An August 2005 trip
to Ireland by Funky Monkey
Quote: I had tremendous fun messing about in boats on Lough Derg in the lower part of the River Shannon. Here's a quick (but concise) guide to my week on the water.
My other personal favourite part of the holiday was on our second to last day, when we had left Lough Derg (incidentally, Lough Derg means Lake of the Dead Eye! Or so we were told) and were heading up the River Shannon to Shannonbridge. It was the afternoon, so the sun was on its way down, making it not too hot, not too cold, not too bright, but light enough to illuminate the countryside, with the birds singing and the wind just teasing over the grass in the fields--aah, heavenly.
And all the time we were in charge of where we went, at the helm of our boat, watching the world go by.
You can, of course, get around by car, but you don't get that sense of freedom, and the price of accommodation for the week is probably the same as hiring a boat.
Hotel | "Silverline Cruisers"
You may have been on a camper van holiday before, where you can go wherever the road takes you, and hiring a boat to stay on is almost the same, but it is much more hands-on. In a car you have the driver, the map reader, and possibly Sat Nav for when mum's asleep. This is nearly the same as a boat when you're meandering down a river, but when you have to moor in a harbour, it's a completely different story. It's all hands on deck to tie this rope and push off from that side, or to just tell other people what to do.
Another time that you need more people is in the middle of the lake, not for the extra hands, but for the extra eyes. Marker buoys are situated in the lake for navigation purposes, and these can range from a large floating thing the size of a small car to a oil drum. The markers are painted red and black, depending on where they are, which is fine when you're searching for a big red one, but when you're looking for a black oil drum floating in a big navy blue lake, it's like, well, looking for a black oil drum in a big navy blue lake.
It's a good idea to let somebody responsible drive the boat when going in and out of harbours or locks, but in the lake, and when you're going straight in a wide river, anyone can take the wheel. The top speed isn't much over jogging pace, and if you do need a bit of a hand getting into a tight spot in in the harbours, you can always use the Bow Thrusters. These wonderful little gadgets do exactly what they sound like; they thrust the bow to the left of right for when it's too tight to turn properly.
Before setting out on your first day at the helm, it's really important to read the map first. I know this sounds a bit patronising, but there is nothing worse than being caught out and not knowing which buoy to sail around; it could be the difference between staying afloat and running aground. You don't need a licence to drive the boats (I think you do in North America?).
People-wise, everyone who we met on the water was really friendly, from the lock keepers to the other holiday makers. We were always offered some help when mooring, and we did the same.
The beds in the boat were comfy--I was on the sofa bed.
All in all, I would highly recommend hiring a boat. It's safe, fun, and on the whole, simple.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 10, 2006
Silver Line Cruisers
Banagher, County Offaly
353 (0) 57 91 51112
Banagher - Banagher was a quiet riverside town with some shops, pubs, and a hotel. This is where we hired our boat. Be aware that as you approach Banagher by boat from the south, you have to pass under a bridge, and if you have a radar mast, you can only pass through the arch furthest east.
Terryglass - Terryglass is a quaint little town tucked into a cove on Lough Derg's northern end. It has shops, a restaurant, and a pub. Be very careful when approaching Terryglass from the north in high winds. The lake's hilly sides form a wind tunnel that ends at Terryglass Bay, but to get from the river to the harbour, you have to cut across the bay, which is not a very pleasant experience when it's windy. A far safer option, and something that we really should have done, is to head south west into the waves, make a U-turn when you are beyond Terryglass, and come back on yourself. Heading into or away from the waves is far less sickening than trying to sail across them, as we found out when we broke 6 of the 12 glasses on our boat by taking the shortest path across the bay.
Kilgarvin - Kilgarvin is a very small harbour that is quite tricky to get into due to numerous patches of reeds around the entrance. The harbour is owned by a yacht club and didn't have many facilities.
Dromineer - Dromineer, tucked into Dromineer Bay, is directly opposite its west coast counterpart, Dromaan. We stopped there over lunchtime to top up the boat's water tank and to grab a bite to eat. There are restaurants and pubs as well as --shudder--a sewage pump-out point. We spent the whole week trying to figure out if our boat had a sewage tank or if it just pumped it out as you went, and for this reason we didn't go swimming in the lake. We didn't see anyone else swimming either, but the ducks didn't seem to mind.
Mountshannon - Mountshannon was the most scenic place that we went on the boat, and from it's secluded location, shielded from the wind by several islands, you hear nothing but birdsong as you wake up. The town itself is nice as well, with shops pubs and restaurants, including Jane's an Coupan Caife, which I have also written a guide for.
Scarriff - Scarriff's harbour was still a work in progress when we visited, but after a 2-minute walk inland, we reached Scarriff itself, which had shops, restaurants, and B&Bs. To get to Scarriff you have to carefully sail down a beautiful winding river, which gets a bit tricky when you meet another boat in the narrow parts, but it isn't too hard.
Killaloe – Ballina - Killaloe and Ballina are the two towns either side of the lake at its most southerly point, where it officially becomes a river, and unfortunately, it becomes unavigable due to its tidal nature. Each town is full of bars and restaurants, we ate in the riverside Molly's. The only downside to Killaloe and Ballina is that there's a considerable lack of mooring space, either that or there were an awful lot of boats taking it all up. We had to circle outside the harbour for a while until there was room to park for the night.
Garrykennedy - Garrykennedy was the most genuinely picturesque harbour we visited. The views to the south are amazing, and the old original harbour was built from the ruins of the 16th-century Garrykennedy Castle. There is a bar there, and Larkins Music Pub. There isn't much mooring space, though, and the harbour is quite confined, so larger boats may have trouble getting in, but you should be fine if you take it easy on the throttle.
Castle Harbour - Castle Harbour was a quiet little harbour on the northern most tip of Lough Derg. It is about a mile walk from Portumna, but the walk is worth it, as the harbour is in the grounds of Portumna Castle. Portumna itself has shops (where we replaced the broken glasses), restaurants, and B&Bs.
Shannonbridge - Shannonbridge is on the riverside between Banagher and Athlone. It has shops and B&Bs, as well as The Old Fort, a restaurant in an old Napoleonic fort.
Athlone - Athlone was as far north as we went on the boat, and it was the largest town that we visited. It has shops, restaurants, and hotels, as well as a train station. Be careful if you approach from the south, as the current from the weir next to the lock can be quite strong.
Then we returned to Banagher.
Welwyn Garden City, United Kingdom