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Inland Boating and Sailing Holidays in Ireland

28th September 2009
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Inland Boating and Sailing Holidays

Experience the freedom of the Shannon and Erne waterways. Captain your own cruiser and discover the hidden corners of Ireland. Over 800 kilometres of navigable waterways are awaiting your arrival, with rivers to explore, towns and villages to discover and acres of lakes to relax on.

Heritage and cultural sites are around every corner, from ancient standing stones, castles, sixth century universities, cathedrals, round towers, monasteries and industrial archaeology sites. Witness at first hand the engineering marvels of Ireland’s canal systems and experience time travel through a forgotten age, at a leisurely pace.

Discover the country and the local culture, admire the passing scenery and experience traditional music and arts.

Engage in a variety of active pursuits from golf, walking, cycling, archery to horse riding and trekking. Why not do some relaxed fishing as you travel through the centre of Ireland.

Freedom to come and go as you please. An inland waterways holiday allows you to set the pace. Stop and take a break when you want, see the sights, put the rod in the water and fish a little or hit a golf ball.

Relaxation, stretch your legs on a forest walk or simple put your feet up and watch the world pass by.

Slow tourism – the eco-friendly way to tour
  With our modern boat fleet equipped with the latest diesel engines you and your family can still cruise the Lakelands and inland Waterways of Ireland, visit new and exciting venues, engage in active pursuits yet leave only a small carbon footprint.

Clean Boating  Charter to ensure that your holiday is as green and ecofriendly as possible the Irish Boat Rental Association members have introduced a Clean Boating Charter. See www.boatholidaysireland.com for details.

Experience the Unique  With over 800 kilometres of navigable waterways the Shannon-Erne system of lakes and rivers offer the visitor one of the longest but least crowded waterways in Europe.

With a minimum of locks, a simple but comprehensive navigation system, the Shannon Erne Waterway offers the discerning boat cruiser a trouble free holiday and a safe cruising environment in which to enjoy the unspoilt natural amenity which is the Shannon Erne. The waterway system is a boat holiday cruising paradise, unmatched throughout the world for beauty, heritage and the unique culture of the area. Ireland’s waterways can be a place of absolute solitude and peace, or a lively holiday region where activity opportunities abound – the choice is yours.

Ireland’s waterways give you the choice and freedom to do as you please at what ever pace you want to go. The hundreds of moorings, quiet harbours, marinas, bustling towns and tranquil villages along the way provide you with the opportunity to tie up and enjoy the unique cultural experience that is Ireland.

If you are looking for a 'get away from it all' boating holiday, to float in isolated tranquillity surrounded by breathtaking scenery and fascinating heritage, you will find it in Ireland.

Lough Erne in the North, Lough Ree in the Midlands and Lough Derg in the South offer vast cruising grounds with rarely another boat in view. However, if you should want a lively choice the Upper Shannon offers you idyllic cruising waters with great waterside pubs and restaurants, nightlife and a chance to meet other cruising parties who are enjoying a boat holiday in Ireland. 

 

 

Weave together a perfect holiday through the Heart of Ireland

The interconnecting rivers and lakes stretch from Belleek, the most northerly point of the vast Lower Lough Erne to Killaloe, the southern-most navigation point on Lough Derg.

The Shannon Erne Waterway can be divided into three sections;

• Lower and Upper Lough Erne. Lough Erne is connected to the River Shannon via the Shannon/Erne Waterway.
• The Upper Shannon from Carrick on Shannon to Athlone including Lough Ree and Lough Key.
• The Lower Shannon, the area from Athlone to Killaloe which includes Lough Derg.

Lower Lough Erne
Above this handsome lake the Cliffs of Magho provide a rugged contrast with wooded islands, sheltered bays and open waterways. West of the Broad Lough the hills of Donegal are a reminder of the Atlantic Ocean beyond. 29 kilometres of varied navigation meander between Belleek, the Erne system’s western most port at the Atlantic’s gate above the town of Ballyshannon and Enniskillen, the fortified island town at the heart of the Erne lakes.

Upper Lough Erne
Around Upper Lough Erne the intricacies of combining land and water work very well together. The woods, forests and farmland are in harmony with the river in this extensive inland navigation. There is a sense of privacy and individuality. Exploring the many inlets and islands is a boating enthusiast’s dream and a wonderful destination for nature lovers.

The Shannon Erne Waterway
The waterway is an intriguing region with boating and angling in abundance and history and folklore at every turn. This modern waterway is based on the line of the old Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Canal, with automated locks and other user friendly refinements reflecting the investment and planning that have gone into re-connecting the Shannon and Erne waterway systems. It leaves Upper Lough Erne through the Woodford River near Belturbet and heads southwest and then west to Leitrim Village and the Upper Shannon. The waterway has opened up an area of Ireland that was relatively unknown and this tranquil link with its gentle pace has grown in popularity.

