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. 

It is evening by the time we reach Maynooth with its wide harbour. We wash and bathe our blistered and swollen feet in the water. It feels good. Some priests from the big college St Patrick’s come down to find out where such an enormous group of us are going. They give us their blessing.

The older people find this a great comfort. I don’t know how much I believe in God now, since my Da died.

We lie down on the grass and hard ground and rest for the night rubbing our weary legs and feet. Mam is so tired that she falls asleep. Uncle William is too tired to talk for he has had to carry little Maggie much of the way.

Some kind people from the town give us some bread and ask about our long journey.

By sunrise it is drizzling with rain. Catherine is hot and says that her head and feet hurt and she’ll not walk any more. Bernard Og is hungry and cries a lot. Mother cajoles my little brother to get back on his feet and I carry Bernard Og for a while to give mother a rest.

History: Famine and Religion at Maynooth


Ahead of arriving at Duke’s Harbour, we approach the historic town of Maynooth, along the impressive high walls of Ireland’s first Seminary, built in 1795, when it opened with fifty students. It was said to be  ‘ for the better education of persons professing the Popish or Roman Catholic religion’.   Its purpose  was to educate young men at home rather than force them to go to the continent where it was felt that they were being influenced by revolutionary philosophies. The buildings are two square courts built around the original Stoyte House, and the architecture has been the subject of much criticism.  By 1835, it had over 500 five hundred student priests. During the Famine, the  providentialists often cited the Famine as being God’s retribution for the setting up of the large Seminary in Maynooth.

St Patrick’s College became a  Pontifical University in 1896 and a recognised College of the National University in 1910. Lay students were admitted in 1966. It is still also a seminary today, but with much dwindled numbers.

Maynooth is a truly historic town. Its origins can be traced to the Norman Fitzgerald Family who were sent to invade Ireland by Henry 11 in the second half of the twelfth century.  They became ‘more Irish than the Irish themselves’. Their descendants became ‘Earls of Kildare and later ‘Dukes of Leinster’.

In 1176 Maurice Fitzgerald, a close associate of Strongbow, was given land in the district of Maynooth, where he built a Castle and in 1286 he was granted a weekly market and an annual fair. At this time a powerful Norman Family, they eventually fell foul of the Tudor monarchs, the Castle being besieged by the English army in 1535. It was rebuilt in 1630, but in less than twenty years it was once again in ruins when Royalist forces attacked it in 1647. The ruins of the castle now stand at the entrance to the College and tours can be arranged.

The mid 1700’s, the ‘celtic tiger’ period of its era, saw the return of the Fitzgeralds and Robert, 19th Earl of Kildare, like Thomas Mahon of Strokestown,  spent many years  remodelling Carton House into a splendid Manor House and Demense, along with widening the main street and developing a planned estate town. Like Strokestown, the streetscape remains mostly unchanged until this day. Also like Strokestown, he used the most fashionable architect of the day – Richard Cassels. Echos of Strokestown abound in the house, demense and town.

Maynooth Pound is a rare example of a surviving pound which has existed since the 18th century . The existing walls were built in 1822, although the pound is older than that. Historically, stray animals were impounded here to be returned to their owners for a fee or sold at auction if not claimed.

Professor Mark McGowan (University of Toronto) reflects below on the Famine and religion at Maynooth:


Local Attractions


Please check ahead for opening hours as some are restricted / seasonal.

Maynooth Castle

St Patrick’s Seminary

Carton House Hotel & Golf Club

Conolly’s Folly