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Displaying items by tag: Lough Derg

Last week, Killaloe Sailing Club hosted its annual sailing regatta. Founded in 1973 at the Lakeside Hotel in Killaloe, the club hosts an open regatta every year. For 2015 it was decided to hold the event over two days, rather than the usual one day event.

A healthy field of over 30 boats took to the water on both days to compete in seven races over the two days.

The open regatta was open to any sailing dinghy and the club used the PY (Portsmouth Yardstick) handicap system for racing a field of multi class boats, therefore just like golf the first boat over the line on the water might not necessarily win on handicap.

From the first race on day one, Jim Ryan and David Tanner were out in front with their Fireball winning the first race comfortably, followed home by Daniel O’Sullivan and David Coleman in their RS400 and Brian and Conor Bryce in third place also in an RS400. Jim Ryan and David Tanner were well beaten by Daniel O’Sullivan and David Coleman in the second race of the day, with the all lady crew of Susie Coote and Charlotte Carway in their RS200 upsetting the order of the lead boats by sneaking in fourth. While nobody could catch Jim Ryan and David Tanner in the last two races of the day, thanks to the PY handicapping system the battle behind them was heating up for second place between Susie Coote and Charlotte Carway in their RS200 and Ronan Gilmartin in his Laser Radial with only six points separating them.

Day two brought about much more benign conditions. However things did not change at the front of the field with Jim Ryan and David Tanner taking three from three and wrapping up the regatta. Daniel O’Sullivan and David Coleman were a consistent second. David’s daughter Megan and Nadine O’Sullivan managed a class win in their RS200, while Susie Coote and Charlotte Carway took the other two wins in the RS200 class. PY handicaps were tallied and the final results were:

Killaloe winners

1st Overall and Fireball Class winners Jim Ryan and David Tanner with Commodore Pat Culloo

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3rd Overall, RS200 Class winners Top Female Crew Susie Coote and Charlotte Carway with Commodore Pat Culloo

Overall results
1st Jim Ryan/David Tanner
2nd Ronan Gilmartin
3rd Susie Coote/Charlotte Carway

Class results:

Fireball class:
1st Jim Ryan/David Tanner
2nd Pat Culloo/Evan Jones
3rd Marc McLoughlin/Mick Collins

RS400 Class
1st Daniel O’Sullivan/David Coleman
2nd Brian Bryce/Conor Bryce
3rd Barry Lowe/Donal Cullinane

RS200 Class
1st Susie Coote/Charlotte Carway
2nd Colm O’Leary/Aodhan O'Leary
3rd Megan Coleman/Nadine O’Sullivan

Laser Class
1st Philip Despard
2nd Brian Griffin
3rd John Callanan

Laser Radial Class
1st Ronan Gilmartin
2nd Patrick Donlon
3rd Tadhg O'Mara

RS Feva Class
1st David Schutz/ Jimi Ni Baoill
2nd Orla Imhoff
3rd Bjorn Imhoff

1st All Lady Crew
Susie Coote/Charlotte Carway

1st Junior
Ronan Gilmartin

Published in Racing

Ireland is a country of seaways, and waterways which are dominated by the majestic River Shannon. On our island, you can never be more than sixty miles from the nearest navigable bit of sea. Add in the myriad of inland waterways – whether canals, rivers, or lakes – and you have an enthusiastically watery country where it is possible for everyone to have a floating boat berth of some kind within an hour’s journey – and usually much less – from their home.

Afloat.ie’s W M Nixon has been cruising our inland waterways in detail for longer than he cares to admit, though he will concede his first venture on fresh water was in command of a 14ft clinker-built sailing dinghy with a tent, a cruise which took place well back into the depths of the previous millennium. But it’s an experience you’ll always wish to repeat as often as possible, and just last week he found himself going again to the waters and the wild, with a family cruise of three generations on the River Shannon’s great inland sea of Lough Derg.

