The Broad, Majestic Shannon

Posted by Neil Hand on the 18th of July 2014 at 10:49:07

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The River Shannon, the longest river in Ireland or Britain (365km), would be worthy of a tourism industry of its own, such are the treasures that can be found along its banks. It is literally the lifeblood of large swathes of the midlands and the west of Ireland, from its rising point in the Cuilcagh mountains in County Cavan to its end via the Shannon Estuary at Limerick.

Steeped in Irish mythology and legend, it was named after a woman called Sionnan, granddaughter of Lir. She is said to have drowned in the river, a common theme in Irish legend representing the dissolving of her divine power into the water, in turn giving life to the land. It has been a strategic defensive point in many different wars down the centuries, with its importance never being underestimated by combatants both national and from farther afield.

Its vast, rich floodplain has had an immeasurable impact on the agriculture industry in Ireland down through the centuries. The river itself was then used to transport the farm produce to other towns on the Shannon and beyond to Britain and the USA.

The River Shannon touches 11 counties on its path from Cavan to the sea: Cavan, Leitrim, Offaly, Kerry, Clare, Limerick, Westmeath, Roscommon, Galway, Longford & Tipperary. It is a wonderful route to discover some or all of these wonderful counties, their unique cultures and their connection with the river that has given them life since it's estimated to have taken its current form, at the end of the last glacial era.

The two largest settlements on the Shannon are Limerick City & Athlone.

Limerick City is the dominant settlement on the Shannon, and is the last populous area the river flows through on its journey to the sea. The Shannon has been essential for the development of the city through the ages, particularly as a trade route. Under British rule, a massive quantity of funds was allocated to the improvement of navigation of the Shannon over the years, most notably in the the 18th and 19th centuries. Canals and locks were built to improve navigation and add depth to the waterway where necessary. Limerick City is a must see on any trip to Ireland, particularly when taking in the west of the country. Limerick, like Dublin & Waterford also, was a strategic location for Viking conquerors in Ireland, and much of the history of that people and their influence on the City, The Shannon and Ireland in a broader sense can be experienced there. Read more about Limerick City here.

Athlone is generally regarded as the capital of the midlands, and is very much at the heart of Ireland (the geographical centre of Ireland is 8.85km North/Northwest of the town). It lies on the border between Counties Westmeath and Roscommon, but is officially designated to be a Westmeath town. It is subsequently the place where the provinces of Leinster and Connacht meet.

Lough Ree, the largest lake on the Shannon, is a short trip upstream by boat. The size and popularity of Lough Ree amongst those who travel the Shannon means the lake and river send a lot of travellers into Athlone to enjoy its pleasant midlands charm. The town is also very well serviced by public transport, with a good-sized train and bus station. This infrastructure has helped Athlone to become a popular start or finishing point for boating or fishing trips on the Shannon. The town itself is steeped in history, with links to famous Irish King Brian Boru and Norman conquests. Click herefor some information on Athlone Castle, a robust 13th Century fortress originally built of the English King John.

Having taken a boat out on the Shannon a few years back myself, I can vouch for the amazing fun to be had, both on the river and in the charming towns and cities I came across on my trip. Take a journey on the Shannon yourself and let your spirit soar.

If you'd like some information on or assistance with arranging a trip on the Shannon or any other holiday in Ireland, contact us today and let us share our expertise with you.

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