Boating Holidays Masthead
Boating Holidays Masthead

River Shannon Boating Holidays

The River Shannon is ideal for lock-free boating holidays - with no commercial traffic, and only 6 locks in its 150 miles (220k) of cruising water. The river and the lakes it flows through combine natural landscapes with historic sites - they are also an angler's paradise.

The centre of boating on the River Shannon is the town of Carrick-on-Shannon. Its narrow streets offer a wide selection of pubs and restaurants, and there are many boating holiday options starting from here.

From Carrick you can go north west along the Boyle river to Lough Key, with its Forest Park and nature trails. Visit the ruins of the 12th century Cistercian abbey in the little town of Boyle. (Not all boats can access Lough Key).

Going south from Carrick the River Shannon slowly widens, flowing past many small towns and villages. The river continues through many loughs to Lough Ree - a scenic inland sea home to diverse wildlife and well stocked with fish.

At the southern end of Lough Ree, historic Athlone is noted for its castle, dominating the river since the 13th century. From Athlone the Shannon flows through undulating countryside - rambler’s heaven with parklands, historic ruins and grand houses to explore.

The river slowly snakes past Clonmacnois, the ancient Christian capital of Ireland with a cathedral and churches steeped in history.

Life slows down along this stretch of the Shannon as you head to Banagher.

Further south is mighty Lough Derg, the largest lake on the Irish waterways. Lough Derg is noted for the charming lakeside towns and villages with their small harbours and moorings. Good restaurants and pubs abound in this area.

Portumna’s broad streets and majestic parades of shops and houses reflect the town’s Georgian past. The National Park on the northern shore has its own harbour and a secluded nature trail.

Killaloe is the most southerly navigable point on the Shannon. Customary Irish hospitality and fine food and drink awaits boaters here.

Area Highlights

Highlights of Ireland

  • Ruins of Clonmacnois
  • Portumna Castle
  • Golf at Slieve Russell Hotel in Ballyconnell
  • Belleek’s pottery
  • Cycle Kingfisher Trail
  • Horseback riding in Banagher
  • Shannon Harbour fishing
  • Carrick’s Dock Arts Centre
  • Swan Island Open Farm in Ballinamore
  • Mountshannon’s Holy Island.
Ireland Boating Holidays

Useful Information:

  • To cruise on the Shannon-Erne waterway, you will need to buy a smart card to operate the locks, these are available from all bases at a cost of approxomately 13 for 20 units. Locks and bridges onthe River Shannon cost approx 1.50 each.

Customer Reviews

The excellent weather made the holiday so we were able to cruise as far as Killaloe and we taxied into Limerick. Another good route was up the River Suck to Ballinasloe from where we had a day trip by train to Galway city. DH – Portumna and back in Ireland
Perfect service after a simple call. Friendly personnel. We started in Portumna,went to Athlone, then back to Killaloe, and return to Portumna. We found this route perfect. LC - Portumna out and back in Ireland

Suggested cruises from our bases in Ireland

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Ireland Boating Map

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Carrick-On-Shannon is the largest town in County Leitrim. The ruins of the old Carrick Castle can be glimpsed on the Carrick Bridge. Stop in this pretty town and visit the great Saint-Mary's Church. Learn its history and discover its culture in the art centre.

One Way Routes

Carrick-on-Shannon - Portumna (or vice versa)

1 Week • 160km • 5 Locks • 2 Lift Bridges • 20hrs

You pull up to the ancient monastic site at Clonmacnoise, truly an impressive remnant of the Shannon’s storied past and a highlight of barge holidays in Ireland. The stones seem to speak to you, sending a message through time. From your sundeck, you admire Birr Castle Demesne, and you cruise into Lough Derg and stop for a picnic at Portumna Forest Park.

Out and Back Routes

Carrick-on-Shannon - Lanesborough - Carrick-on-Shannon

3 - 4 Days • 104km • 6 Locks • 10hrs

The River Shannon marks a swath of blue through emerald-green hills dotted with Celtic ruins and postcard-perfect villages, entrancing you with every mile you make south toward Lanesborough at the head of Lough Ree. A boat hire in Ireland immerses you in the Irish way of life, slow and easy as you cycle the towpaths or play a round of golf.

Carrick-on-Shannon - Belturbet - Carrick-on-Shannon

1 Week Return • 150km • 32 Locks • 32hrs

You head out on your barge holiday in Ireland through lakes, the Shannon-Erne Waterway and the River Shannon. You feel relaxed as the scenery slowly passes by, and you see friendly people wave at you from the towpath. Along the way, you enjoy the waterfront bistro in Leitrim, fishing at Drumshanbo and playing the 18-hole championship golf course at Ballyconnell.

Carrick-on-Shannon - Athlone - Carrick-on-Shannon

1 Week Return • 200km • 8 Locks • 4 Lift Bridges • 32hrs

You’ve revelled in the friendly pubs and tried the Guinness and Jameson whisky, Calcannon (potato and cabbage) and Boxty (fried potato cakes). Now you’re up for golf — even more natural on barge holidays in Ireland than neighbourhood leprechauns and four-leaf clovers! At Glasson and Hodson Bay, you hit the greens with gusto and the luck of the Irish!

Carrick-on-Shannon - Enniskillen - Carrick-on-Shannon

2 Weeks Return • 220km • 32 Locks • 41hrs

Carrick-on-Shannon - Belleek - Carrick-on-Shannon

2 Weeks Return • 280km • 32 Locks • 54hrs


Situated at the head of Lough Derg, Portumna is one of Galway's most attractive towns and is famous for Portumna Castle which both King James I and Queen Elizabeth I of England visited.

Out and Back Routes

Portumna - Killaloe - Portumna

1 Week • 128km • 0 Locks • 12hrs

Portumna - Killaloe - Portumna

Short Break Return • 106km • 0 Locks • 12hrs

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