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Walk of the Week: The Newry Canal Way

By Linda Stewart

The Newry Canal Way is a 20-mile route running from Portadown to Newry along the restored towpath of the former Newry Canal.

The UK's first summit-level canal navigates its way through a natural trough in an area that abounds in interesting places and stories guaranteed to fascinate any traveller.

The canal runs for 18 miles from the Point of Whitecoat, just south of Portadown, to Victoria Locks at the sea south of Newry. It meanders through the Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon and Newry and Mourne Council areas on its journey from Lough Neagh to the sea at Carlingford Lough.


Take the turn-off for junction 11 on the M1 and follow signs to Portadown — then take the B78 and onto the A27, taking the Mullahead Road. There are train stations at both Portadown and Newry allowing you to walk one way and to get the train back to your starting point.

At Knock Bridge take the towpath south towards Newry. The canal is on the left as you walk along this section and the River Cusher and the Belfast to Dublin railway are to the right.

The inland canal ceased to operate over 60 years ago. You will pass an interesting, 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.

Scarva village is renowned for its prize-winning floral displays during the summer. During the summer season the tearooms at the Scarva Visitor’s Centre provide a pleasant place to enjoy light refreshments. Information on the canal and local area is on display in this facility.

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.

Rejoin the towpath and continue to Acton Lake/Lough Shark, which is a haven for wildlife and was often used to help control the water level in the canal. Cross over the bridge at Poyntzpass and walk on further through undulating fields to Gamble’s Bridge and the domineering arches of Steenson’s Bridge beyond Jerrettspass.

This walk ends by following a verdant corridor of foliage before arriving in Carnbane on the northern outskirts of Newry, just minutes from the city centre.

The Backdrop

The canal opened for traffic in March 1742, extending through a series of locks from Newry to Whitecoat Point, 2km south of Portadown.

The last lock before the canal joins the River Bann is known as Moneypenny’s Lock. The Moneypennys were lock keepers for 85 years and operated the lock gates. They also took note of the barges, which passed through the lock carrying a great variety of cargoes including linen cloth, farm produce, coal, grain and flax seed. However, with the growth of the railway network, the use of the Newry Canal began to decline and the last known commercial journey through lock was in 1936.

Scarva, Poyntzpass and Jerrettspass grew up around the Newry Canal. 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.

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

Acton Lake was used to top up the water level in the canal in times of drought. It is now designated an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) and a small flock of whooper swans roosts here every winter. The lake also enjoys a reputation as a welcome home for other rare winter migrants including the goosander.

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or

Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (formerly CAAN) in association with Belfast Telegraph has provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland 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: The Newry Canal Way.

Area: County Armagh.

Nearest big town to start point: Portadown.

Distance: 20 miles, linear.

Terrain: This linear walk is on a flat, level surface and is 90% off road. However, walkers should be aware that the towpath is also part of Route 9 National Cycle Network.

Refreshments: Refreshments can be purchased at both Portadown and Newry as well as along the route at Scarva, Poyntzpass and Jerretspass.

Publications: Newry Canal Way: An Illustrated Guide, Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Tourist Information Centre on, tel: 028 3832 2205 or Countryside Access and Activities Network, tel: 028 9030 3930 and Walking and Cycling in Craigavon.

Walk developed by: Banbridge, Craigavon, Armagh and Newry & Mourne District Councils

Map: OSNI 1:50,000, sheet 20 & 29. Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discovery Series, available from LPSNI Map Shop, Colby House, Stranmillis, Belfast BT9 SBJ (

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