Base: Carrick-on-Shannon, Ireland | Boat Class: Carlow
Saturday 1 September
Arrived at Dublin Airport and met the transfer to the Shannon-Erne Waterway. Transfer took just over 2 hours by coach. Arrived at Carrick-on-Shannon at 4.30pm, very nice town with shops, pubs and a lot of boats! The coach took us straight to the Carrick Craft base (1 on map) where we were given classroom instruction on how to manage locks, moor up and generally look after the boat. We were taken to our boat, loaded with our provisions and shown how to drive the boat by a friendly Carrick Craft member of staff. After a familiarisation trip down the river, we were handed the controls and told we were free to leave! Make sure you feel comfortable with the boat before you set off - the staff are always happy to answer any questions. We were also given a mobile phone to call the base in emergencies.
We took a Carlow class boat for a week from Carrick-on-Shannon, so there were two choices of direction - north towards the Shannon-Erne waterway (a recently renovated waterway linking the Rivers Shannon and Erne) or south down the Upper Shannon. We chose to head south as we wanted to do as few locks as possible! Arrived at Jamestown (2 on map) after a relaxing hour cruising and getting used to the boat controls. Found a peaceful mooring just off Jamestown and some friendly Germans helped us moor the boat.
Spent the evening relaxing in the local pub 10 minutes walk into the village from our mooring. There was a more central mooring in the village, but it was rather busy. We preferred our quieter mooring, although do take a torch, as there is a big (muddy!) field to walk across on the way to the pub.
Carrick-on-Shannon to Jamestown: 1 hour
Sunday 2nd September
Set off bright and early to get through the lock in good time. Our first lock - so a bit nervous but the lock keeper helped us throw the ropes round the bollards and we waited for a couple more boats to arrive before thelock was shut. Not scary at all, so that was a relief!
Stopped at Dromod marina (3 on map) to stock up on food, then carriedon to Roosky (4 on map) where there was a bigger lock. Once again, everyone was helpful and we even began to enjoy the locks! The River Shannon is quite wide, with navigation markers to go through, but once you've worked it out, it's very simple and good fun trying to find the next marker with the binoculars provided.
Got used to the boat very quickly, as the Carlow is quite small and easy to manoeuvre. It's the perfect boat for a couple, with a nice roomy saloon and kitchen combined and a separate bedroom and bathroom. It's customary to wave at the boats you pass, so everything is really friendly and you find yourself bumping into the same people at locks and moorings.
After Roosky, we took a turning left down Camlin River, a very small river, so we took it slowly and enjoyed the scenery. Saw several herons standing quietly on the banks - they didn't seem to even notice the boat going past! Arrived at Clondra Harbour (5 on map) around 5pm where we stopped for the night. Very pretty marina and village, with the usual friendly, lively Irish pub just round the corner.
Jamestown to Dromod: 1 hour (1 lock)
Dromod to Clondra: 3-4 hours (1 lock)
Monday 3rd September
Headed south through Lough Ree. Very wide lake, so had to look out for the navigation markers. Quite choppy, as there was a bit of a breeze, but sticking to the edge of the lake there wasn't a problem. Arrived at Athlone (6 on map) for lunch. Got a bit confused about which marina to go to - for reference, don't go to the Jolly Mariner Marina, it's a fair way out of town and looks a bit seedy, go to the public marina which is further towards Athlone where friendly staff watch your boat for you. Athlone is a pretty town with all the facilities you need, supermarkets, pubs, shops, chemists, so we stocked up (again!) and went back to the boat.
Headed north back up the Shannon and back into Lough Ree. Thought we'd moor at a secluded harbour to the south of the Lough but turned out to be a bit of a mistake. We had to cross the Lough diagonally, so waves were hitting us from the side, making the boat rock quite alarmingly. Managed to enter Killinure Lough after a very rough half an hour and made our way towards the marina. All looked to be private so we ended up mooring on a jetty outside the Wineport Restaurant near Ballykeeran. Very windy, and unfortunately we had to moor on the windward side of the jetty as it was quite full. Spent a fairly rough night being bounced around by the waves.
Clondra to Athlone: 3-4 hours (1 lock)
Athlone to Ballykeeran: 2 hours (less in good weather!)
Tuesday 4th September
Woke up to find the boat covered in ducks, sheltering from the wind! Escaped from the mooring and headed north back up Lough Ree. Calmer now, so the return crossing was peaceful and uneventful. Stopped at Lanesborough for lunch, weather was lovely (in Ireland, in September!) so sunbathed on deck for a while, then carried on up to Tarmonbarry where we moored for the night.
Met some fellow boaters who recommended the two pubs up the road, one serving food and one with Irish music, so quite a lively night!
Ballykeeran to Lanesborough: 3 hours
Lanesborough to Tarmonbarry: 1 hour (1 lock)
Wednesday 5th September
Carried on up the Shannon past Carrick and on to Leitrim. River very nice in this area, a lot less wide, with more varied landscape. Rained all day, but the boat was warm and dry so we were ok. Arrived at Leitrim about 4pm to find the moorings completely full, so turned round and found a very peaceful spot just before the bridge. Did some more shopping (it's amazing how much you eat!) and stocked up on beer for a pleasant evening. Found a nice pub (Lock 17) for a drink and a game of pool, then headed back to the boat for tea.
Tarmonbarry to Leitrim: 3-4 hours (2 locks)
Thursday 6th September
Headed back downstream and turned off up the Boyle River towards Lough Key. Very pretty, winding river with several nice places to stop along the way. We wanted to get to the forest park early, so we carried on past, through Clarendon Lock (the nicest lock we went through) and into Lough Key.
Managed to find the moorings at the Forest Park very easily, so moored up, made a picnic and set off for a walk. Beautiful day, really warm and sunny, so enjoyed strolling round the park. Recommend climbing to the top of the tower on the hill - the view is amazing!
Had our picnic, did a bit of sunbathing (I'm not joking!) and then headed back to the boat to make sure we made the lock before 5pm. Locks are supposed to be open until 8.30pm but it's safer to arrive early! Made our way in the sun towards Cootehall, where we moored at the landing space reserved for restaurant patrons. So naturally, we thought we'd better eat in the restaurant! Wonderful food and reasonably priced, so we ate rather a lot then rolled back to the boat for the night.
Leitrim to Lough Key Forest Park: 3 hours (1 lock)
Lough Key Forest Park to Cootehall: 1 hour (1 lock)
Friday 7th September
Not such a nice day - woke to the sound of rain and wind! Didn't rush to set off as we didn't have to be back at the Carrick base until late afternoon. Cruised leisurely back to Carrick where the boat was checked over and refuelled. Discovered our transfers back to Dublin Airport left at 4am so decided to get an early night! Relaxed on the boat at the marina and watched people bringing their boats back after their holidays. Everyone we spoke to had enjoyed their holiday, one German party said it was their seventh time on the Shannon and they enjoy it more each time! Interesting mix of nationalities, with Americans, English, French and Germans.
Cootehall to Carrick-on-Shannon: 1 hour
Saturday 8 September
Back to the airport for transfers and arrived back home at 11am. Thoroughly enjoyed the holiday, we liked the boat, the towns we stopped at were really nice and even the locks became quite enjoyable! Carrick Craft did everything they could to make our holiday go smoothly, so we had a trouble free, relaxing week in Ireland.