The Ulster Canal

the-ulster-canalThe Ulster Canal is a disused canal running through part of County Armagh, County Tyrone and County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland and County Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland.  In the early 19th century the idea of linking the lowlands around Lough Neagh with the Erne Basin and the River Shannon system became popular with the more progressive landowners and merchants of Armagh, Monaghan and Fermanagh.  The Ulster Canal was built between 1825 and 1842 and was 74 km (46 mi) long with 26 locks.   It ran from Charlemont on the River Blackwater to Wattle Bridge on the River Finn, south-east of Upper Lough Erne. It was an ill-considered venture, with the locks built narrower than the other Irish waterways, preventing through trade, and an inadequate water supply.  It was an abject failure commercially, and contributed to the collapse of the Lagan Navigation Company, who took it over from the government but were then refused permission to abandon it when they could not afford the maintenance costs.  It finally closed in 1931.

The canal follows a fairly straight south-west to north-east course from Wattle Bridge, on the River Finn, to Charlemont, where it joins the River Blackwater. There were two locks close to the River Finn, two beyond Clones, and three near Smithborough, where the summit was reached. The summit pound was less than 6 miles (10 km) long, and was fed from Quig Lough reservoir, just to the north of the end of the summit.  Two locks drop the level before Monaghan is reached and there is a flight of seven shortly after the town. The border with Northern Ireland crosses the canal below them.  There are two isolated locks near Middletown, and the a level section before the canal reaches a gorge to the west of Benburb.