Boating

Navigating the Royal Canal

canal-paintingThe Royal Canal main line is 146 km with 46 sets of locks. The Longford Branch (presently dry) runs from the main line at Killashee to the town of Longford and is 8 km long. All the locks on the Royal Canal are manually operated. Passage through the locks is only permitted during daylight hours. Contact the waterway controllers for lock operations.

Waterway Controllers contact numbers:

  • Spencer Dock: Phone +353 (0)87 258 4713
  • Locks 1 – 17: Des Phillips – Phone +353 (0)87 248 5754.
  • Locks 17 – 38: Liam Croash – Phone +353 (0)87 618 2104.
  • Richmond Harbour: Liam Cox – Phone +353 (0)87 922 2020.

    Before setting out we recommend picking up a copy of Guide to the Royal Canal (available to buy at our RCAG Shop), which contains detailed navigation maps and a wealth of information about the canal and its environment. And details on our Smart-Tag system can be found at Royal Canal Smart-Tags


Newcomen Bridge; lift dates for 2017

  • Tuesday 4th April 11am – 1pm
  • Sunday 30th April 9am – 1pm
  • Saturday 27th May 9am – 1pm
  • Tuesday 20th June 11am – 1pm
  • Tuesday 18th July 11am – 1pm
  • Tuesday 29th August 11am – 1pm
  • Thursday 12th October 11am – 1pm

​Two weeks notice is required from boaters for use of these lifts; should there be no demand (min 2 boats) for a particular date, Irish Rail will be notified by WI that the lift is cancelled. Priority will be given on a first come first served basis.

Contact Waterways Ireland Eastern Regional Office phone +353(0)1 868 0148 or email; dublincanals@waterwaysireland.org


Active marine notices, Royal Canal

  •  2017 February 7th; Arrangements for boat passage on the Royal and Grand canals  in and out of Dublin. MN 07
  •  2017 February 7th; Newcomen bridge lift dates for 2017. MN 06
  • 2017 February 7th; The canal at Ferns Lock (17th) has reopened following repairs to McLoughlin’s Bridge. MN 05
  • 2017 January 30th; The Royal Canal towpath west of Maynooth, from Bond Bridge to Jacksons Bridge (approx. 1.7km), will be closed until March 2017 to facilitate the upgrading of the towpath (It was due to be completed by the end of December 2016). MN 04 
  • 2016 October; Waterways Ireland have advised that from 1st November 2016 water levels from Ferns Lock (Lock 17) to Clondra cannot be guaranteed due to low rainfall levels. MN 144
  •  2016 September 6th; The towpath from Moyvalley to Ballasport and Longford Bridge to Abbeyshrule is closed to facilitate upgrading work. MN 118

General Information:

Lock Dimensions:

  • Length; 21m
  • Beam; 3.9m.
  • Draft; 1m.
  • Airdraft; 3m. (2.1m at Spencer Dock and Sherriff St).

Waterways Ireland Contacts:

  • Operations Eastern Region, Floor 2 Block C, Ashtowngate, Navan Rd, Dublin, 15.
  • Phone +353 (0)18 823 301
  • Fax no +353 (0)18 383 647
  • Email: info@waterwaysireland.org

Navigational Criteria: (Maximum values): Length: 21m Beam: 3.8m Draft: 1m Airdraft: 3m Lowest Bridge: Liffey Junction Railway Bridge

Permits: Permits are required to enter and moor on the Royal Canal. They must be purchased in advance of travel. At the time of publication these cost:

Lock Passage: The cost is €0.60 per lock Mooring: €12.70 per month Annual Permit: €126                                                                                                                                               Permits can be purchased from: Waterways Ireland, Floor 2 Block C, Ashtowngate, Navan Road, Dublin 15. Tel: +353 (0)18 680 148

Slipways: Slipways are provided at a number of locations along the Royal which are:

  • M50 Aqueduct

    Maynooth Harbour slipway

  • Confey:
  • Maynooth Harbour:
  • Enfield Harbour:
  • Thomastown/Killucan Harbour:
  • Mullingar Harbour:
  • Ballinea Harbour:
  • Ballynacargy Harbour:
  • Abbeyshrule.

Consult the Guide to the Royal Canal for more detailed information, or contact Waterways Ireland for up to date information.

Speed Limit:  the max speed limit is 6km/h. Please ensure your wash and wake does not cause nuisance to other waterway users, especially in confined waters or channels. Reduce speed where necessary to prevent bank erosion, damage to reed beds and destruction of birds’ nests among reed and bank habitats. Slow down where boats are moored, when approaching quays, jetties or locks or where water activities are taking place.

Mooring Time Limits: No boat shall be moored at the same place on the canal or within 500 metres of the same place, for more than 5 days without the appropriate permit.

Fuel Points: Fuel is available from garages adjacent to the canal


Maintenance works: Maintenance work on the system is whenever possible carried out during the winter months. However, it is always advisable to contact Waterways Ireland before making any journey, to confirm that the section of waterway that you wish to navigate is open. You may also keep up to date on closures and work on the canal at Waterways Ireland Royal Canal Marine Notices. (MN)