Book your boating holidays in Ireland and cruise the lovely and enigmatic waterways of the Shannon and Erne.
Shannon and Erne cruises : Two rivers, one canal, two worlds
This is where geography meets history. The Shannon–Erne Waterway is the meeting-point of two rivers: the Shannon in the Republic of Ireland and the Erne in Northern Ireland. It’s one of the finest places in Europe for boating holidays and exploring the natural world – so don’t forget your binoculars. You’ll be surrounded by blue and green, punctuated by picturesque villages. From the deck of your self-drive boat you can watch unique scenes: a red-billed chough taking flight or a pike wriggling in the water. Spend some time drinking it all in and living simply among a people and a culture that will leave a lasting impression. If you follow the Shannon southwards, you’ll travel back in time into the history of the country, with its centuries-old castles and architectural remains. Further north, the Erne opens up into a typically Irish region, with stone-built villages. The aptly-named Emerald Isle is the perfect destination for beginners as well as more experienced sailors. Why not go for a round of golf on one of the world-famous courses to stretch your legs? Peace and freedom on an idyllic journey full of adventure, which wakes up all your senses: that’s what an Ireland cruise can offer. Why not give it a try?
Set off on a memorable cruise along the gentle waterways of the Shannon river and Erne
Whether you’re dreaming of boating holidays on the Shannon, the country’s longest river, or a cruise through the fish-laden waters of the Erne, with its historic heritage, Carrick-on-Shannon are the starting points.
destination and its waterways
Must-see sights on your Shannon cruise
There’s a huge amount to do and discover as you cruise along the waterways, but we’ve picked out five of the best attractions.
Sean’s Bar, where time has perfected the beer
Calling all beer connoisseurs! On the banks of the Shannon there’s one place you should definitely stop: the oldest bar in Ireland. Right in the centre of the country, in Athlone, the bar’s atmosphere and beer quality are unique.
Devenish Island, an island of contemplation
You can only reach this island in Lough Erne by boat. It’s famous for its timeless atmosphere and monastic ruins, such as the former monastery of Saint Molaise.
Kingfisher Trail, the cycle track among the lakes
On a canal boat holiday it makes sense to take advantage of cycle tracks alongside the canals, to combine relaxing on board with gentle exercise through lush green landscapes.
Ballyconnell, the perfect place to experience Irish hospitality
This small town on the banks of the Shannon–Erne Waterway has lots of restaurants and bars, which all contribute to its reputation as a lively and friendly stopover. Make sure you stop!
Lake Allen, a hot spot for pike-fishing
An Ireland cruise gives you the chance to fish for free as you travel along. But the most highly prized fish in this land of anglers is the Lake Allen pike. Make sure you have a go.
Boat hire on the Shannon : try Locaboat
A cruise in the Shannon and Erne region is incredibly easy, making it the perfect holiday for families. No license is needed to rent a boat from one of our two bases, and you can prepare your journey stage by stage. With your navigation chart in hand, a carefully planned itinerary, and your introductory boating lesson under your belt, you’ll set off with no worries, free to go where you like. Cruising along the Shannon, the country’s longest river, your self-drive boat will take you southwards, to the region’s amazing castles, unspoilt landscapes and waters that are so full of fish they’ll become your new best friends as you glide along!
The river has an influence on most of Ireland’s landscape and guides you straight towards Celtic ruins and mysteries. You can stop off to enjoy some typical Irish pastimes, such as a fishing trip after a friendly drink in one of the traditional Irish pubs. It’s surprisingly easy to cover the distance from the lower to the upper reaches. That’s because the locks are few and far between. It generally costs one or two euros to pass through them, but the lock-keeper will tell you what to do. Then you can cruise the 63 kilometres of the Shannon-Erne Waterway as far as the Erne, where the landscape is full of contrasts, alternating between cliffs and vast expanses of calm countryside. This is an outstanding region for getting to know Ireland on a canal boat.
