A boating vacation in Ireland: a tranquil adventure exploring the Shannon River

Le Boat customers, Simone and Helmut from Germany, share their experience of a boating vacation on the River Shannon. Read on to find out more about their adventure and their recommendations to help you make the most of your boat hire. 

Le Boat in Ireland - Emerald Star

Planning our boating vacation in Ireland 

A boating vacation in Ireland had been on our vacation wish list for a while. With the Pentecost vacations just around the corner, we began planning our trip to Ireland which was inspired by an article we had read in our local newspaper. We compared lots of vacation options and boat types and narrowed it down to a boating vacation with Le Boat from Carrick-on-Shannon. With the forecast predicting sun, we wanted to make the most of the glorious weather therefore our must-have was a sundeck. For the future, we’d also recommend looking at boats with a bow and stern thruster to make it easier to maneuver the boat - especially if you are new to boating. 

We started organizing our journey from our home in Germany – planes, trains, and automobiles. We flew from Memmingen to Dublin, and from there, the next morning, we took a train to Carrick-on-Shannon (about a 2-hour journey). Le Boat's base was just a stone's through away from the train station (about 1 km on foot). We arrived at the charming little harbor where we were met by John who completed a detailed briefing on how to use and drive our boat. We then headed to a local store to buy provisions. The store owner kindly brought our groceries directly to the boat. Once we familiarized ourselves with the travel route for the first leg of our journey, the adventure finally began later that afternoon.

Starting our boating vacation on the River Shannon 

Starting with a speed of 5, then 10 km/h, we glided down the Shannon towards Leitrim. We only encountered one other boat – it felt like we had the waterway to ourselves. On either side, there were lush green fields, a few cows, swans, and occasional stone houses. After about an hour, we moored for the first time right in front of a narrow bridge and enjoyed the evening sun on the boat's deck with a slice of pizza and some red wine. The next day, after breakfast in the morning sun and a brief stroll in the small village of Leitrim, we continued toward the lake (Lough Key). 

Along the way, we met two friendly couples from Berlin who helped us moor our boat at the next docking point without being asked. 

Visiting Boyle and Lough Key

We spent the evening and the next morning together in Boyle. In Boyle, you must visit the 6th-century Abbey and the King's House (Museum). Despite repair work to the museum that day, we were allowed to explore the rooms, free of charge. We were actually the first visitors to one room that had been newly furnished that day. Afterwards, a charming tea house across the street invited us to relax with a cup of tea and a piece of cake. 

A walk around Lough Key is highly recommended! It offers fantastic views of the large castle surrounded by plants from a mini beach. The castle is situated on a small island in the middle of the lake. 

Later that afternoon, we headed back towards Carrick-On-Shannon where we had to make a pit stop at the office for a minor boat repair (we had a slight collision on the first evening). The Irish follow a motto "always take it easy" and would call out: "Don't worry! Enjoy your day!" 

Heading south to Roosky, Lanesborough, and Athlone 

The next morning, we continued our journey towards the south. Our next stops were Roosky, Lanesborough, and Athlone. We made friends with some Irish locals, spending quality time with them (a visit to a pub, a barbecue evening, etc.), and enjoying more beautiful views of nature and wildlife. The next morning, we stepped out onto the deck to be met by 10 little chicks and their parents—a really special experience that we will always remember. 

In Athlone, it's a "must" to visit the Sean Bar and enjoy a pint of Guinness. This bar was established in the year 900, making it possibly the oldest bar in Ireland according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Besides the bar's atmosphere, there’s a unique passageway through the bar (you enter from one street and exit onto another). 

Clonmacnoise: an enchanting overnight stop 

We continued our journey into the early evening. As we were mooring directly before the lock, we took our time to enjoy the waterways as we weren’t bound by the lock schedules on that day. It’s worth noting that sometimes the locks close at 6 pm. We continued 2 hours south, leisurely cruising in the evening sun, mooring around 8:00 PM in a spot overlooking the ruins of "Clonmacnoise." We were almost the only ones there—with only two other boats mooring for the evening. The place was very mystical and surrounded by absolute silence. Of course, we set foot on land to catch a glimpse of the ruins. We captured stunning images of the surrounding landscape and Clonmacnoise's ruins in the evening sun. 

The next morning, we visited the museum where we watched a 20-minute film about Clonmacnoise's history. In the outdoor areas, we joined a guided tour with a travel group. Here, we learned, among other things, that Pope John Paul II visited in the 1970s and around 20,000 people made a pilgrimage to the site. After photographing nearly every ruin, gravestone, and tower from various perspectives, we returned to the boat to begin the final leg of our journey. 

Fallon's bar in Shannonbridge

Shannonbridge: its bridge and whiskey 

In Shannonbridge, a small town whose name likely originates from the long bridge with many arches, we intended to enjoy a light snack right by said bridge and also purchase authentic Irish whiskey. This whiskey has been produced at "seven churches" since 1405 and is sold directly from there. You can also sample it at the adjacent bar. Unfortunately, we were a bit early. The sales didn't start until 5:00 PM, so we missed out on a tipple. However, we made up for it on the last day at a pub in Dublin. 

River Shannon, Ireland

The end of our cruise 

As we had to return our boat in Portumna by 8:00 AM the next morning, we set out in the evening—there was one more lock to pass through. We arrived in Portuma around 6:00 PM. The lock's water level was adjusted to match the continuous flow of the Shannon River one last time. This time, we were all alone in the lock. When the lock finally opened, it was a special moment, we exited the lock and continued one hour to Portumna. 

We spent the evening primarily packing our suitcases and cleaning the boat, as we needed to head to the nearby bus stop toward Ballinasloe early the next morning. 

During the boat handover the next morning, we handed the German newspaper article to Brian Kirwan, the guide interviewed in our local newspaper, he was beside himself with joy. Even though we had only about 10 minutes until the bus departure (Brian drove us there), we took a few photos together with the very personable Brian Kirwan and the newspaper article, because at the end of our beautiful adventure, the motto "Always take it easy" still held true. 

 Le Boat customers Simone and Helmut with Brian from our Portuma base

Ready to explore the Shannon for yourself?

Come boating in Ireland and enjoy mystic waterways and a warm welcome!