Float to the Fleadh - Mullingar 2022
The IWAI (Inland Waterways Association of Ireland), through its Royal Canal branch, is hosting a Float to the Fleadh event for the duration of the Fleadh Cheoil.
The IWAI’s Offaly branch ran the event in Tullamore when the fleadh was there for three years.
This event gives members throughout the 32 counties the opportunity of bringing their boats to the fleadh.
The usually tranquil Mullingar Harbour will see come alive with colour and atmosphere as up to 40 large boats converge there.
Although this is essentially an event for members, it should be a fabulous spectacle and the boat occupants welcome members of the public to come down to see the boats and say hello.
Float to the Fleadh is the flagship event this year for the 2020s BC (Big Cruise) – a programme of events created by the canals branches of IWAI to increase boat traffic on the Royal and Grand canals and the Barrow Navigation.
“We have been working with Waterways Ireland to improve conditions for boating on these waterways,” said Denis M-Baker, chair, IWAI Royal Canal.
“By creating an events schedule early each year, we can promote a variety of options for canal cruising through the year.
“We will be building on the 2020s BC throughout the remaining decade, to help raise the awareness of the enjoyment that a boat tourism experience along our canal network can offer.”
Denis said Ireland’s Hidden Heartland have supported his group in this endeavour and they look forward to seeing what develops from the positive interest being shown so far.
Though the Royal Canal Greenway is still in its infancy it has been an enormous success, events like Float to the Fleadh bring life back to the waterway and can only serve to further enhance the spectacle for greenway users, he said.
“We welcome all interest from the community and love to interact with the users of the Royal Canal Greenway as we travel along the canal in boats. Walkers and cyclists alike are always fascinated to see a boat on the canal or travelling through a lock, we answer their questions as they look on in amazement.
“It’s not unusual to be asked, ‘Where have you come from?’, ‘Where are you going and how long does it take?’. People often tell us they have never seen a boat moving on the Royal – well, they definitely do travel on the Royal Canal and you’re going to see a lot more boats in the future!’, we tell them.
Logistically Float to the Fleadh is a big event, the largest number of cruisers and barges at one boat rally since the restoration and reopening of the Royal Canal in 2010.
Movements of boats each weekend through July have been co-ordinated with Waterways Ireland who have facilitated and helped the boats in their journeys towards Mullingar.
Float to the Fleadh is an opportunity to highlight the potential of canal boat tourism to more Shannon based boaters and to midland tourism bodies. As it was in the past, boats and the towpath are still inextricably linked, said Denis.