Shannon cruises In the Emerald Isle
For the first stop of your Shannon cruise, Athlone; a quintessentially Irish town
You’ll find that the majority of Shannon cruises begin from Carrick-on-Shannon, a quaint town of just 5,000 people. From here you can choose to explore the southern waters of the mighty river or venture north into the Shannon-Erne Waterways in your self-drive boat. Either way, you’re in for a treat. For those making a beeline south, to the Celtic villages of the Emerald Isle, make sure to stop off at the historic town of Athlone. Once considered to be of strategic importance, Athlone is home to a castle that dates back to 1129. It’s worth jumping off your boat here to explore Athlone Castle and get your first taste of Irish history.
It’s here too that you’ll set your eyes on one of the River Shannon’s three major lakes: Lough Ree. Named as a Special Area of Conservation, for its impressive population of migratory waterfowl, you may just experience this phenomenon during your boating holiday in Ireland. If you don’t happen to be visiting during the migratory season, which starts in March, you can still enjoy the magnificent lake in a number of different ways. Simply head out in your self-drive boat, grab a few fishing rods from a nearby shop and spend an afternoon trying your luck at reeling in a hefty trout or pike.
Make time for a historic stop off with a Clonmacnoise river cruise
As you wave goodbye to the charming town of Athlone, it won’t take long until you reach one of the most popular spots in all of the Shannon cruises in Ireland ; the settlement of Clonmacnoise. This ruined monastic settlement was founded in the mid 6th century by a young man named Saint Ciaran and seven of his companions. Its prominent position, sitting at the point where the mainland route meets the River Shannon, allowed this spot to grow into one of the most important hubs of religious life in Ireland.
Perched somewhere between the Shannon riverbank and the Mongan Bog, you shouldn’t have a problem accessing this historic spot in your self-drive boat. After all, it will be the perfect rest stop after a long day of enjoying the water. Today, the site of Clonmacnoise still includes several ruins including those of a cathedral, seven churches, two round towers, three high crosses, and a selection of gravestones. While some of the sites have undergone recent renovations, you’ll still find tonnes of original brickwork that is hundreds of years old. Get your cameras at the ready!
Looking for a shorter trip? Start your adventures from Banagher
If you’re stuck for time and have your heart set on exploring the southern-most regions of the Shannon River, you may want to pick up your canal boat from Banagher instead. After all, Shannon cruise holidays can be made into whatever you want them to be! With our brand new base in Banagher, Locoboat can make sure you’re all set for your adventures into this peaceful enclave of Ireland. Before you set off on the adventure of a lifetime though, don’t forget to see what’s in store in Banagher!
Despite its small population, there’s plenty to see and do to have good old craic. It’s easy enough to while away an afternoon wandering through the quaint streets, heading to the top of the historic Martello Tower, and taking a few snaps of the stunning six-arched Banagher Bridge. When the sun starts to set and you’re looking for a place to cosey down, JJ Hough’s Singing Pub is where you want to be. This 250-year-old venue is the perfect place to sample locally crafted beer and that famous Irish hospitality.
You may want to set aside a day or two to see the popular town of Portumna
When you manage to pull yourself away from the infectious atmosphere at Banagher, it’s time to motor on to the next Irish town: Portumna. Part of County Galway, and just a stone’s throw away from Tipperary, there’s plenty to do in this corner of Ireland. Like much of the southern realms of the Shannon River, Portumna has a rich Celtic heritage. You can start to explore the town’s intricate history with an afternoon visit to Portumna Castle. Built in the early 15th century, Portumna Castle is most well known for its rich tapestry of residents that once called it home, from Lords to Ladies.
When you opt for boat hire in Shannon’s Portumna, you’ll also find yourself at the gateway to the River Shannon’s largest lake: Lough Derg. You can choose to base yourself in town and explore the lake from the land, or jump on your self-drive boat and explore the water first-hand. Whichever way you decide, you’ll find a number of harbours, including Connacht Harbour and Portumna Harbour, which are ideal for mooring the boat and setting off to explore.
