The island of Ireland is one of the most beautiful countries on God’s great Earth, but maybe we’re biased. With emerald green fields, rugged mountain ranges and sweeping coastlines; it’s easy to see why Ireland attracts tourists from across the world. Ireland is scenic and popular with walkers, anglers and adventure seekers. For those with a penchant for water it’s easy to navigate the loughs, canals and rivers by cruiser or canoe. Fringed with blue flag beaches, rocky crevices and caves, the craggy coast is just waiting to be explored. Running through the heart of Ireland is the River Shannon which flows 360 km (224 mi) from the Shannon Pot, on the slopes of Cuilcagh Mountain, County Cavan; to its final point in the Shannon Estuary, County Limerick. Our River Shannon Cruise with Emerald Star by Le Boat begins in Portumna, County Galway and ends in Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim.
RIVER SHANNON CRUISE WITH EMERALD STAR
Easter weekend and the predicted weather is sunshine, long overdue in Ireland if you ask me. Having just returned from a River Thames Cruise with Le Boat, we were delightfully surprised to receive a phone call asking if we would like to move a boat from Portumna to Carrick-on-Shannon. Of course, we had nothing planned and accepted the job in hand. How nice that Le Boat we’re confident in our boat handling skills to offer us the job of moving an expensive Horizon 4 cruiser on their behalf! On this River Shannon cruise with Emerald Star trip would be The Callaghan Posse, Nana and Granda, not forgetting our pup, Rosie. The first ‘holiday’ that we have ever taken with Nana and Granda. Would this family holiday be the first of many or quite possibly the first and last?
PORTUMNA TO CARRICK-ON-SHANNON
Arriving in Portumna on a chilly but sunny day, we introduced ourselves to the ladies at reception, Sarah and Angie. The boat we’d be transporting on our River Shannon cruise with Emerald Star (the Irish branch of Le Boat) would be a Horizon 4 from the Premier range. The Horizon 4 is much bigger than the Crusader used on our previous River Thames cruise with Le Boat. Bigger, and much more luxurious! After an initial assessment and short cruising exercise, we left Portumna and set sail towards Banagher which would be the destination for our overnight mooring. The luxurious Horizon 4 has four thrusters (bow and stern). The thrusters make the Horizon 4 more manoeuvrable, which in turn makes the boat easier to moor and easier to dock at the locks. Docking at Banagher, aided by the thrusters; was a cinch!
EMERALD STAR HORIZON 4
About the Horizon 4. The Horizon 4 boat is from the Premier range of boats offered by Emerald Star (Le Boat). At 13.60 m long by 4.35 m wide, the Horizon 4 has four separate cabins each with an en-suite bathroom. This model offers a variety of sleeping arrangements (single, doubles and singles that convert to doubles) to accommodate 8 (+1). The spacious size and versatility of the Horizon 4 is excellent, a great choice for those wanting a little luxury for their cruising experience. And for sun worshippers, reclining sun loungers on the top deck…although, it’s quite tricky sunbathing wearing a life jacket! An amazing boat for our River Shannon cruise with Emerald Star.
note: the Horizon 4 requires a minimum of 4 adults for booking.
Inside the Horizon 4
- primary steering station
- electrical system is 12 volt DC power (220 volt shore power is available on some models)
- 2 cabins with convertible twin/double beds (both en-suite)
- 2 cabins with two single double beds (both en-suite)
- kitchen with a stove, sink, and a fridge (freezer compartment within)
- lounge has a large L-shaped sofa, dining table, 2 seat/storage stools, TV and a DVD/CD/MP3 player
Outside the Horizon 4
- stairs to upper deck
- secondary steering station
- spacious sundeck with 360° viewing area
- reclining sunloungers (fixed)
- large fixed position table (patio style)
- L-shaped seating arrangement
- BBQ hotplate (gas)
THE PLACE OF THE POINTED ROCKS
Along the River Shannon orange and green markers show you the right channel to take. Our first stop was Banagher; a small town in County Offaly. The name Banagher comes from its Irish name, which translates to English as “the place of the pointed rocks on the Shannon’. Beside the sheltered harbour was a fantastic children’s play park and a bouncy castle had been inflated beside. Lily-Belle and Matilda wasted no time in dragging Granda to the swings then into the Fairy Garden. I chose to take Rosie for a short walk and ventured into the nearby boat yard to have a look at the boats. Such a beautifully peaceful spot to moor for the night!
