Where the majestic river flows...
Think of the River Shannon as an impressive watery link connecting no less than 11 counties on the island of Ireland – Cavan, Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon, Westmeath, Offaly, Tipperary, Galway, Clare, Limerick and Kerry. It rises in County Cavan’s Culcuigh Mountain in Ireland’s Ancient East, at a place known as the Shannon Pot.
A leisurely crowd of boaters, landlubbers and bon vivants make a pilgrimage here each summer…
And according to the folks at the nearby Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, “legend has it that Síonnan, the daughter of Lodan (a son of the Celtic God of the Sea, Lír), came to the Shannon Pot in search of the great Salmon of Wisdom. The great Salmon was angered at the sight of Síonnan and caused the pool to overflow and drown the maiden. Thus the Shannon was created and still bears her name today.
Not bad for just one river. Then again, the Shannon is eager to please. Fancy a stroll around an Anglo-Norman castle? We give you Athlone Castle in County Westmeath. Keen to see what miners had to put up with during a working day in the 1700s? Pop into the Arigna Mining Experience in County Roscommon. And that’s before we’ve even mentioned the high-octane activities on offer at Lough Key Zipit Forest Adventures, St John’s Castle in Limerick city or the spellbinding ruins of Clonmacnoise. Like we said, it’s eager to please.
Check out these five ways to travel along the Shannon Corridor
By canoe: We begin with an obvious one: paddle power. Keep things simple by getting help from specialists in canoeing adventures, there are plenty around in bustling riverfront towns, such as Carrick-on-Shannon and Athlone. Top of the paddling pile is the 80km canoe trail stretching all the way from Shannonbridge in County Offaly to the twin towns of Killaloe/Ballina on the Clare-Tipperary border. Think rich selections of birds and wildlife and stretches of perfect quiet. If time is on your side, stop off for a pub lunch in Banagher’s Brosna Lodge.
By bicycle: From paddle power to pedal power, the Shannon Corridor has seven cycle routes, some of which reach as far as the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. Check out the linear Pilgrim’s Road to Clonmacnoise, which runs from Ballycumber to the ancient monastic site along an esker, which is courtesy of the last Ice Age some 12,000 years ago. Or the Shannon Blueway, where you can enjoy the utter tranquillity of the Tour de Humbert or North West Trail in County Leitrim.
By boat: Peddles and paddles aren’t for everyone. Captain your own vessel from Leitrim’s Carrick-on-Shannon and cruise all the way to Limerick city on board a luxurious cruiser. Boat hire means that you call the shots. That cute village, that buzzing marina or that crumbling abbey are all yours to choose from and on your own time. If you do go down that watery route, the chart of the Waterway showing the location of locks and facilities will come in handy.
By foot: Back on dry land and it’s time to explore the Shannon Waterway Walks. Trust us – there are quite a few to choose from. First off is the Medieval Limerick Walking Trail, which weaves its way through the medieval quarter of the city. The second is a stretch along the Lough Derg Way, where old whiskey stills and idyllic views of Youghal Bay are the highlights. Ireland's first-ever floating walkway, the Shannon Blueway Boardwalk at Drumshanbo, County Leitrim is a scenic 14km off-road trail that connects up with Leitrim Village. Last but not least, lose yourself in the natural beauty of the Glenafelly Eco Walk. This is a gentle introduction to the more remote regions of the Slieve Bloom mountains in County Offaly. Oh, and don’t forget your camera.
By car: Chances are, any road trip in Ireland will hook up with the Shannon at some point. If you find yourself in Limerick, start at the river’s end along the Wild Atlantic Way and arrive in rugged north Kerry by following the southern coastline of the estuary. Or journey to the Shannon from Dublin and explore the stories and lush landscapes of Ireland’s Ancient East! It’s thanks to the river’s waters that the Shannon Corridor is so green. Do the scenery justice by taking your time on a scenic tour from Kittycloghar to Mohill in County Leitrim. Must-sees include Swan Island Animal Farm on the shores of Lough Garadice.