Journeying westward to join the good ship Slaney Shannon Star at Portumna on the frontiers of Connacht, the car radio was warbling on about the poor weather, and wondering why in England they persist in having their final summer Bank Holiday on the very last weekend of August, instead of having it earlier when the chances of good weather must be better.

As it happens, we know that the chances of good weather at any time in the summer of 2015 were slim enough, though it was briefly present just now and again. Be that as it may, the reasons for taking your “summer holiday” as late as possible in the season seem obvious. Even in this era of flexi-time and working from home and project outsourcing or whatever, the idea of clearly-defined work time and holiday time are still ingrained in us. And of all our traditional holidays, surely it is the summer holiday which is the most avidly anticipated?

Anticipation is usually the keenest and often the best part of any supposedly enjoyable experience. And it’s an altogether more positive and youthful emotion than nostalgia, which soon reeks of sweet decay. Thus the later in the summer you can locate your summer holiday, the longer is the enthusiastic anticipation. So when we got an invitation early in the Spring for some days of family cruising on a fine big Shannon hire cruiser on the magnificent inland sea of Lough Derg in the last week of August, we leapt at it.

Yet let’s face it, it’s something of which you’d be very chary were the planned cruise on the sea, even down in our own lovely West Cork. They may have started the Fastnet Race this year as late in the season as 16th August but, as the late great Tom Crosbie of Cork Harbour was wont to observe, no prudent navigator would really want to have his beloved boat west of the Old Head of Kinsale after August 15th.

However, thanks to Ireland’s wonderful inland waterways, and the mighty Shannon and Erne river systems in particular, we have an all-seasons cruising ground sufficiently varied for even the saltiest sea sailor when summer is gone. And in that last precious week of August – when just one balmy moment of a late summer’s evening is worth ten such in June – you get the perfect combination for a refreshing break from routine and a thoroughly good time with it, with the country looking its lushest best, a marked contrast to spring when it is raw and bare.

Lough Derg Map

At first glance, Lough Derg may seem to be no more than a widening of the River Shannon, but once on it you realise it’s a proper inland sea

Not least of the attractions of a three generations cruise is that the duties of the grandparents and grandchildren are simply to have a good time. It’s the middle generation who are there to provide planning and management. So apart from simply turning up in Portumna at the required time on a Tuesday afternoon, our only task was to get a proper lifejacket for Pippa the Pup, who isn’t really a pup, she’s a three-year-old miniature Jack Russell terrier, but there’s still a lot of the puppy in her. As it was the only job we’d to do, it got huge attention, but thanks to CH Marine’s crisp online service, Pippa had her new outfit many weeks before joining the boat, and almost immediately she realized that wearing the lifejacket was all about having a good time, so no problem there.

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Our little skipper - Pippa with her new lifejacket. Photo: W M Nixon

We eased ourselves gently into the Shannon pace by stopping off from the journey westward in Nenagh for lunch at Country Choice, Peter & Mary Ward’s wonderful little food emporium. They don’t so describe it themselves, but “emporium” is the only word to describe a miniature Aladdin’s cave of goodies and wonderful food. This energetic couple were in something of a state of excitement, as the entire Ward operation had just received the word that they were short-listed for an award in the “Best Shops in Ireland” competition, the announcements to be made that weekend.

So it gave us something more to anticipate as we cruised Lough Derg during the following five days, for although much of our mini-voyaging was done along the luxuriant “Tipperary Riviera”, the fact that Tipperary provides some of the best agricultural produce in Ireland does not necessarily mean that it’s a county of foodies. On the contrary, at times the Tip cuisine is very basic indeed, ignoring some of the region’s finest specialities. So Country Choice in Nenagh and the Wards’ famous and enormous stall at the weekly display on Saturdays in the Milk Market in Limerick are beacons of hope and places of cheerful pilgrimage for those who think we Irish could make better use of our wonderful natural local produce.