A HOME FROM HOME
Although the River Shannon cruise with Emerald Star journey time from Portumna to Banagher is less than 3 hours; it’s always nice to disembark and stretch the legs. A warm pleasant evening and local children sat on the edge of the harbour wall fishing in the River Shannon. In the harbour a small number of vessels had also moored for the evening and spaces were limited. A calm evening gave us the opportunity to enjoy the bbq on the top deck of the Horizon 4. And as the sun began to set on the horizon, we retired inside for board games and a cuppa. The curtains were drawn and our Horizon 4 felt just like home…warm and cosy!
FORTY SHADES OF GREEN
A very peaceful night and after breakfast our journey on the River Shannon cruise with Emerald Star continued toward Carrick-on-Shannon. Next stop would be Shannonbridge. The scenery is very different on the River Shannon than on the River Thames. No riverside homes, no perfectly manicured garden lawns and no artistic animal structures. Just field after field with each field being a different shade of green than the previous field. It’s little wonder that Johnny Cash wrote a song about Ireland being ‘the moorlands and the midlands with their forty shades of green‘. Every now and again a derelict stone monastery changed the shape of the skyline. Snowy white Mute swans nest by the Shannon’s edge on mounds of reeds, fiercely protecting their eggs as bulrushes sway in the wind. The River Shannon is a place free from noise and disturbance.
READ ALL ABOUT OUR RIVER THAMES CRUISE WITH LE BOAT
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
Banagher to Shannnonbridge was uneventful. The journey allowed us to chat, take in scenery and watch anglers bobbing about in their boats hoping to catch, rather than fall foul of ‘the one that got away’! The River Shannon is teeming with perch, trout, salmon, pike, and bream. Above the rippling surface, Canadian geese and mallard ducks patrol the river banks. There isn’t much shelter on the open stretches of the River Shannon and these stretches can often be choppy even on the calmest days. Just 90 minutes after setting sail on the River Shannon cruise with Emerald Star, our Horizon 4 moored at Shannonbridge, home to Luker’s Bar. Dating back to 1757. stepping inside the door of Luker’s Bar is like stepping back in time. The old shop is a favourite with tourists, as is the Queen Victoria Regina fireplace; the last one in operation in the British Isles.
SUNSHINE ON THE SHANNON
Shannonbridge Harbour was quiet but certainly not devoid of visitors or life. Fishermen took boats onto the flowing river and fished with lures beside the arched bridge. The sun was out which gave us a chance to sit on the upper deck of the Horizon 4 and simply do nothing. Lily-Belle sat at the rear of the Horizon 4 on the superior bench seat and I took photos. Beside us on the moorings was a very long barge (houseboat) occupied by a family of 3 and their jack russell. Mummy chatted with the owner for a short time, gaining knowledge of lock times and places to visit along the River Shannon. After a lunch time visit to Luker’s Bar in Shannonbridge and a cup of coffee with cake on the Horizon 4, our time had come to venture further up the River Shannon.
CRUISING TO CLONMACNOISE CASTLE
Ropes untied and the Horizon 4 left Shannonbridge Harbour and set sail once more. Next stop on the River Shannon cruise with Emerald star; Clonmacnoise. Cruising into Clonmacnoise the skyline is dominated by the imposing ruins of a 12th century castle perched high on the motte. The area around the base of the motte has been cordoned off; presumably to stop tourists climbing on the precariously balanced castle ruins. The site houses the ruins of seven churches and a cathedral and also a number of crosses and graveslabs. Many of the churches on site have undergone some form of conservation in recent years, and the Nun’s Church remains under wraps as it too undergoes the same renovations. A few photos and we boarded our vessel to set sail to Athlone…lock closure at 18:00, this was going to be tight!