Lough Allen and Lough Key
Lough Key and Lough Allen are both inland seas but are very different to each other. Lough Key is an islandstudded lake, while Lough Allen is determinedly rugged with the iron mountain of Sliabh an Iarainn to the east, the old coal hills of Arigna along its western shore. Lough Allen is a majestic lake, 12 kilometres long and almost 6 kilometres across on the wide northern shore. Lough Key is arguably the most beautiful lake on the Shannon System with the fine town of Boyle at its western corner. The Curlew Mountains along the lake’s northern shore seem like high mountains rising above the lush countryside and ancient woods which reach down to the shore line.

Carrick-on-Shannon to Tarmonbarry
The lordly Shannon, the longest river in Britain and Ireland, is beginning to get a sense of itself as it meanders south through Carrick on Shannon, the northern capital of this history laden waterway. The prosperous county town of Leitrim is a thriving boat centre and a welcoming place with a real buzz and an active cultural life. South of Carrick the river’s long stretches of water weave between pretty towns. On through the picturesque towns of Jamestown and Drumsna, the river widens through Lough Boffin past Dromod and narrows again through the busy town of Roosky before flowing through Tarmonbarry and onwards to Lough Ree.

Lough Ree
Lough Ree is one of the Shannon’s three main lakes, 32 kilometres long and gradually widening to 10 kilometres across. This much indented lake has a generous scattering of islands and although it is the geographic centre of Ireland, it maintains an attractive air of remoteness. The shoreline varies – in the relatively unpopulated northeast of the lake along the Longford shore there is quality bogland. Along the eastern shore, County Westmeath has lush farmland and thriving woodland. The south of the lake is very much a water playground for the large town of Athlone. To the western shoreline lies Roscommon and the quiet town and harbour of Lecarrow, reached from the lake by its own small canal.

Mid Shannon
South of Athlone the Shannon enters its most distinctive phase becoming a wide stream moving silently under a vast sky. For 50 kilometres the river falls through river meadows, the Callows to Portumna at the head of Lough Derg. The regular flooding of the Callows is a vital part of the ecosystem, enriching the water and sweetening the land. The rising ground at Clonmacnois, 20 kilometres downstream of Athlone, had prominence along the river and throughout Ireland. This was the site of the great monastery which became a university and the ancient Christian capital of Ireland. Although it was raided by the Vikings, it has endured as the greatest of the monuments along the Shannon.
The Shannon continues to meander south to Shannon Harbour where the Grand Canal connects Dublin and the east coast with the Shannon. You are now on the old water borne trading route connecting the capital of Ireland with a series of midland and Shannon towns such as the Georgian town of Banagher and then on to Limerick via Lough Derg.

Lough Derg
Lough Derg is a handsome inland sea set in an attractive blend of mountain and hillside, woodland and farm. The mountains surrounding this fine stretch of water have their own beauty and variety. The shoreline has many small sheltered harbours at strategic intervals. There are 13,000 hectares of spectacular waterway, ideal for all kinds of watersports. The beautiful countryside around the lakeshore is perfect for walking, cycling, horse riding and other visitor pursuits. Lough Derg is contemporary in outlook, yet comfortable with its traditions. It is a place blessed by nature for sport and recreation. The extensive shoreline changes wonderfully in its nature between three large counties – Galway to the northwest, Clare to the west and southwest and Tipperary along the entire eastern shoreline. The lake is big enough to provide total seclusion yet there is always a bustling spot nearby.

 

Captain your own cruiser

Experience is not necessary and no licence is required. Training will be provided by our experienced staff.

When you book your boat holiday in Ireland your operator will send you a 'Captains Handbook' which will contain details of all you need to know about operating your cruiser.

The handbook contains details on how to prepare for your cruise, vital information on how the boat works, navigational information and how to pass through a lock.

On arrival at your operator’s base you will be shown a training video and then given on-the-water training by a fully trained, experienced instructor.

Many of our customers choosing a boat holiday in Ireland have never handled a boat before. Mastering the controls of your cruiser and understanding the navigation is quickly learnt. All of our cruisers are fully equipped with the necessary safety equipment and navigational charts to ensure that you have a safe holiday cruise.

Our fleet of modern cruisers offer accommodation from two to twelve adults.

Our operators have a boat to suit your boat holiday needs. As you will spend more time in your boat than you would in a traditional holiday cottage we recommend that you book a boat that has more space/berths than the number of people in your group. This will give you more space to live and relax in. Our operators have extensive fleets of different classes of cruisers all with their own individual characteristics and designed to suit the needs of parties of two, four, six or eight people and we can even supply boats for up to parties of twelve.