Portumna at the north end of Lough Derg is a strategically vital crossing of the Shannon – the next bridge is well to the north at Banagher – so inevitably Portumna is a workaday, strung out sort of town with a decidedly utilitarian air to its hire cruiser base at the evocatively-named Connaught Harbour. But the word is that Waterways Ireland have some worthwhile plans to upgrade the entire Portumna-Shannon-Lough Derg interface, though it won’t include replacing the swing bridge which takes the main road across the wide river. Our skipper was already devising a cunning scheme to deal with the dictatorship of the bridge’s opening times even as we were arriving aboard and exchanging a hurried hullo and goodbye with the previous generation on the distaff side, who had cruised with son-in-law, daughter and grandchildren up to Lough Ree.

The vessel at the centre of this hectic multi-family interchange was the 42ft Slaney Shannon Star, a fine old workhorse which has been giving sterling service to Emerald Star Line clients for more than two decades. In fact, the Shannon Star Class is quintessential Emerald Star, as just 15 of them were built by Broom’s of Norfolk, and they were exclusively for the Irish company, which worked closely on the design and specification to produce the perfect boat for Shannon cruising. This creative combination produced a comfortable and practical non-nonsense layout, with a straightforward finish which doesn’t pretend to be anything unnecessarily fancy, and a useful big Perkins 76hp diesel which gives the very able and “lakeworthy” hull a cruising speed of 7 knots.

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Slaney Shannon Star in the Castle Harbour at Portumna, ensign up and ready to go. Photo: W M Nixon

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This layout plan gives the broad outline of the Shannon Star’s very effective accommodation, but the forward cabin is roomier than shown, with proper gap to open the door fully.

Within this package, as the layout plan shows there is comfortable accommodation for six without using the settee berths in the saloon, there’s also an extra berth in its own little cabin just under the in-saloon steering position (it became Pippa’s cabin when we were ashore to dine), and while steering from the inside position is very comfortable with good visibility, the flybridge offers splendid views and is sufficiently large to be sociable with it.

Those who sailed with our son David when he was campaigning the likes of the Corby 36 Rosie (now Rockall III) and other offshore racing machines a decade ago will know that he thrives on planning and execution, while his wife Karen is more than a match for him. Thus for Georgina and Pippa and me and Matthew (aged 6) and Julia (aka The Diva) age 3, it was just case of being here and going with the flow and being prepared for enjoyment, for there was a lot of that.

David’s plan for the first evening in Portumna was typical of the man. They’d spent a fair bit of the day completing the final stage of the long passage down-Shannon from Lough Ree, so time ashore in a hospitable environment with food available was the target. He came up with the scheme that we’d go for supper at the very characterful Ferry Inn just across the river. But before that, we’d take the boat through the swing bridge at the 7.45pm opening, and berth her at the pontoon immediately below the bridge, which would shorten the walk to the inn, and also make it free choice for departure time in the morning.

But this was only the beginning of the man’s ingenuity. Supper was well under way in the pub when he suggested that if the senior men didn’t linger too long over the puddings, they could use the last of the daylight to take the boat the mile or so to the little harbour at Portumna Castle, while the women and children – by now immersed in various electronic games and slow eating – could follow when ready by taxi.

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We wanted a characterful pub with good food to start the cruise, and we found it at the Ferry Inn beside Portumna Bridge. Photo: W M Nixon

Sounds crazy, but it was a move of genius, for the berth beside the bridge is noisy with the road traffic and doesn’t give a sense of being away from it all, whereas the tiny harbour at the castle is pure holiday setting. The only fly in the ointment of this perfect plan was that as we approached the little harbour in the very last of the daylight, it was to find the entrance well-filled with a Shannon barge, but somehow we squeezed our 4.1 m (13ft 6ins) beam in past, and then there was just one space left in the most sheltered corner of this attractive mini-port to provide Slaney Shannon Star with a sweet berth for the first night of the cruise, and a warm wecome for the rest of the crew when they arrived in their own good time.