ALL IS NOT QUIET IN ATHLONE
Our Horizon 4 pulled up to Athlone Lock at 17:53…told you it was going to be tight! The lock keepers smiled and advised that we’d be the last boat through this evening. A quiet mooring place was pointed out beside The Strand on the east side of the River Shannon. As dinner was being prepared and cooked by Mummy and Nana, Granda and Matilda took a gentle stroll into town. Dinner inside the spacious Horizon 4 cabin was followed by board games. Earlier in the day Nana and the girls made and decorated an Easter cake for dessert. On the west side of the River Shannon loud music blasted from a bar. I felt empathy for the boats and occupants moored beside, unless the bar was what attracted them to the west side? For me, I was glad to be on the quiet side of the River Shannon.
THIS BAR IS FULL OF BULLSH*T
After a great evening meal cooked on board the Horizon 4, I decided a chilled beer would help wash the food down. Just around the corner from the boat was Gertie Browne’s pub. I took the opportunity to pop in for a cheeky beer, Lily-Belle, as usual; was in tow. Gertie Browne’s is a fascinating pub that is full of wonderful salvaged memorabilia and decorated with an eclectic arrangement of trinkets and knick-knacks; really cool. Lily-Belle found a sign that made her giggle…Bullsh*t Corner’. One can imagine there’d be limited space at ‘Bullsh*t Corner’ as patrons got more and more sozzled! Pint of Guinness for me and a glass of coke for Little Miss C. After, and before returning to the Horizon 4; we took a slow walk along The Strand which overlooked the River Shannon.
ROCKING THE RIVER REE
Bacon and egg sarnies for breakfast are always a good start for the day ahead. After clearing away the breakfast dishes the Horizon 4 pulled out of Athlone and prepared for our crossing of Lough Ree. Skies were blue but being exposed on open water; it was cold enough steering the boat from the top deck. The girls stayed below deck with their Easter Activity Packs and Granda and I were left up-top steering, bird watching and chatting about farming, Irish history and Granda’s loathing of open water. Lough Ree was quite choppy and certainly tougher going than the narrower stretches of the River Shannon. The Horizon 4 has a top speed of just 8 kph but thankfully the wide hull makes the Horizon quite stable on choppy water. Aside from the odd cruiser, or a passing speedboat laden with fishermen; Lough Ree was relatively quiet.
FROM REE TO ROOSKY
After a lengthy time crossing Lough Ree we had a steady cruise to Tarmonbarry Lock where we moored for lunch and walked Rosie. The sun was shining and there was lots of visitors to the area and families having picnics. As well as the lock, Tarmonbarry has a lifting bridge that had to be opened for the Horizon 4 to pass through. Our next stop was planned for Roosky but as this came upon us quite soon after Tarmonbarry; we continued toward Dromod. At Roosky Lock the keeper had to cycle along the towpath to stop traffic and open a lifting bridge for our passing. Race on, Horizon 4 vs Bike = bike won! The lock keeper advised that as the Horizon 4 is quite long at 13.60 m, we may struggle to get the boat around the tight entrance at Dromod Harbour. I like a challenge!
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, THE PRESSURE IS ON
Roosky Lock to Dromod Harbour takes no time and on the approach I could see the harbour was full of boats. Was there enough space for one? A few people gathered on the harbour path watching as I navigated the Horizon 4 around the very tight bend into the harbour. I could feel Granda breathing down my neck! Having thrusters on the boat was a huge bonus and navigating the tight entrance was simple. No space at the inn so I had to do a 180 and renavigate the entrance that was now the exit. Perfectly manoeuvred and I even received applause from a couple of the bystanders. Thankfully, beside the main harbour is a small side harbour and there was enough space for the Horizon 4. This time I reversed in and once again, executed to perfection. Even Granda commented he was impressed!
