A drive in the heart of the Shannon Valley
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This tour sees us dip in and out of the Shannon Region, but no visitor should miss the beauties of this ‘ quiet watered land ’.
This tour sees us dip in and out of the Shannon Region, but no visitor should miss the beauties of this ‘ quiet watered land ’, where the River Shannon flows placidly between its great lakes, Ree and Derg. The route begins and ends in the town of Birr, which we visited in the course of our tour of County Offaly.
Follow the castle wall at Birr northwards and take the road to the river port of Banagher, a place of great strategic importance because the Shannon and its lowlands were a barrier between the provinces of Connaught and Leinster. An army which wanted to cross the river had very few choices besides Banagher, only Athlone, Shannonbridge and Portumna between the two great lakes, Lough Ree and Lough Derg and in times of peace, the Shannon itself was a highway where goods and people could be carried by boat, so that the harbour towns grew up in the few places where the roads could reach the riverbank. A bridge over the Shannon was built at Banagher as early as 1049 AD. In the 18th Century a small canal with a lock was built so that shipping could safely pass by the rapids. Nowadays the town is a very busy place, a favourite stop over for people cruising the river and offering at least two excellent restaurants. The old hotel with the bow window, close to the river, has a particular claim to fame in literary history. In 1841, the young Anthony Trollope was appointed a post office surveyor’s clerk to be based at Banagher. This was his home for some years and the place where he wrote his first two novels. In 1844, he brought his newly married wife, Rose, to share his hotel room but the same year was transferred to the south. His experiences of the three years in Banagher were used in many of his later novels and he lived and worked in Ireland for fifteen years more. In 1854 Charlotte Brontë spent part of her honeymoon at a house nearby.