All the cruisers that are offered by our operators are designed for the Irish waterways and are fitted out to the highest standards to ensure maximum cruising comfort. We have illustrated a typical Shannon cruiser here to give you an indication of the accommodation layout, but it is important to check with the operator of your choice the exact specification of the cruiser that you book.

Courtesy of the Irish Boat Rental Association and Tourism Ireland

Afloat.ie Team

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How to sail, sailing clubs and sailing boats plus news on the wide range of sailing events on Irish waters forms the backbone of Afloat's sailing coverage.

We aim to encompass the widest range of activities undertaken on Irish lakes, rivers and coastal waters. This page describes those sailing activites in more detail and provides links and breakdowns of what you can expect from our sailing pages. We aim to bring jargon free reports separated in to popular categories to promote the sport of sailing in Ireland.

The packed 2013 sailing season sees the usual regular summer leagues and there are regular weekly race reports from Dublin Bay Sailing Club, Howth and Cork Harbour on Afloat.ie. This season and last also featured an array of top class events coming to these shores. Each year there is ICRA's Cruiser Nationals starts and every other year the Round Ireland Yacht Race starts and ends in Wicklow and all this action before July. Crosshaven's Cork Week kicks off on in early July every other year. in 2012 Ireland hosted some big international events too,  the ISAF Youth Worlds in Dun Laoghaire and in August the Tall Ships Race sailed into Dublin on its final leg. In that year the Dragon Gold Cup set sail in Kinsale in too.

2013 is also packed with Kinsale hosting the IFDS diabled world sailing championships in Kinsale and the same port is also hosting the Sovereign's Cup. The action moves to the east coast in July with the staging of the country's biggest regatta, the Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta from July 11.

Our coverage though is not restricted to the Republic of Ireland but encompasses Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Irish Sea area too. In this section you'll find information on the Irish Sailing Association and Irish sailors. There's sailing reports on regattas, racing, training, cruising, dinghies and keelboat classes, windsurfers, disabled sailing, sailing cruisers, Olympic sailing and Tall Ships sections plus youth sailing, match racing and team racing coverage too.

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There is a network of over 70 sailing clubs in Ireland and we invite all clubs to submit details of their activities for inclusion in our daily website updates. There are dedicated sections given over to the big Irish clubs such as  the waterfront clubs in Dun Laoghaire; Dublin Bay Sailing Club, the Royal Saint George Yacht Club,  the Royal Irish Yacht Club and the National Yacht Club. In Munster we regularly feature the work of Kinsale Yacht Club and Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven.  Abroad Irish sailors compete in Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) racing in the UK and this club is covered too. Click here for Afloat's full list of sailing club information. We are keen to increase our coverage on the network of clubs from around the coast so if you would like to send us news and views of a local interest please let us have it by sending an email to [email protected]

Sailing Boats and Classes

Over 20 active dinghy and one design classes race in Irish waters and fleet sizes range from just a dozen or so right up to over 100 boats in the case of some of the biggest classes such as the Laser or Optimist dinghies for national and regional championships. Afloat has dedicated pages for each class: Dragons, Etchells, Fireball, Flying Fifteen, GP14, J24's, J80's, Laser, Sigma 33, RS Sailing, Star, Squibs, TopperMirror, Mermaids, National 18, Optimist, Puppeteers, SB3's, and Wayfarers. For more resources on Irish classes go to our dedicated sailing classes page.

The big boat scene represents up to 60% of the sail boat racing in these waters and Afloat carries updates from the Irish Cruiser Racer Association (ICRA), the body responsible for administering cruiser racing in Ireland and the popular annual ICRA National Championships. In 2010 an Irish team won the RORC Commodore's Cup putting Irish cruiser racing at an all time high. Popular cruiser fleets in Ireland are raced right around the coast but naturally the biggest fleets are in the biggest sailing centres in Cork Harbour and Dublin Bay. Cruisers race from a modest 20 feet or so right up to 50'. Racing is typically divided in to Cruisers Zero, Cruisers One, Cruisers Two, Cruisers Three and Cruisers Four. A current trend over the past few seasons has been the introduction of a White Sail division that is attracting big fleets.

Traditionally sailing in northern Europe and Ireland used to occur only in some months but now thanks to the advent of a network of marinas around the coast (and some would say milder winters) there are a number of popular winter leagues running right over the Christmas and winter periods.

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On the international stage Afloat carries news of Irish and UK interest on Olympics 2012, Sydney to Hobart, Volvo Ocean Race, Cowes Week and the Fastnet Race.

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