Travelling around Ireland by boat

Ireland's waterways make for an idyllic mode of transport for those looking for a more relaxed pace

Visiting the islands by ferry or boat

Ireland’s islanders have long used ferries to travel back and forth to the mainland and these boats still service the islands today. The Aran Islands, Tory Island, Garnish Island, Rathlin Island and The Great Blasket are just some of our islands that can be accessed via ferry and boat.

Islands accessible by ferry

The Aran Islands; Inishbofin; Sherkin Island; Cape Clear; Clare Island; Tory Island; Garnish Island; Blasket Island; Arranmore; Bere Island; Heir Island; Rathlin Island; Whiddy Island; Valentia Island; Inishturk.

Islands accessible by boat

Inishfree; Long Island; The Skelligs; Copeland Island; Inishbiggle (often inaccessible during times of bad weather).

Bear in mind that owing to weather conditions some ferry companies only operate seasonally, normally peak season (June to August approx). It is advised to always check sailing times in advance to avoid disappointment.

Disabled access is available on most ferries but check before travelling.

Cruising Ireland’s waterways

Ireland’s warren of rivers and canals makes cruising the island by boat or barge another travel option. Cruiser and barge rentals are dotted along the Shannon-Erne Waterway, in particular, which link to the other major water arteries such as Lough Erne, Loughs Derg, Allen, Key and Ree and the Grand Canal.

What you need to know: You don’t need a license to operate a cruiser or a barge. You don’t even need to have operated one before. While experience is always useful, full training will be provided with teaching sessions for your whole team and a trip out with a tutor. When you’re ready to take the helm you’ll be given navigational charts and a captain’s handbook.

Prepare for your trip: It’s a good idea to stock up on fuel and provisions in advance, just in case. Make sure you know how to handle the locks if you’re travelling along a canal, ask about any areas that are off-limits along the way, make sure you have access to weather information, know how to empty the septic tanks and find out emergency numbers or what to do in the event of an emergency.

If you don’t fancy the responsibility of skippering your own vessel, there are companies available who will provide a captain along with the boat rental.

Official organisations: Both Waterways Ireland and the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland have extensive information on cruising in Ireland from river system maps as well as listings for cruise rental companies operating on Ireland’s Waterways.