of her children, lost their lives on board the Ship Naomi that sailed from Liverpool to Quebec.

Daniel, aged twelve and his nine-year-old sister, Catherine were the only family members who survived the transatlantic voyage on the Naomi. Daniel himself recounted the horror of watching the bodies of his mother and brothers being thrown overboard and buried at sea.

Taken into the care of the Coulomb family in Lotbinière, Quebec, these two small children found themselves on a 168 acre farm, a world away from a half acre in Lisonuffy and a world away from everything they had ever known or loved.

In 2013, the Strokestown Community invited Daniel’s great grandson, Richard Tye (changed from Tighe), back home. And so, 166 years after little Daniel left, his descendants again set foot on Irish soil, a community celebrated, long-separated cousins embraced, and the family was again bound together.

The National Famine Way intertwines History through the Arts: not only in sculpture but also in literature and music. Daniel’s Tighe’s story reimagines each of the spaces and locations he passed through in May 1847.  It is a digital storybook written by renowned and beloved Irish author Marita Conlon-McKenna.

The Anthem for the National Famine Way is by well known folk singer Declan O Rourke a beautiful song Go Domhanin i do chumhnie from his Album Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine.

Gaelic translation:

Cuir tús le do shiúilóid ag an Bhalla Cuimhneacháin Ghloine ag Musaem an Ghorta Mhóir i bPáirc Bhéal na mBuillí i Ros Comáin agus siúil go Cluain Dá Rath agus as sin cois canála go Baile Átha Cliath, turas 165 cilimeadar. Tá ceann scríbe d’aistir ag dealbha an Ghorta Mhóir taobh leis an Jeannie Johnston, ar ancaire ag Cé Theach an Chustaim, san áit dheireanach ar leag an  1,490 duine as Ros Comáin cos ar thalamh na hÉireann i mí na Bealtaine 1847.

Thug a dtiarna talaimh an Maor Denis Mahon rogha an dá dhíogha dóibh, ‘imirce chuidithe’, ocras sa bhaile lena ngort de phrátaí lofa nó dul isteach i dteach scanrúil na mbocht.

Réamhrá don Chosán

Faoi shúil ghéar bháile an eastáit, John Robinson, cuireadh na fir, mná agus páistí seo ag siúil cois na Canála Ríoga go duganna Bhaile Átha Cliath áit a raibh galtáin ag fanacht chun iad a bhreith go Learpholl. As sin chuaigh siad ar bord loinge, ‘longa galaracha an bháis’, ina measc an Virginius agus an Naomi a d’iompair iad ar thuras scafár go Quebec i gCeanada. Fuair beagnach leath na n-imirceach ar bord an dá long seo bás ar an turas, ach d’éirigh rud beag níos fearr leo sin ar an Erin’s Queen agus ar an John Munn.

Aimsíodh ainmneacha an ‘1,490 Caillte’ i gCartlann an Ghorta Mhóir i bPáirc Theach Bhéal na mBuillí. Tá a gcuid ainmneacha agus a mbailte fearainn greanta ar an Bhalla Cuimhneacáin Ghloine ag Páirc Bhéal na mBuillí – teistiméireacht dá scéal.

SHOE STORIES – Daniel’s Story – Black ‘47

Shoe Stories by Marita Conlon-McKenna:

My name is Daniel Tighe. I am 12 years old.  In May 1847, the worst year of the Great Irish Famine, I walked this path from Strokestown to Dublin heading for a ship and in hope of a new life in North America. Follow in the footsteps of my story which is marked by over 30 pairs of Bronze Shoes along the National Famine Way – now a 165 km accredited trail. 

Although we are footsore and weary, we hasten our pace knowing soon that we will reach Dublin city.

At Castleknock we get a strange smell in the air and see steam coming from the chimney of a tall, worsted mill built on the canal.

Mam says the mill makes textiles from wool and that thousands of people and even boys like me work in factories and mills and breweries all over the city.

Some of the workers wave down from the windows at the huge crowd of us.

