O Captain, My Captain! Self-Cruising the Emerald Isle
Picturesque towns and villages appear alongside the river, and we were tempted to stop and explore at every dock. Novice hikers, we moored near Lough Derg and took the well-marked route around the lake. We picnicked midway through the gentle hike; it was a perfect way to relax on terra firma for a while. More ambitious hikers should check out The Cavan Way around the northern lakes of Lough Allen and Lough Reethe hills and valleys provide for a little more challenge. Also along the northern part of the Shannon River is The Miners' Way, a trail marked with historical highlights. Most of the cruiser companies offer bike rentals, so you can go cycling along the flat countryside wherever you choose.
A Land of History
Nestled in a remote spot by the Shannon River is Clonmacnoise, a medieval monastery founded by St. Ciaran around 545. This monastic city seemed to rise out of the mist and trees as we approached it from the river, following the same route that Viking invaders took when they sacked the city centuries ago. Stone ruins from the cathedral and churches are scattered among the green fields, including replicas of 9th-century Celtic crosses decorated with biblical scenes.
Farther up the river lies the bustling town of Athlone, who owes its historical importance to its position by a natural ford on the Shannon River. Athlone Castle, a 13th-century fortress was badly damaged in the Jacobite Wars, and serves as a visitors' center today. The charming riverside town is an ideal stop for self-cruisers interested in history, shopping, or golf: no less than five courses lie within twelve miles of the city. In fact, cruise operators in the area book special golfing/cruising vacations for aficionados.
The claim that Ireland is a paradise for anglers is no exaggeration. Lakes and rivers are home to bream, pike, perch, salmon, trout, and a myriad of other slippery swimmers. Rods and bait are available at all marinas, and every cruiser can tow a dinghy for fishing in shallow water. Contact the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board for extensive information on all things fishy: they offer weekly angling reports, where to find the best pike and coarse fisheries along the Shannon, full descriptions of salmon and trout rivers, and venues suitable for the physically disabled angler. Of course, you can always ask the locals for information (and free advice) as to where the fish can be found.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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