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

SHOE STORIES – Daniel’s Story – Black ‘47

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. 

The canal gets busier for we are nearing the city and its locks and bridges. As we continue on to Longford Bridge and Ashtown we suddenly hear a strange loud roaring noise in the distance. The sound gets louder and louder, so the very ground shakes as a steam train comes thundering along the track, so close to us that it makes my heart race.

Bernard Og cries and howls with fright and little Catherine is terrified and covers her ears. I had never seen or heard the like of it. Thomas and I and John Murphy and Patrick Quinn run as fast as we can to get a proper look at this strange new wonderful invention.

The train is a magnificent beat of a machine, but is gone from us in only a few minutes.

Someday I will travel on a train and watch the fields and river, canals and houses and farms pass by.

There are lots of steam trains in Canada I am told. I begin to warm to thoughts of my new life with my family.

History: Broome Bridge and Sir William Rowan Hamilton’s Mathematical Epiphany


The 10th Lock at Ashtown is the site of a third mill, just beyond Longford Bridge.  It is shown, on the 1837 Ordnance Survey Map, as a linseed oil mill. It was also, at times, a candle and polish factory. It is set back a little from the canal, but like the other mills its energy source was the canal water, with some of the mill race still visible. The water was returned to the canal through a small arch on the city side of Longford Bridge.  Folklore has it that the clock that used to be on the front of the mill came from Newgate Prison in Dublin.

The Head Quarters of the southern division of the Waterways Ireland is close to Ashtown Lock.

This is also the closest point to Phoenix Park.  Phoenix Park is one of the largest enclosed recreational spaces within any European capital city. It was established in 1662, originally as a Royal deer park, and since the seventeenth century has been home to a herd of wild fallow deer .  It includes large areas of grassland and tree-lined avenues; it is also home to Dublin Zoo, Ashtown Castle, Phoenix Park Visitor Centre and many other attractions.

Aras an Uachtarain, the residence of the Irish President, dates from 1750 and is located in the centre of the park, adjacent to the United States Ambassador’s residence, which was built in 1774.

The Irish Government is lobbying UNESCO to have the park designated as a world heritage site.


This Bridge is c. 2 km along on the Canal – two bridges from Ashtown. Although there are no Bronze Shoes at this location, keep an eye out for the notable plaque on the wall of this renowned bridge.  Broome Bridge was named, like many of the canal bridges, after one of the many Directors of the Royal Canal Company.  In 1958, Dublin Corporation approved the renaming of the bridge, in honour of Sir William Rowan Hamilton, but the original name is still often used.

Sir William Rowan Hamilton was born at 36 Lower Dominick Street at midnight on August 3rd 1805. He was considered a child prodigy. At the age of seven, he could read Hebrew, and by his early teens he was proficient in thirteen other languages.

However, it was as a mathematician that he is best known. While the Hamilton family was well educated, it is thought that young William’s genius was inherited from his mother, Sarah Hutton.  At the age of twenty-two, he was appointed Professor of Astronomy at Trinity College Dublin.  In 1827 , he became Astronomer Royal of Ireland at Dunsink Observatory.

On Monday, the 16th of October 1843, while he and his wife Helen, were on their way to Dublin, where he was to preside at a Council Meeting of the Royal Irish Academy in Dawson Street, they walked along the canal towards Broome Bridge, when he had an epiphany: the idea of Quat er nions came to him. In his excitement, Hamilton rushed forward to the bridge, and carved onto the stone capping his new found formula   i 2 = j 2 = k 2 = ijk = −1  –  the fundamental formula for quat er nion multiplication.

He hoped that his new discovery would revolutionise mathematical physics.  Quaternions are a four dimensional numbers system, that extends complex numbers. They are applied to mechanics in three dimensional space, and are said by some to be the basis for modern computer language.  Today his formula is used in a range of processes from computer graphics to space travel. Your phone, most likely, has software running somewhere inside of it that relies on Quaternions. Amazing to think that a pre-Famine formula still  has such effect on our current everyday life.

Hamilton is further renowned for his Hamiltonian formulation of dynamics .

He was also a close friend of the poet William Wordsworth. It is most likely that they walked along the canal together, on one of Wordsworth’s frequent visits to Ireland.

Sadly, the final years of Hamilton’s life were unhappy. The deaths of his sister, Catherine, and his friend Wordsworth, led to depression and alcohol abuse. He became a recluse, and died at Dunsink on the 2nd September 1865. Today there is a crater on the moon named after this great mathematician. There is a simple plaque on the bridge commemorating his discovery, which was unveiled by a fellow mathematician, Eamon de Valera, in 1943 to mark the 100th anniversary of his discovery.


Local Attractions


Phoneix Park


William Wordsworth and Sir William Rowan Hamilton