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


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.

Listen Here

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. 

As we near Longwood, we cross over another large aqueduct with three arches spanning the wide blue River Boyne. It begins to rain again; a right downpour and we all try to find shelter under bushes and hedgerows as we settle down for the night. Mr Robinson tells us to be ready to leave early in the morning, for he will have no laggards. Every bit of me is soaked and I have two big blisters on my foot. Mam burst one of them, which really hurt.

There is a near full moon and I watch as some ragged looking men appear in the dark and creep over to canal wall. It is very strange because they seem to be boring holes in the stone which would surely make the water leak.

Thomas and I are curious and watch them. Uncle William gets up and talks quietly to one of them.

‘What are they doing?’, we ask.

‘Things are so desperate that at night in secret the men come and bore holes in the side walls of the canal and burrow them out and damage them so that they will all get hired for more work repairing the damaged parts of the canal tomorrow,’ he explains. ‘For leaks and holes must always be repaired.’

‘What if they are caught?’

‘They would certainly face prison or transportation or worse. I suspect that they are brave Ribbon Men, fighting not only for their own families but for poor tenants and those in need.’

In the morning as we pack up, a few men appear and the foreman sets them to repairing a section of the canal.

The Ribbon Men nod at us as we pass.

‘Move on boys,’ Bailiff Robinson shouts at us, as I put my sore foot back into my shoe.

History: Ribbonmen, secret societies and the impact of the Famine on Irish Protestants

You may catch a glimpse of the Ribbontail paddlers canoe club taking to the water at Longwood harbor and marvel at the Boyne Aqueduct and Viaduct.    Further along after the Harbour is Ribbontail pedestrian bridge. Longwood Village Green is 1.5 km stroll from Ribbontail Bridge, along a peaceful laneway. Longwood  is a lovely tranquil irsh town.  Castlerickard Church & Cemetery in Longwood are home to the Swift family vault. Ribbontail Footbridge and country lane were built to bring Mass goers to Church in Longwood. Likely named after the Ribbonmen as local folklore holds that Ribbonmen congregated around the bridge when they were active in the area in the 19 th century.

The Ribbon Society, like the Molly Maguires of Ballykilcline, was principally an agrarian secret society , whose members consisted of rural Irish Catholics .The society was formed in response to the miserable conditions in which the vast majority of tenant farmers and rural workers lived in the early 19th century in Ireland. Its objective was to prevent landlords from changing or evicting their tenants. Ribbonmen also attacked tithe and process servers, and later evolved the policy of Tenants’ Rights. The existence of “ribandmen” was recorded as early as 1817. The name is derived from a green ribbon worn as a badge in a button-hole by the members.

Depending on the district, the society was variously known as the Fraternal Society, the Patriotic Association or the Sons of the Shamrock. The Ribbonmen’s organisation was similar to that of the Whiteboys or the Defenders of earlier periods. They were organised in lodges, and during the 1820s were in contact with certain organisations of Radicals in England.

The ideology of the Ribbonmen supported the Catholic Association and the political separation of Ireland from Great Britain, and the rights of the tenant as against those of the landlord. The Ribbonmen were involved in violent (and sometimes deadly) riots with the Orange Order in the north of Ireland, and elsewhere used violence to resist paying tithes to the Protestant Church of Ireland .

Professor Christine Kinealy (Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, Quinnipiac University) reflects on Ribbonmen, secret societies and the impact of the Famine on Irish Protestants at Boyne Aquaduct, Longwood.

LONGWOOD POET – LIAM MC DONNELL, penned a poem entitled “Strokestown Exodus”  while watching the 2017 Famine Walkers pass on the Longwood stretch of the Canal, pondering on what his ancestors might have thought of our Missing 1,490 as they trudged the very same path some 170 years before. Read it here.

Local Attractions


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

Moyvalley Hotel & Golf Club- Longwood/ Hill of Down

Castlerickard Church & Cemetery (home to the Swift family vault)- Longwood ( )

Cullentra Farm Shop & Open Farm- Longwood

Rathcore Golf Club- Enfield/ Longwood

Clonard Heritage Trail- Hill of Down


Jonathan Swift – Castlerickard Church & Cemetery (home to the Swift family vault)- Longwood

Liam Mc Donnell – Longwood Poet –  Strokestown Exodus  2017