Stephanie Buckley is an award-winning Irish travel and lifestyle blogger and creator of Eat Sleep Chic.
The first day on the open waters is always quite relaxed for us. Well, bar the few nerves finding our sea legs. A member of Silver Line Cruisers crew gives you a quick demo before you set off on your own. It’s like driving a water bumper car only a lot bigger!
We planned to go North. I telephoned Luker’s of Shannonbridge and booked a table for dinner. It was a chilled evening after a long day travelling from Dublin to Offaly, then loading up the boat and getting sorted on the water. We just wanted to get on route and moor at the first stop.
Cruising Time: 1.5 hours
Location: The Marina, Banagher, Co. Offaly to Shannonbridge
What should have been an 1.5 hr cruise time turned into a 3.5 hour journey. We went in the wrong direction (South) when we left Banagher Marina. We only realised when we got to Victoria Lock. So we had to turn around and head back North.
After coffee in The Hatch (open 8am) and a full Irish fry (cooked by me, in the galley on the boat) we hit the water and made our way up North of the River Shannon. We reached Athlone lock around 2 hours later. We moored just beyond the dock and walked towards Sean’s Bar – Ireland’s oldest pub. Sean’s Bar has been researched thoroughly by the Guinness Book of Records and proudly holds the record for “The Oldest Pub in Ireland” with an official dating of 900AD.
Cruising Time: 2 hours
Location: Shannonbridge, Co. Offaly to Athlone, Co. Westmeath
We spent a few hours exploring Athlone before making our way to Lecarrow, Co. Roscommon. Lecarrow marina was busy, we literally just nabbed the last spot, we got in before two other cruisers. We had to double up with another boat as there wasn’t any room to moor along the slipway. The other two cruiser that were behind us, gave up, turned around and left.
There’s not much to see at Lecarrow despite it being a recommended stop by a fellow cruiser. The cruise down to the mooring area was scenic, like a country back road surrounded by fields, cows and trees – but on water. Perhaps that’s why it was recommended it to us, for the views.
Onced moored, there’s a playground for the kids, three friendly donkeys in a small field and Coffey’s Pub is at the top of the road. Coffey’s serve pizza and have an adjoining grocery store – the pub was packed to the rafters. After some pizza slices, Guinness and G&T’s it was time to decide on dinner. We were all starving, a pizza slice wasn’t going to cut it, so we opted to order a Chinese takeaway to the pub and take it back to the boat. Good call!
Cruising Time: 2 hours
Location: Athlone, Co. Westmeath to Lecarrow, Co. Roscommon
We didn’t hang around in Lecarrow, we had our fry, emptied the bins and set off on the river. The lads decided on the route for the day ahead. We hadn’t been to Lanesborough before and wanted to discover somewhere new, so it sounded like a good idea. The wind was strong and the journey was very choppy, we were rocking all over below deck. It added a bit of excitement (and screams from my sister) to our travels.
When you walk up from the jetty you have the choice to go right to Lanesborough or left to Ballyleague. Lanesborough is on the County Longford side and Ballyleague on the County Roscommon side of the River Shannon. You can actually stand directly on the line where Longford meets Roscommon. Obviously I got a pic!
The kids enjoyed the playground and the adults enjoyed a drink in The Swan Tavern. After rambling around the town for a few hours we made our way back to Athlone. We made sure to pick up fresh strawberries for our champagne before we boarded back on the boat.
Cruising Time: 2 hours
Location: Lecarrow, Co. Roscommon to Lanesborough, Co. Longford
When we arrived to Athlone we had some trouble mooring as the current was very strong. We ended up mooring at a private Marina and had to pay €12 for the night – that was the first time we had to pay to moor. It’s like pay and display for your car, you get a ticket from the machine and put it on your boat window.
After a five minute walk from the marina we came across an Italian restaurant, Il Colosseo. The family friendly restaurant had an impressive gluten free menu, I was in my element. The food and cocktails were delicious and the location of the restaurant was so convenient for us. After a big feed it was back to our boat where we enjoyed the gorgeous night view of the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
Cruising Time: 3 + hours
Location: Lanesborough, Co. Longford to Athlone, Co. Westmeath
This was the day the kids were waiting for, to be honest I think the adults had the most fun. Bay Sports on the banks of Lough Ree is situated at the Hodson Bay hotel. Advanced booking is advised as it books up quickly. This year they had a section for toddlers so Phoenix was able to get involved in the fun. It’s such a great day out for all the family. If you go North on the River Shannon be sure to make it one of your stops!
Cruising Time: 40 minutes
Location: Athlone, Co. Westmeath to Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone
All the splashing around in the lough really worked up an appetite. Some of the nearby stops on the maps only have one of two restaurants which don’t open until 5pm (always google opening times before departing) so we planned on going in the direction of the Wineport Lodge.
With two dining options, Wineport or Grogan’s of Glasson Pub & Restaurant (30 minutes walk from the Marina) we knew both were open for business so we couldn’t go wrong. We were all starving by the time we reached the pub, as I mentioned 30 minute walk. Thankfully the food came out fast and the portions were very generous. It was lashing rain and we didn’t fancy the walk back to the marina so a local taxi driver shipped us back to our boat in two runs.
Cruising Time: 50 minutes
Location: Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone to Lakeside Marina, Athlone
Homeward Bound: In order to be in time for checkout at Banagher on the morning of day 5 we had to make it from Lakeside Marina all the way back to Shannonbridge before dark. We also had to go through the lock at Athlone. Honestly we were working against the clock to finish the journey in time.
When we reached Athlone lock we had what was meant to be a 2 hour journey ahead of us, but only had 1.5 hours to do it. The lock keeper told us we were pushing it for time as it would be dark by 8pm. However, he also mentioned that he could do it, so this gave captain David and the rest of us a glimmer of hope.
It was full steam ahead for the duration of the cruise. My nerves were gone. The sun was setting and there are absolutely no lights on the river to guide you when it gets dark. It’s prohibited to cruise after dark, you could easily end up running aground. At one point I had the kids put their life jackets on and my niece Lola Rose was crying – I may have overreacted! She was terrified. But low and behold Captain David got us there in the nick of time, it was pitch black about 30 seconds after we moored at Shannonbridge.
Cruising Time: 3 + Hours (We did it in about 2.5 Hours)
Location: Lakeside Marina, Athlone to Shannonbridge, Co. Offaly
On our final morning we woke up to the sun beaming through the window. With only 1.5 hour travel time ahead of us we weren’t in any rush. We cruised at a leisurely pace and enjoyed the morning sun. I threw the last of the fry under the grill and we made our way back to where our adventure began, Banagher Marina.
With the glorious weather we’d have loved to stay another night or two. It was the same last year, but we actually did stay an extra night on that occasion. With work commitments at home it wasn’t an option for us this year, we’ll just have to look forward to next years River Shannon adventure. Upon checkout we got a tour of the 12 bert cruiser for next year’s trip, we’re all looking forward to it already!
Cruising Time: 1.5 hours
Location: Shannonbridge, Co. Offaly to Banagher Marina, Co. Offaly
For SilverLine Cruises Family Staycation Q&A click here.
You can follow Stephanie here.