Boyne Navigation

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Boyne Navigation
Loingseoireachta na Bóinne
Length19 miles (31 km)
(originally 20)
StatusBeing restored by IWAI - Boyne Navigation [1] (voluntary)
Principal engineerDavid Jebb
Construction began1748
Date closed1920's
Start pointOldbridge, Meath (close to Drogheda)
End pointNavan
The Boyne Navigation about 3km from Navan, Co. Meath

The Boyne Navigation (Irish: Loingseoireachta na Bóinne) is a series of canals running 31 km (19 mi)[2] roughly parallel to the River Boyne from Oldbridge to Navan in County Meath, in Ireland. The navigation was once used by horse-drawn boats travelling between Navan, Slane and the port of Drogheda; however is now derelict. The navigation is currently being restored voluntarily. The Boyne Navigation branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland have an agreement with An Taisce giving it an exclusive license to carry out restoration work on the navigation to return it to a usable waterway.


The Boyne Navigation comprises two sections; the Lower Navigation from Drogheda, near mouth of the Boyne, to Slane and the Upper Navigation is from Slane to Navan. The navigation channel is partly the river itself and partly stretches of canal, mostly on the south side of the river. The route uses the river exclusively below Oldbridge while the Upper Navigation is mostly canal.[2][3][4]

The designers intended that the navigation continue upstream along the Boyne to Trim where it could connect with the Royal Canal. The section from Navan to Trim was never built and the Boyne Navigation remains disconnected from other inland waterways in Ireland.[2] The Boyne Navigation Company began work on the lower section of the navigation from the sea lock at Oldbridge to Slane in 1748[5] and was completed in the 1760s. The upper section from Slane to Navan was completed in 1800. The main cargo on the navigation was grain and flour between the mills on the river and the port of Drogheda and coal in the other direction.[2] At four places along the route the towpath switches from one side of the river to the other. Where this happened the horse would step onto the barge while it was poled across to the other side.[2][6]

David Jebb was the engineer in charge of the construction. Jebb himself built a flour mill at Slane in 1766 to take advantage of the navigation that he had recently completed that far. When opened it was the largest mill of its kind in Ireland.[2][6]

At least two tour boats were known to have operated on the navigation one by the name of Ros na Righ.

A traditional craft used by people on the Boyne was the Boyne cóireáil (circular currachs). A group called Boyne Currach [7] are currently building replicas of the original currachs.


The navigation was never a commercial success,[6] however it did expand the local economy by making it easier to transport agricultural goods from inland County Meath to market.[2] The total cost to build the navigation was £190,000 (in pounds sterling) of which £30,000 was private contributions the remainder being public funds.[8] In the financial year ending in April 1844 income for the navigation was £734.12s.4d. and expenses were £460.6s.9d (both in pounds, shillings and pence).[9]


Boats with a draught of 1.4 m (4 ft 8 in) in the winter and 1.1 m (3 ft 6 in) in the summer could travel the navigation.[9] Low water in the summer and during low tides meant that the Boyne Navigation was not always navigable.[2] The journey from Drogheda to Slane took 7 hours in summer and 6 hours in the winter. Slane to Navan took 4 hours in the summer and 9 in the winter.[9] In 1847 the toll to travel the lower section was 1¼ d. per ton per mile and 2 d. per ton per mile on the upper section. Boat owners would charge 3 s. per ton to carry freight from Drogheda to Slane and 4 s. 6 d. per ton from Drogheda to Navan.[9]

The names of the locks on the Navigation are: Oldbridge section: {(Lock 1: Oldbridge Sealock/ Tiernan's Lock, Lock 2: Oldbridge Guard/ Turf Lock,} Staleen section: {Lock 3: Staleen Lower Lock, Lock 4: Staleen Guard Lock,} Broe section: {Lock 5: Broe Lock, Lock 6: Broe Guard Lock,} Slane section: {Lock 7: Morgan's/ Rosnaree Lock, Lock 8: Slane Guard Lock,} Lock 9: Slane Castle Lock, Lock 10: Carrickdexter Lock, Lock 11: Cruicetown Lock, Lock 12: Castlefin Lock, Lock 13: Deer Park Lock, Lock 14: Stackallen Guard Lock, Navan section: {Lock 15: Stackallen Lock, Lock 16: Taffe's Lock, Lock 17: Rowley's Lock, Lock 18: Ruxton's Lock, Lock 19: Metge's Lock (removed, lock and harbour filled in, turned into Andy Brennan's Park now).}

Current status[edit]

