A trip along the Shannon-Erne waterway is a wondrous journey through Ireland’s rich history and dramatic landscape.
Known as the backbone of Ireland, the River Shannon flows through 11 counties from Cavan to Limerick, connecting in Northern Ireland to Lough Erne in the tranquil Fermanagh lakelands.
Exploring all or part of these two great river systems is simply an unforgettable experience. Pick up a cruiser at one of the many hire spots along its length and you are ready to go where the river takes you.
Let it take you into Ireland’s Ancient East. Moor up at sixth-century Clonmacnoise Monastic Settlement in County Offaly, one of Ireland’s most sacred sites, or step back into the Iron Age with a visit to the ancient Corlea Trackway in Longford, preserved for 2,000 years in the boglands surrounding the River Shannon.
Cruise to 12th-century Athlone Castle, sitting on the riverbank, or explore island-dotted Lough Ree, the Lake of Kings, scene of Viking battles and the death place of the legendary Queen Maeve.
From the river’s vantage point Ireland’s lush scenery is a picture postcard backdrop, but to get into the heart of the beauty stop off and stretch the legs on one of the many walking and cycling trails that flank the waterway.
Or swap the cruiser for a canoe and explore the paddling trails around Drumshanbo, Boyle, and Upper and Lower Lough Erne.
Cruising the Shannon and Erne navigations also offers the opportunity to visit some of the island’s prettiest and liveliest towns and villages.
From vibrant Limerick with its impressive Georgian architecture, to the bustling island town of Enniskillen, built on a narrowing of the waters between Upper and Lower Lough Erne, there is much to explore and enjoy.
Check out picturesque Carrick-on-Shannon in County Leitrim, or the twin towns of Killaloe and Ballina at the mouth of Lough Derg. Linked by a 13-arch bridge, they are best known as the birthplace of Brian Boru, High King of Ireland.
There are endless opportunities to sample the local produce along the waterway as there is a host of excellent restaurants and gastro-pubs within easy reach of moorings.
For top-class gastronomic treats head for the award-winning MacNean House & Restaurant in Blacklion, County Cavan, run by Neven Maguire one of Ireland’s most famous chefs. Or cruise to the Catalina Restaurant at the five-star Lough Erne Resort in County Fermanagh for 3 AA Rosette sumptuous dining.
Of course there are countless more attractions to see when visiting Ireland, and these are just a few ideas for you.
There are several more tourist spots featured in our Visit Ireland section.
Written by Andrew Moore