We’re no strangers to three-generational family holidays, but have less experience of three-generational lake cruising, and of course as the kids are growing up so quickly, the requirements vary from year to year. So in the morning sunshine, while the senior adults with an energetic little dog might have felt like no more than a walk in Portumna Forest Park, the parents with children had to seek out a proper children’s playground, but a skillful combination of plans saw all wishes in the walkies department being well met.

It has to be said that Portumna is definitely tops in at least one department. The Children’s Playground - it’s between the castle and the town - is world class, a creation of Cavanagh’s of Roscrea. They were established way back in 1806. But I doubt if their metal-working skills were being deployed for children’s playgrounds when the company came into being while Napoleon was still strutting his stuff around Europe, so all power to Cavanagh’s of Roscrea for adaptability.

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The children’s playground at Portumna. Built by a company founded in 1806, it’s a wonder to behold. Photo: W M Nixon

As for Portumna Castle…..well, if you find your household heating bills depressing, cheer yourself up with the thought of the effort it seems to have taken to heat Portumna Castle. You’ll seldom see chimneys on this scale – it must have taken all the turf out of an entire raised bog eevry winter to heat this massive pile.

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Portumna Castle – the mighty chimneys suggest even mightier heating bills. Photo: W M Nixon

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Home sweet home, but far from the Baltic Sea – Triskel and her live-aboard skipper. Photo: W M Nixon

By complete contrast, back at the Castle Harbour we met up with a Polish sailor who had cruised the Baltic before he set off to start life anew in Ireland eleven years ago, and when he discovered the Shannon and all its attractions he moved aboard a little sailing cruiser eight years ago. He has lived on her ever since, in and around the Shannon lakes, and is well content, though when I guessed his boat might be an Anderson of some sort, he was very positive in making sure that I realized his beloved Triskel was an Anderson 22 Mark 2, and not one of the inferior original Mark 1 versions.

Having been bemused by contemplating the heating bills for Portumna Castle, I didn’t find out his name before he headed out of port, but by this time our skipper also reckoned it was time to go. David had an app which gave weather predictions so accurately that he could tell you exactly when the rain would fall on different parts of the lake, precisely how big the rain-drops would be, how long they’d be falling, and how much wind would be in the midst of them. Or so it seemed to the rest of us. But somehow he got us all moving together aboard ship out of Portumna Castle Harbour at morning coffee time, and we proceeded southwards down the splendid lake almost entirely in sunshine as big dark rain squalls ran north along the Atlantic seaboard to the west, while over to the east it was pitch black over mid-Tipperary and they’d some flooding. Yet aboard Slaney Shannon Star, this helmsman on the flybridge managed to get a bit of a suntan during the two hours plus passage down to Mountshannon.

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From the lake, you get glimpses of other’s people’s little bits of paradise – this mini-port is one of the East Clare shore north of Mountshannon. Photo: W M Nixon

Lough Derg is 40 kilometres long (it’s 23 land miles in old money from Killaloe Bridge to Portumna Bridge) and around 20 kilometres across its widest part, but it follows the contours as befits a developing river valley to provide a handsome convoluted lake. While the coastal scenery is fairly flat up about Portumna, as you get south past Dromineer the land is rising to port and particularly to starboard, with the final approaches to Killaloe between the Arra Mountains and Slieve Bernagh becoming quite spectacular.

In classic cruising style, our skipper had decided the best way to deal with the lake was to get down to Killaloe on the first day, and then cruise back to Portumna at a much more leisurely pace. But even when you’re trying to log the miles, Lough Derg offers ample choices for quick stops, and as the weather app was talking about some decidedly lively southwest to west breezes later in the afternoon, the logical place for a stopover was Mountshannon.