The canal passed into private ownership in 1915 and over the next ten years fell into disrepair. An Taisce purchased the navigation rights to the canal from the Navan baker John Spicer & Co. for one Irish pound in 1969.[2][6] An Taisce also own most of towpaths and adjoining lands however there is no public access on a section of the Lower Navigation from Rosnaree Lock to Roughgrange.[2] A number of sections of the towpath are maintained as walking paths, particularly the section from Stackallan Bridge to Navan. Metges Lock [Navan] and weir were removed in the 1980 by the OPW as part of a flood relief scheme. Restoration efforts have mostly been concentrated on the first section of navigation, from the Sealock (Lock 1)[10] to the Guardlock (Lock 2)[11] at Oldbridge (Oldbridge section). Other work that has taken place in the recently past: the area above the Guardlock has been dredged, considerable clearance of towpath below Staleen lock (Lock 2), Restoration of stone wall bank which borders the canal above Staleen Lower Lock (Lock 3), clearance of the navigation between Athlumney and Ruxton's Lock (Lock 17).[12] The Oldbridge section is hoped to be opened within the next two year which will mean people could travel from Drogheda up as far as Staleen Lock (lock 3) When complete, this will allow passage of boats from Drogheda as far upstream as Staleen Lock. The Staleen section actually passes Newgrange. The announcement of a public mooring[13] at Scotch Hall shopping centre in Drogheda will complement the Boyne Navigation. A grant has been awarded for the construction for the public moorings, as per announcement on local Councillor's (Frank Godfrey's) Facebook page. The mooring isn't due to go ahead as funding was around €100,000 but the cheapest quote was around €400,000.

A local group [14] working under IWAI's Boyne Navigation Branch is currently undertaking works on the Slane section of the navigation. Recent works which have taken place include: removal of thick vegetation growth on the waterway section (during Summer 2014) between Slane Lock (Lock 9) to a little beyond the Bridge that crosses the Boyne Navigation and River Boyne leading to Slane. Sluices were installed in the concrete barriers at Locks 8 and 9 at this section to allow for the rewatering of the waterway section and also allow for the regulation water levels. Once or were funding sourced, it would be hoped for the installation of lockgates at Lock 8 (Morgan's Lock) and Lock 9 (Slane Weir) allowing boat passage from the River Boyne to the other using the Boyne Navigation. A boat would do this by enter the double lock chamber at Lock 8 under the engineering feat of the man made archway (locally known as the Scabby Arch[15]) under the stone arch road bridge to Slane up to Lock 9 and back out onto the River Boyne.

Boyne Greenway (official called Boyneside Trail)[edit]

A cycle track and walkway (known as the Boyne Greenway/ Boyneside Trail[16]) has been developed along the Oldbridge section of the navigation. It runs between Pass townsland on the exact border between Meath and Louth to opposite the entrance of the Battle of the Boyne Centre.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ IWAI, Boyne. "IWAI - Boyne Navigation". IWAI - Boyne Navigation. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Wheeler, Ed (2005). "Restoring the Boyne". Inland Waterways News. Ireland: Inland Waterways Association of Ireland. 32 (2): 20–25. ISSN 1649-1696. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-11-19. Retrieved 2007-10-08.
  3. ^ No. 42 – Meath Westmeath (Map) (1st ed.). 1 : 50,000. Discovery Series. Ordnance Survey Ireland. 1997. ISBN 1-901496-06-6.
  4. ^ No. 43 – Dublin Louth Meath (Map) (2nd ed.). 1 : 50,000. Discovery Series. Ordnance Survey Ireland. 2000. ISBN 1-901496-82-1.
  5. ^ "Boyne Navigation and Tow Path". An Taisce. Archived from the original on 2007-09-19. Retrieved 2007-10-12.
  6. ^ a b c d Trench, C.E.F. (1995). Slane. An Taisce - the National Trust for Ireland. ISBN 0-903693-09-7.
  7. ^ IWAI, Boyne. "Boyne Currach". Boyne Currach Heritage Group. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  8. ^ Coyne, William P. (1902). Ireland: Industrial and Agricultural. Dublin: Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland. Printed by Browne and Nolan. Ltd. p. 118. Retrieved 2007-10-09.
  9. ^ a b c d Lewis Smyth, George (1847). Ireland: Historical and Statistical (Vol. II. ed.). London: Whittaker and Co. pp. 299–300. Retrieved 2007-10-09.
  10. ^ IWAI, Boyne. "Lock 1". Boyne Navigation Branch. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  11. ^ IWAI, Boyne. "Lock 2". Boyne Navigation Branch. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  12. ^ IWAI, Boyne. "Lock 17". IWAI - Boyne Navigation Branch. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  13. ^ IWAI, Boyne. "new Drogheda marina". Drogheda Life. Archived from the original on 9 March 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  14. ^ Restoration, Slane Canal. "Slane Canal Restoration". Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  15. ^, visit. (PDF) Retrieved 25 December 2015. Missing or empty |title= (help)[permanent dead link]scabby arch
  16. ^ IWAI, Boyne. "Boyne Greenway". Walking with David. Retrieved 27 December 2014.

External links[edit]