ARTICLE SUMMARY. With access to centuries of culture, heritage and tradition, the canal routes of Ireland are ideally placed to allow further discovery of a country rich in history. Offering ancient castles, untouched wetlands and a wealth of pilgrimage sites, Ireland has plenty up its sleeve.
Ireland’s modest but picturesque waterways boast glorious scenery, a calm environment and plenty of opportunities to explore a long and often chequered history while taking advantage of spectacular sunsets and a real sense of peace and quiet.
Cruising takes place on the rivers Shannon, Erne and Barrow, with the famous Grand Canal linking the beautiful River Shannon to bustling Dublin. As the most well known route, the Grand Canal traditionally carried goods such as coal, grain and turf up to the capital before being used extensively for leisure.
Diverse and often surprising, the waterways of Ireland can all at once incorporate ancient monasteries, varied architecture, busy hubs of activity and remote pockets of undisturbed beauty. Any journey by boat along these watery paths will take you past a series or bridges, locks and other features which make travelling these parts interesting.
Ideal for nature lovers, the canal network is suitably isolated and gives way to wild flowers, hedgerow, wildlife and larger lakes and loughs. Dotted around the landscape are a variety of important historical sites, demanding nothing in return for imparting their knowledge of times gone by.
Steeped in legend, mysticism and natural beauty, the Irish landscape is full of secrets, heroism and charm. With a host of adventures waiting, canal boat hire offers a unique vantage point and is the ideal way to scratch below the surface and learn about the history of this fascinating country.
There are plenty of sights to behold as you weave your way along these scenic waters with Portumna’s grand 17th century castle a key attraction and a beautifully restored Irish example. In terms of sites of religious importance Clonmacnoise is a must, founded by St. Ciarrn in the mid-6th century. Featuring an extensive site which is home to a ruined cathedral, seven churches, two round towers, ancient graves and three high crosses, the site is truly breathtaking.
As the canal network meanders towards Lough Derg, everyday stress evaporates as the calm tranquillity of this ancient pilgrimage site becomes apparent. Intrinsically Celtic Lough Derg has been receiving pilgrims for over 1000 years and continues to extend its welcome.
When stepping off the boat to stretch your legs you are treated to a choice of traditional towns offering plenty of chances to have a bit of craic in the local pubs and restaurants and some of the liveliest options are Athlone, Ballinasloe, Portumna and Enniskillen.
With an incredible history and culture waiting to be stumbled upon, any meander down Ireland’s waterways becomes something of an adventure as the landscape opens up its many treasures. You never know where the day will take you aboard a traditional vessel in a very beautiful part of the world.
Jennifer writes regularly on cruising and boating for a range of specialist websites and blogs. She enjoys canal hire with her family from time to time and exploring at a leisurely pace. On this occasion she writes on behalf of http://www.leboat.co.uk