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Walk of the Week: Newry Canal Towpath

The Newry Canal Towpath is a 20-mile route running between Portadown and Newry along the former Newry to Portadown canal, which was completed in 1742.

This three-mile linear section from Scarva to Madden’s Bridge, just outside Tandragee, provides a perfect walk on the level and is suitable for all abilities.


There is a bus service between Poyntzpass and Portadown via Scarva and Tandragee. The service is relatively infrequent so check times carefully with Translink prior to your trip.

Newry to Portadown trains stop at Scarva infrequently during the day — check times with Northern Ireland Railways and double check that the train will stop at Scarva. There is also a bus service between Banbridge and Scarva.

This route starts at the Scarva Visitor Centre. From here take a right and follow the towpath heading towards signs to Portadown. While you walk, the Belfast to Dublin railway line will be on your left and the River Cusher on your right. Follow the path onwards passing Terryhoogan Lock and finally onto Madden’s Bridge.

the backdrop

The inland canal ceased to operate more than 60 years ago. You will pass the interesting and almost intact stone-built lock at Terryhoogan with part of the lock gates remaining.

Just north of Scarva, at a point known as Washbridge, the towpath narrows to pass around the abutment of the former railway bridge, which carried the now dismantled railway from Banbridge to Scarva. Nearby is the Terryhoogan aqueduct, which carried water from the Cusher River to the canal.

With its original lock gates still intact, Terryhoogan Lock is the 13th lock on the canal, facing Terryhoogan House where John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, is reputed to have stayed in the mid-18th Century.

Scarva is famous for its ‘Sham Fight’, a re-enactment of the Battle of the Boyne carried out each July 13 to celebrate King William III's victory there in 1690.

It takes place beside the very Spanish Chestnut tree in Scarva Demesne that King William is believed to have camped under on his way to the Boyne all those years ago.

The existence of Scarva Town is due to the construction of Scarva Bridge. The bridge that stands today was built in 1744 — however, it incorporates many parts of the bridge built prior to this date.

Located at the dock on the canal where vast quantities of coal were unloaded for use in the local linen industry, Scarva Visitor Centre helps to explain the building of the canal, its trade and Scarva's role within this.

Linked to this development, the towpath has been restored from Poyntzpass to the quaintly named Tally-Ho Bridge at Terryhoogan Lock, passing on the way Acton Lake.

Scarva village is renowned for its prize-winning floral displays during the summer. During the summer season the tearooms at the Scarva Visitors Centre provide a pleasant place to enjoy light refreshments. Information on the canal and local area is on display in this facility. In season, band concerts provide music at the bandstand beside the visitors centre each Sunday afternoon.

Beside the bandstand the outline of the old canal basin can be seen. Here the canal boats would have unloaded and loaded goods such as butter and coal for transport to nearby Banbridge and Gilford — and would have pulled in for the night.

further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN) at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or visit

CAAN in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. CAAN and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.

Walk Name: Newry Canal Towpath — Scarva Village to Madden’s Bridge.

Area: Armagh.

Nearest big town to start point: Tandragee and Banbridge.

Distance: 3 miles, linear.

Time: An hour and a half to complete.

Terrain: Flat path with no gradient, suitable for all abilities

Access Restrictions: Car parking is available at the Scarva Visitors Centre. The Newry Canal Towpath is a shared use path and can be busy at times in places with both walkers and cyclists.

Refreshments: Scarva Visitor Centre Tearooms open during the summer season from Easter to the end of September (closed Mondays). Public toilets at centre. Local shops and pubs in Scarva.

Publications: An Illustrated guide to Walking the Newry Canal, available from the Countryside Access and Activities Network (CAAN), tel: 028 9030 3930. Copies are also available from the Tourist Information Office based on Bank Parade, Newry.

Map: Sheet 20 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series, available from LPSNI Map Shop, Colby House, Stranmillis, Belfast BT9 SBJ (

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