I then get fascinated by two men ahead grasping large handles, one each side of the bank, pulling and tugging, over and back, sweat dripping off their foreheads.

Uncle William sees my quizzical look ‘Bet that’s the largest saw you have ever seen, eh lad? They have awful bother with the weeds, not an easy job keep them at bay so boats can pass through easily.’

I am quite mesmerised by rhythm they have going between them and the speed at which they work.

Baliff Robinson roars at me to speed up.

History: The Deep Sinking, Dunsink Observatory and the 12th Lock


The 12th Lock and Talbot Bridge were once the site of a worsted textile mill. A lease was granted to Thomas Byran for a site to build a woollen mill here in 1822. When the mill went into production, it employed 80 -100 people, providing much employment for Blanchardstown, which was then a small village. Although it has been used for a variety of purposes over the years, it only ceased production as a working factory in 1994, when a fire damaged the building and it was demolished.  Some of the stone was saved and incorporated into the new apartment development, which you can see on the north bank.

Today Blanchardstown, a short distance away, is a bustling suburb offering all amenities and facilities, while retaining its rural village charm.

This location is currently also home to a Boutique Hotel in a peaceful setting.


There is a 2.8 km stretch of the Royal Canal close to the 12 th Lock known as the Deep Sinking.  This was a most controversial stretch of the canal because it became generally known that an unnecessary deviation to the south had been made, to bring the canal through Maynooth at the request of the Duke of Leinster, who was a prominent member of the company. A more northerly route would have avoided the Deep Sinking and the costly Ryewater Aqueduct. The cutting, hewn and blasted through the hard black calcareous stone, cost more than £ 40,000 – £ 10,000 of which was spent on tools and gunpowder.

The aqueduct took six years to construct and cost £ 27,000. It rises to a height of 30 feet above the canal in places. The Deep Sinking, being so narrow, made the passing of canal boats impossible, and the horses towing the boats were sometimes dragged into the canal. In 1845, there was a serious accident in the cutting when the evening passenger boat to Longford from Dublin struck a stone on the side of the canal, heeled over and filled, drowning sixteen people. You will find the full story in the Clonsilla section.


From the 12 th Lock, the large dome of the Dunsink Observatory – 3 km from the Lock –  is visible, in the distance.

See also information on Broome / Hamilton Bridge – 2 stops and c. 5 km away.

The Dunsink Observatory is an astronomical observatory established in 1785.

Its most famous director and Astronomer Royal for Ireland was Sir William Rowan Hamilton . In the late 20th century, the city encroached ever more on the observatory, causing light pollution, which compromised the telescope’s effectiveness. The  telescope , no longer state of the art, was used mainly for public ‘open nights’.

Dunsink observatory is currently part of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies . It provides accommodation for visiting scientists and is also used for conferences and public outreach events. Public talks on astronomy and astrophysics are given regularly at the observatory by professional and amateur astronomers. Stargazing events are also held using the Grubb telescope.  You can find out more on


CANALS of DUBLIN – WALKING TRAILS   Check out this link for the Green Loop and the Royal Canal Interactive Walk, part of which is along this stretch of the Royal Canal. You can do a one day guided walk of the two Dublin Canals.  The walk is 36 km and takes about 6 hours.  The trail extends from the Dublin City (Phoenix Park) right out to Lucan in Co.Kildare along the Royal Canal and back into the War Memorial and Phoenix Park along the Grand Canal Way. It links some of the most scenic parks and green spaces in the Greater Dublin region including the Phoenix Park, St. Catherine’s Park, Lucan Demesne, Griffeen Valley Park, Liffey Valley Park and the Irish National War Memorial Park.

A stretch of this Walk is along the banks of the Royal Canal.

Maurice Bracken below reflects on his own experience of traversing the National Famine Way:

Local Attractions


Please check opening hours for all attractions as many are seasonal / restricted.

Dunsink Observatory It links some of the most scenic parks and green spaces in the Greater Dublin region including the Phoenix Park, St. Catherine’s Park, Lucan Demesne, Griffeen Valley Park, Liffey Valley Park and the Irish National War Memorial Park.