A good stretch of the legs from Grand Canal Dock out to the western pier of Dún Laoghaire, taking in Sandymount Strand, Booterstown and Blackrock Village enroute. Fine Irish weather – considering our chequered summer thus far – and a mercifully free weekend made this a very fine way to spend an otherwise bone idle Sunday afternoon.
I’ve been meaning to walk this route for some time, with vague notions of following the original Westland Row – Kingstown train line in my head. Ian Marchant’s book, “Parallel Lines”, (extract here) has a full chapter memorably outlining how this line was built as part of an effort to provide a fast link between the first two cities of the British Empire, London and Dublin. More significantly, by providing multiple stops along the journey into the city centre, it was also the world’s first commuter line when it opened in 1834.
Fergus Mulligan’s “One Hundred and Fifty Years of Irish Railways” contains a very detailed account of the line’s construction and first years of operation; one part that particularly struck me describes the “night patrole”, introduced in 1837 to counteract acts of vandalism. On duty from 8pm to 7am, “two hardy men walked the entire line from Westland Row to Kingstown and back” with a weapon, “dark lanthorn” and whistle. Mulligan notes that this must been quite a prospect in the months of January with the “east wind howling across Dublin Bay”.
Whatever became of those men, the new train allowed for the possibility of living in the countryside whilst working in the city and, so, it played no small part in the development of the pleasant suburbs in the south of the city, the results of which can still be enjoyed on a pleasant summer afternoon.
Today, the sight of Poolbeg Station looms large on the horizon, omnipresent wherever you are on Dublin Bay. The tide at Sandymount Strand was out even further than usual, allowing for a direct walk to the footbridge over the tracks at Booterstown Station. From here, a brief rest in Elm Park before a stroll through Blackrock Village before reaching Seapoint and, soon after, the pier of Dún Laoghaire where the Stena Sealink negotiates the harbour opening. A meal in Real Gourmet Burger repairs the damage before a chance encounter with an old music friend and, of course, the DART home.