This would mean that if the top did come off conditions for a while, we’d be located so that we could hold round a weather shore to get a smooth passage into the long “reverse estuary” down to Killaloe. But first, we’d to enjoy Mountshannon. It’s headquarters of the Iniscealtra Sailing Club (Iniscealtra is the neighbouring holy island, complete with Round Tower and a place of pilgrimage), but Mountshannon has the additional advantage of being serenely south-facing over a fine but sheltered bay, and it is home to an impressive fleet of yachts lying in a classic anchorage. There are the likes of Hallberg Rassys among them, and if you wondered what on earth a Hallberg Rassy ocean cruiser is doing on a lake, we suggest you get to Mountshannon and understanding will come.

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An anchorage for proper yachts – some impressive craft are lying to moorings in Mountshannon. Photo: W M Nixon

We meanwhile understood that rain was coming, and fast, so after a neat bit of berthing even if I do say so myself, we nipped up to the village inn and took aboard broth and stews while the rain battered the street outside, and German and English visitors supped their pints of Guinness with that happily bemused little smile you’ll see on the faces of tourists who have discovered an Irish inn exactly as they hoped it would be, including the rain outside.

But even that cleared on cue, and we needs must visit Mountshannon’s unique attraction, the combined labyrinth and maze. A perfect opportunity for junior scouts to guide the oldies about. However, the wind had come through as expected, so much so that Mountshannon’s famous white-tailed sea eagles appeared to be grounded for the afternoon. But though Slaney Shannon Star was sitting serenely in a wellnigh perfect berth for a stormy night, the menfolk were just too interested in seeing how she’d perform in a real breeze of wind, with a bit of a sea running, to stay on in the same place.

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Slaney Shannon Star snugly berthed at Mountshannon. The front is going through, and the wind has veered, but there’s enough of it to keep the sea eagles of Mountshannon grounded. Photo: W M Nixon

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There really is a maze at labyrinth at Mountshannon, but it takes an aerial photo to show them properly

“It’ll only be slightly lumpy for a few minutes” was the mantra. And it has to be said the old girl coped superbly, though fortunately all warps had been lashed in place, as for a little while -until we were feeling the shelter of the Clare coast in under the delightfully-named Ogonnelloe – some quite substantial quantities of Lough Derg were sweeping at speed over the Slaney Shannon Star.

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Sea test – Slaney Shannon Star finds a bit of a sea running on the lake. Photo: W M Nixon

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For a while, quite a lot of Lough Derg was sweeping over Slaney Shannon Star on passage from Mountshannon to Killaloe, but it didn’t take a feather out of this able boat – those towels are laid out to dry, not to cope with leaks. Photo: W M Nixon

But in the Killaloe estuary, relative peace returned, the black clouds raced away to the east, the sun came out with a rainbow, and there was this sense of approaching somewhere important, heightened by the quality and variety of the lakeside and hillside houses. Some people find this Irish scattering of houses, each in its own little world, to be something of an irritation among some rather fine scenery. But I like it. There’s more than enough empty uninhabitable wilderness in the world, and except for the most spectacular mountains, Irish scenery is enlivened by houses dotted here and there in such a way that you think pleasantly of the agreeable way of life that might be found in them.

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The storm squall has passed, and the lush country of the Tipperary shore is seen at its best with a rainbow in the approaches to Killaloe. Photo: W M Nixon

Once we were into the smooth water, Madam got on the phone to suss out the possibilities of an “Objective Achieved” supper at the renowned Cherry Tree on the Ballina side of Killaloe, and of course chef patron Harry McKeown himself answered the phone and recognized her voice immediately. But he went through the formality of booking a table for six in impersonal style before letting her know her cover was blown.

Whatever about Georgina’s problems in dining anonymously, for the rest of us it made for a idyllic evening, with the boat berthed as conveniently as possible at the berth generously provided by the Lakeside Hotel, the shortest walk imaginable to the Cherry Tree, a riverside window table to admire a sister-ship berthed directly across the water on the Killaloe side, and food glorious food while the light lingered in a fair approximation of a summer’s evening.

