Nothing conjures up images of the Emerald Isle quite like the mention of a boating trip up the River Shannon, the longest river in Ireland. This beautiful freshwater river has its origin at Shannon Pot, an aquifer-fed, naturally occurring fifty-two-foot wide pool on the slopes of Cuilcagh Mountain in County Caven, Ireland. From there, the waterway travels southward, first as a trout stream, then gradually adding width and depth as it subsumes tributary waters along its route, finally ending its journey of some 224 miles at the Shannon Estuary at Limerick.
The origins of the river’s name are shrouded in the myths and lore of Ireland. One such legend says the river is named for Sionnan, the granddaughter of Manannán mac Lir, the god of the sea. In search of wisdom, the young woman traveled to the pool at Shannon Pot, which was the site of an otherworldly well. These wells were the home of the salmon of wisdom and were surrounded by hazel trees, another symbol of knowledge and inspiration. Some legends say Sionnan was successful in catching and eating the salmon of wisdom and so she became the wisest being on earth. Her success was short-lived, however, as the well then burst open, sweeping Sionnan away in the flowing waters and eventually carrying her out to sea.
The River Shannon even has its own legendary river monster, named Cata. This monster was first described in Ireland’s Book of Lismore, a medieval manuscript compiled in the early 15th century, as a large creature with gleaming eyes, a horse’s mane, thick feet with nails made of iron and the tail of a whale.
Regardless of what legend has to say about the River Shannon, its historical, cultural and economic importance to Ireland cannot be overstated. By the 10th century, Vikings had settled in the area and used the river strategically to plunder inland monasteries along its route. And because the river physically divides Ireland into east and west, in the 17th century the waterway was of major importance in military campaigns. There have been many attempts to improve the ability to navigate the Shannon, starting in 1775 with the construction of the Jamestown Canal and locks and continuing into the 1950s with the efforts of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland to keep bridges spanning the river high enough for navigation of the waterway.
A boating trip on the Shannon is a ‘must-do’ if you are planning a trip to Ireland, as there are accommodations in terms of price and style of boat for every taste and budget. My husband’s family in Ireland used to do this for vacations and his extended family is on a cruise as I write this! Keep in mind when you are planning that the cruising season in Ireland is from March to October. From day trips to multiple days and nights on board a full-service vessel, your options are virtually unlimited, including renting and piloting a boaton your own.
But the ultimate in comfort and enjoyment is found when you go with an experienced captain and crew so you can just sit back and enjoy the beauty of the Shannon River, such as this cruise on the hotel barge, the Shannon Princess. This seven-day journey on this ten passenger vessel departs from Dublin and includes an on board Master Chef who creates all meals while on your trip and includes a visit to the Kilbeggan Whiskey Distillery. This site dates from 1757 and is the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world.
The River Shannon is one of the most scenic and beautiful rivers in all the world and is emblematic of Ireland. You and your family will never forget a trip on her historic waters! And if you can’t get away for a vacation just yet, there’s no better way to keep Ireland close to your heart than a fine piece of jewelry crafted in Ireland and shipped straight to your door. We would be delighted to serve you.