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 way.ie


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 Tigh. 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 30 pairs of Bronze Shoes along the National Famine Way– now a 165 km accredited trail. 

The next morning we set off again crossing the biggest bridge that I have ever seen. It had five big arches that span wide across the beautiful River Inny.   Martin  Cox told us it is called an aqueduct. We all looked over it to see if we could see any fish to catch, for we were starved, but they shouted at us to hasten up. Patrick Quinn and Thomas and I spotted a few otters, their sleek heads diving down into the water below to fish and hunt.

At Ballynacarrigy Harbour we all watched as across from us a tall winch crane lifted heavy loads of grain from the nearby corn store and sacks of barley and lifted them on to a waiting barge.

A few soldiers with their guns were lined up along the side of the barge to guard it.

‘Where are they taking those sacks of grain?,’ I asked my uncle.

‘Likely to Dublin and then on to Liverpool to feed the people of England, while our own go hungry,’ he said angrily. ‘The authorities have refused to stop exports of food.’

The town was busy and people ignored us as they went about their business. There was big Canal Hotel, on the water where the rich and fancy merchants and lawyers sleep in fine feather beds.

‘Get out of my way I need to get to court!’, roared a lawyer, nearly knocking poor Catherine over in his rush to get on a barge that would bring him to the Assizes Court in Longford.

Someday when I get older I am going to stay in a hotel.


History: The Famine in BALLINACARRIGY

You are now in County Westmeath, a county at the centre of Ireland, where Ireland’s Ancient East meets Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. With its sparkling lakes, breathtaking landscapes, vibrant culture and rich heritage, your visit to Westmeath will be unforgettable. Learn more at  www.visitwestmeath.ie



Ballynacarrigy was largely established in the mid-18th century by the Malone family of Baronstown, who intended to create a linen industry in the area. As  the linen trade failed to thrive, Ballynacargy primarily owes its existence to the arrival of The Royal Canal which opened in 1817. It takes its name from the Gaelic “Baile na Carraige” means town of the Rock.

The arrival of the Royal Canal to Ballynacarrigy circa 1810 led to a period of rapid development and much of the town dates from this period. The lock-keepers cottage beside the lock-gate is typical of the houses built by the Royal Canal Company in the Ballynacarrigy area and the harbour still features an impressive canal hotel and commercial stores built circa 1810 with the nearby remains of a cast-iron heavy goods crane. In 1845, the population of the village was 500 people, living in 63 neatly built, slate-roofed houses. Ballynacarrigy was one of the 26 District Electoral Division of Mullingar Poor Law Union, but was too far from eastern Westmeath and Mullingar to benefit significally from construction of the Midland Great Western Railway. The main source of public work during the Famine was drainage works on the River Inny and creation of artificial lakes. Life for the landless classes was precarious as 25% of the crops were sown on annually rented, con-acre land and 38% of the labourers lived in one room hovels. There were minor famines in the area in 1839 and 1841, particularly effecting the labouring classes during the summer months as they awaited the potato crop. In 1846 local police warned that all the potatoes were gone and the local relief committee noted that dysentery was prevalent due to the badness of food. It was also reported that local meal dealers were engaged in price fixing and that turnip-minding houses were being erected by some larger farmers to protect their crops from the starving poor. By 1847, 39% of the population were reliant on soup kitchens and the following year there was a drastic 83% reduction in the acreage under potato. Between 1845 and 1850 the population of the area declined by 50%. In the aftermath of the Famine the graziers consolidated their holdings and emerged as the dominant social class and there was a corresponding 33% decline in smaller holdings between 15 and 30 acres, as emigration from the area continued apace.

A particular and striking source of folk memory was collected in Ballynacarrigy from the Irish Folklore Commission Schools Collection. It can be found here:


Also see Cathal Póirtéir on Hungry Spots or Hungry Grass in Irish Famine Folklore as recounted to the Famine walkers in Ballynacarrigy, County Westmeath:



Also see Cathal Póirtéir on Hungry Spots or Hungry Grass in Irish Famine Folklore as recounted to the Famine walkers in Ballynacargy, County Westmeath:


Local Attractions


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

Castle Rackrent  by  Maria Edgeworth   1800

Sir John Piers, lived in a house nearby which has fallen into disrepair, and which was allegedly the inspiration for Maria Edgeworth ‘s Castle Rackrent