NO ROOM FOR ROSIE
Evening time and we ventured off the luxurious Horizon 4 to dine at a local pub, Cox’s Steakhouse. Sadly, unlike pubs along the River Thames; Rosie wasn’t welcome on the premises. I returned Rosie to the boat, settled her then returned to the pub for food. Exhausted, Matilda fell asleep on the comfy pub bench seat before her food arrived. Our waitress kindly took Matilda’s food away and packaged it as a takeaway. Matilda awakened as we settled the bill and her first question…where’s my dinner? Food at Cox’s Steakhouse was excellent, as was the service. Back on the Horizon 4 Matilda tucked into her takeaway and Rosie got a titbit of steak that Mummy brought home from the pub. Having slept, Matilda was now wide awake and point blank refusing to go to bed! Let’s just say t’was a long, long night with our energetic monkey running riot!
FINAL DAY AND OUR FINAL DESTINATION
Being asked to move a Premier Horizon 4 from Portumna to Carrick-on-Shannon was a blessing. The Horizon 4 perfectly accommodated 4 adults, 2 children and 1 dog with room to spare. Our final cruising day from Dromod Harbour to Carrick-on-Shannon had me steer from the primary position inside the warm cabin. The rain fell, the wind swirled and the temperature dropped, but being Ireland, after an hour of wet; out came the sun. It’s common knowledge that in Ireland you can have all four seasons occur within one day! Back on the upper deck we enjoyed our last hours on the Horizon 4 and took a few family photos. And there it was, one final bridge before the Emerald Star / Le Boat moorings came into view. Aside from a 2 hour taxi ride back to Portumna to lift cars, our River Shannon adventure was over!
WOULD WE GO BACK?
Before a fisherman could tell the tale of ‘the one that got away’, yes we would!! Once again we had a great time on the River Shannon cruise with Emerald Star on board a Horizon 4; provided by Emerald Star / Le Boat. The 40 shades of green fields and the peace and tranquility are enough to make us want to return to the River Shannon time and time again As second-time river cruisers I can honestly say we had a great time boating on the River Shannon. As a family it was great for the girls to have Nana and Granda on board…and, not one single squabble! If you haven’t tried river cruising before, you should. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much fun river cruising is!
note: the eagle eyed amongst you will spot that we’ve mentioned the Horizon 4 all the way through this post. However, when you look at photos you will see the boat stickers say Horizon 3. We’ve not made an error, the boat stickers are incorrect…and although the Horizon 3 and 4 are almost identical; we did indeed transport the Horizon 4.
With a very special THANK YOU to (in no particular order):
- Le Boat – for entrusting the transportation of the Premier Horizon 4 to The Callaghan Posse,
- Rachel Gifford (Le Boat Marketing Manager UK and Ireland) – for organising our second river cruise with Le Boat / Emerald Star,
- Sarah and Angie (Emerald Star / Le Boat Portumna) – for your very warm welcome and the ice lollies,,
- Elgin (Emerald Star / Le Boat Carrick-on-Shannon) – for your lovely welcome to Emerald Star and for organising our taxi,
- Waterways Ireland and Lock Keepers – for the fantastic work you do in keeping the River Shannon and the locks running smoothly,
- Michael Glancy – for keeping Granda and I entertained on our taxi journey, pleasure to meet you.
We are extremely grateful to have met each and every one of you. Looking forward to cruising the River Shannon in the not so distant future, until then…taisteal sábháilte!
LILY-BELLE SAYS (10)
The Horizon 4 was huge and much trickier to steer than the Crusader. There was’t much to see on the River Shannon but I still love going on a boat. We saw wild goats and donkeys. There wasn’t as many swans as there is on the River Thames, and they didn’t know what to make of the swan food we brought back from Windsor. I can’t wait to do another boating holiday!
MATILDA SAYS (4)
I loved going on holiday with Nana and Granda and Rosie. We made an Easter cake and had fun at the park.
Le Boat: visit Emerald Star by Le Boat online for hire pricing (damage waiver and fuel deposits required)
Route: Portumna to Carrick-on-Shannon, Ireland
Date(s) of visit: 20th – 23rd April 2019
Mooring costs: mooring is free, each lock costs €1.50 (€3.00 if a bridge has to be raised)
Ireland Waterways guide: full edition pdf
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[disclaimer: Horizon 4 boat was gifted by Emerald Star / Le Boat. Gifted item(s) were provided in return for social media and blog coverage]
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