Ireland Idyll: A Guide to the Emerald Isle's Waterways

Shannon Erne Waterway

The Shannon Erne had a short stint as a commercial artery in the mid-1800s, until it was closed and abandoned in 1869. When the waterway was reconstructed and reopened in 1994, it inspired a new wave of tourism. Travelers now flock to this region of still-water canals, rivers, and lakes, where the fishing is abundant, hiking and cycling trails abound, and unspoiled landscapes have created nature enthusiasts' paradise.

The reconstruction only improved waters that have been long-famous for superior fishing; anglers will find trout and brown fish plentiful. But, if you prefer to witness wildlife rather than catching it, otters, foxes, whooping swans, badgers, and ducks can be seen in and around the lakes and rivers (most boats come with a complimentary sets of binoculars). The absence of large cities and major industries maintains a pristine landscape and a refuge for fauna and flora.
For some cultural craic on the Shannon Erne, head to Keshicarrigon, known for its unusual St. Patrick's Day parades and two of Ireland's best music pubs. For a dose of mystery, look for stone monuments decorating the landscape. These unique structures were built before recorded history—a testament to man's early presence in the region. Or, for those ready for a truly elevating experience, take a helicopter sightseeing tour from the grounds of Ballyconnell's luxury hotel and golf course.

While the shores teem with attractions, the waterway itself offers some of the most interesting sights. Sixteen locks along the route are compelling in and of themselves. Operated by a push-button electro-hydraulic system, the locks are easy to negotiate and are spanned by 34 beautiful bridges. The last lock—number 16—is known as The Gateway to the Shannon.

Navigational charts dictate 13 hours of cruising time to clear the Shannon Erne waterway, but expect an urge to linger for days.


Linda Samuel is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.

Published: 18 Oct 2001 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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