Boyne Navigation

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Rowleys Lock on the Boyne Navigation

The Boyne Navigation (Irish: Loingseoireachta na Bóinne) is a series of canals running 19 miles roughly parallel to the River Boyne from Oldbridge to Navan in Meath in the Republic of Ireland. The canal was once used by horse-drawn boats travelling between Navan, Slane and the port of Drogheda; however is now derelict. The Boyne Navigation branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland have an agreement with An Taisce giving it an exclusive licence 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.[1]

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.[1] The Boyne Navigation Company began work on the lower section of the navigation from the sea lock at Oldbridge to Slane in 1748[2] 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.[1] 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.[1][3]

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.[1][3]


The Boyne Navigation about 2 miles from Navan

The navigation was never a commercial success,[3] however it did expand the local economy by making it easier to transport agricultural goods from inland Meath to market.[1] The total cost to build the navigation was £190,000 of which £30,000 was private contributions the remainder being public funds.[4] In the financial year ending in April 1844 income for the navigation was £734.12s.4d. and expenses were £460.6s.9d.[5]


Boats with a draught of 14 ft 8" in the winter and 3 ft 6" in the summer could travel the navigation.[5] Low water in the summer and during low tides meant that the Boyne Navigation was not always navigable.[1] 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.[5] 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.[5]

Current status

The canals 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.[1][3] 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.[1] 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)[6] to the Guardlock (Lock 2)[7] 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 (next lock), clearance of the navigation between Athlumney and Ruxton's Lock (Lock 17).[8] 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[9] at Scotch Hall shopping centre in Drogheda will complement the Boyne Navigation.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Boyne Navigation)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Wheeler, Ed (2005). "Restoring the Boyne" (PDF). Inland Waterways News (Ireland: Inland Waterways Association of Ireland) 32 (2): 20–25. SSN 1649-1696. Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  2. "Boyne Navigation and Tow Path". An Taisce. Archived from the original on 2007-09-19. Retrieved 2007-10-12. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Trench, C.E.F. (1995). Slane. An Taisce - the National Trust for Ireland. ISBN 0-903693-09-7. 
  4. Coyne, William P. (1902). Ireland: Industrial and Agricultural. Dublin: Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland. Printed by Browne and Nolan. Ltd.. pp. 118. Retrieved 2007-10-09. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Lewis Smyth, George (1847). Ireland: Historical and Statistical (Vol. II. ed.). London: Whittaker and Co.. pp. 299–300. Retrieved 2007-10-09. 
  6. IWAI, Boyne. "Lock 1". Boyne Navigation Branch. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  7. IWAI, Boyne. "Lock 2". Boyne Navigation Branch. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  8. IWAI, Boyne. "Lock 17". IWAI - Boyne Navigation Branch. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  9. IWAI, Boyne. "new Drogheda marina". Drogheda Life. Retrieved 9 March 2014.