What makes Lough Derg such a tourist attraction is its size. In fact, it’s the third largest lake in Ireland. Once used as an important waterway to transport goods from Limerick to Dublin, Lough Derg has become popular for water sports aficionados. On any given sunny day you’ll find thrill-seeking locals canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing or sailing their way through the water.
Discover the Shannon-Erne Waterway With your private boat hire on the Shannon
Start your adventures by picking up a Shannon boat hire in Carrick
Boat hire in Carrick-On-Shannon is the perfect choice if you’re hoping to explore the upper echelons of the Shannon River. The stone-built villages that pepper the banks of the Shannon River in these regions of the Emerald Isle are a treat for the eye, while the peaceful waterways will keep you relaxed during your Shannon cruise.
As you leave the familiar realms of Carrick with your Shannon cruiser hire , it won’t take you long to reach the first remote town on this northern path, Leitrim. This quaint village sits across the canal and is the perfect palace to grab a bite to eat or a warming coffee and soak in the serenity of the Irish countryside. If you have time to stay a little longer, the town’s surroundings are worth a visit too. Start your day with a tour around the 17th century Parke’s Castle, hire an electric bike for a whirlwind tour around Leitrim’s countryside or simply hanker down in one of the local pubs, cosy in by the fire and treat yourself to some of Ireland’s finest ale.
Your Shannon boat cruise wouldn’t be complete without a day spent at Lough Allen
At nine miles long and three miles wide, Lough Allen is one of the largest lakes on the River Shannon. Just moments away from the small town of Leitrim, this outdoorsy paradise offers up countless opportunities for adventuring. When you opt for River Shannon boat hire , you’ll be able to get up close and personal with these wonderful waters, to experience what they have to offer first hand. After all, isn’t that what canal boat holidays are all about?
During the warmer months, and sometimes into winter, Lough Allen comes alive with keen water sporters. If you’re ready and waiting to get off your boat and to get the heart pumping, the sea-like waters of Lough Allen lend themselves perfectly to a spot of windsurfing. If you’ve never windsurfed before, that’s not a problem! There are plenty of places that are willing to teach you. For something a little more relaxing, you can self-hire a kayak or canoe on Lough Allen and make your way around the many hidden tributaries of the lake. For an extra treat, why not pack a picnic and pull up on one of the remote islands for a bite to eat.
Shannon boat hire will take you all the way to Devenish Island and beyond
If you make it past Lough Allen, Leitrim and Ballinamore, you will be entering a new territory; the Shannon-Erne Waterway. This narrow canal connects the River Shannon in the Republic of Ireland to the River Erne in Northern Ireland and offers up beautiful views along the way. With green pastures, a backdrop of undulating hills and a myriad of wildlife, boat hire along the Shannon-Erne Waterway is possibly one of the most beautiful stretches you could choose to visit.
If you are limited on time, we’d recommend making a beeline for the remote islands of the Lower Lough. Here, you can moor up at the uninhabited Devenish Island. With no shops, cafes or restaurants on the island, you’ll need to remember to bring everything you need with you; from food and water to fuel. Fall asleep to the lap of the water, and wake up to your own piece of Irish paradise. If you do have time to go one step further with your Shannon-Erne Waterway boat hire, heading to Kesh, in the northern realms of Lower Lough will be an extremely rewarding experience.
Boat hire on the Shannon Ideal for keen golfers, nature lovers & angling enthusiasts alike
Shannon boating holidays mean one thing: fantastic fishing!
Shannon Boat hire in Ireland goes hand in hand with fishing, don’t you think? Stretching for over 360km, not including its many tributaries, the Shannon River is home to endless fishing opportunities. And that’s before you even start looking at the three huge freshwater lakes: Lough Ree, Lough Derg and Lough Allen. All three lakes have a plentiful supply of pike, perch, bream and rudd while the Upper Lough Erne is known for its healthy population of monster trout.
To make sure that there are plenty of fish to go around for years to come, you will need to get yourself a day-license to fish on most of the lakes along Shannon. These won’t cost too much, but if you get caught without one you may get fined. If you’re a fishing enthusiast, you’ll want to time your Shannon cruise between the months of March and May to be in with the best chance of reeling in a big catch. During Spring, huge shoals of carp leave the waters of Lough Derg and head upstream to Portumna. The perfect opportunity for some guaranteed catches!
For when you’re feeling like a real pro, it’s worth planning your visit to coincide with one of Portumna’s annual fishing competitions. The two main competitions, Waterways Ireland Portumna Festival and Curley’s Festivals are held in April and September and guarantee a great time.
Golfing boat trips on the Shannon
Golfing is big news in Ireland, and you won’t struggle to find a multitude of 18-hole golf courses hidden in the rolling hills of the countryside. Why not treat yourself and your mates to Shannon boat hire for the weekend and see how many golf courses you can fit in during your holiday? Not only will it get your competitive juices flowing, but you’ll also be able to soak in some of Ireland’s gorgeous scenery while you’re at it.
Need some inspiration? Here are a few golf courses that you simply can’t miss. Glasson Golf Course, perched on the edge of Lough Ree is perfect for the seasoned golfer. This luxury resort offers top-notch facilities and an immaculate lawn to match. Simply enjoy the 18-hole course before relaxing in the luxury golf club with your favourite drink in hand.
Another unmissable course is Lough Erne Golf Course. This luxurious institution now has its own private jetty, making it incredibly convenient for visitors to reach. Perfect for pro golfers who think they’ve seen it all, this extravagant course has a whopping 36-holes to perfect along with a driving range. If you’re new to the sport, you can even try your hand at the in-house golf academy.
Look out for lapwing, curlew and godwit during your Shannon River cruise
Whether you’re a seasoned bird watcher or simply enjoy watching animals in their natural habitat, Shannon cruise boat hire is the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with Ireland’s native species. The waterways and wetlands attract all sorts of birds looking for a tasty morsel. Make sure you bring your binoculars and watch as lapwing, curlew and great crested grebes flutter past your boat. During the autumn season at Lough Derg, you may be lucky enough to hear the buzz of thousands of starlings as they head to roost at night.
For the best chance of spotting Ireland’s most elusive bird species, you’ll want to make your way to the Shannon Callows. A shallow portion of the river that lies between Athlone and Lough Ree, these waters are home to some of the largest concentrations of lapwing, redshank, curlew, sandpiper and godwit. You may even be lucky enough to spot a family of wild otters or the odd mink while you’re there too.
If you get the chance to jump off your boat, there are plenty more opportunities to explore Ireland’s fantastic landscapes. The 1,100 acre Portumna Forest Park, just west of the town, is home to six stunning biking routes and endless hiking trails that cater to all ability levels. Here you can get to grips with native species including Silver Birch and Maple Trees, and you may even spot a red squirrel burrowing his acorns away for the season.
History buffs can revel in Ireland’s fascinating past while sailing along Shannon’s peaceful waterways
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to get yourself a french canal boat rental, you’ll have noticed that the canals and rivers are peppered with historical hotspots. And, we’re glad to say that it’s no different with Shannon river cruise hire . In fact, you could quite easily dedicate your whole week or two-week trip seeking out the best historic attractions along the Shannon-Erne waterways.
From Celtic ruins to age-old pubs, there’s a little bit of history in most towns along Ireland’s favourite river. While the Clonmacnoise ruins are certainly not to be missed, there are plenty of underrated sites to be discovered too. These include the Brian Boru Heritage Centre, Holy Island and the Carrigglas Manor.
Like Clonmacnoise, Holy Island is a well-known monastic site consisting of a well-preserved round tower, the ruins of six churches, an 8th century graveyard and a Holy Well. Sitting in a secluded spot on Lough Derg, this site can only be visited on a guided tour or by using your very own private boat hire on the Shannon.
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