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Our first berth at Killaloe was at the hospitable Lakeside Hotel on the Ballina shore. Photo: W M Nixon

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Mission accomplished – the team have reached The Cherry Tree for dinner in Killaloe. Photo: W M Nixon

An interest in visiting Killaloe Cathedral in the morning had been expressed, so lo and behold our thoughtful skipper moved the boat across river in the morning on his own while the rest of us were still bestirring ourselves, thereby removing the need to walk across Killaloe’s ancient but much overworked bridge. It suffers from ludicrously excessive traffic – the lovely little riverside town does really urgently need a by-pass and the long-planned new bridge to the south. But St Flannan’s Cathedral well exceeded expectations. It’s of very modest size for anyone expecting a Shannonside version of Chartres or York Minster. But we knew it well from the outside, yet going in was a revelation, a haven of total peace in this Cathedral of the Waterways.

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The Cathedral of the Shannon – St Flannan’s at Killaloe is on the banks of the old canal to Limerick which pre-dated the Ardnacrusha development. Photo: W M Nixon

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A soothing place - Killaloe Cathedral. Photo: W M Nixon

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Busy place - Killaloe is very much the southern capital of the Shannon waterway. Photo: W M Nixon

There seemed to be an unspoken agreement that we weren’t going to break the spell of peace by walking across the bridge, but as this meant the kids couldn’t avail of the playground on the Ballina side, it was a case of up sticks and away from the impressive new Waterways Ireland pontoons on the Killaloe side, and off we went north and east to Garrykennedy with its handy playground, on the way passing learner sailors in action off the University of Limerick’s Activity Centre on the Clare shore, and then – for it was a pleasant sunny sailing day after Wednesday’s weather kerfuffle – we passed a real live sailing cruiser going on her merry way, plus several powercruisers.

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With lighter winds, sailing can resume at the University of Limerick Activity Centre near Killaloe. Photo: W M Nixon

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Waterside paradise - lakeshore house near Killaloe. Photo: W M Nixonder24

The guess is it’s a Halcyon 23 enjoying the breeze on Lough Derg – and taking in one’s fenders is optional on the lakes. Photo: W M Nixon

All the little ports about Lough Derg have their own individual character, and Garrykennedy is about as different as possible from Killaloe, which in turn is very different from Mountshannon, while Dromineer – where we were to spend the night – is different again.

But most of the ports popular with today’s sailors on Lough Derg have it in common that once they were part of a busy waterways transport system, each with its own little mini-harbour which could accommodate the barges which might have come all the way from Dublin via the Grand Canal. The cream of the fleet were engaged in the sacred task of conveying Guinness’s Porter from St James’s Gate Brewery all the way to the connoisseurs of Limerick, whose tastes were and are so pernickety that when any variant in any product is contemplated in the Guinness organisation, somebody always wonders how it will do in Limerick…

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Garrykennedy’s little harbour was created inshore of the 15th Century castle of the O’Kennedys. Photo: W M Nixon

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Larkins of Garrykennedy is one of the most popular food pubs on Ireland’s inland waterways. Photo: W M Nixon

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The décor in Larkin’s of Garrykennedy includes this superb half model of a Shannon One Design OD made by Reggie Goodbody of Dromineer. Photo: W M Nixon

So keen is Limerick to get its Guinness that in a storm one winter a canal boat (they were never called barges in their working days) headed out after sheltering in Garrykennedy and sank off Parker Point taking some of her crew down with her, but that’s a sad story for another day. For we got into Garrykenedy on a sunny day to find a handy berth in the old harbour, a good lunch in Larkins, and a classic Children’s Playground with real old-fashioned swings where Matthew and Julia proved fearless.

By the time you’re a day or three into your Waterways holiday, you lose track of time, but I think it was later that afternoon when the Slaney Shannon Star headed in the sunshine across to Dromineer. There, we found the most-sheltered spot at the quayside in the harbour was entirely taken up by a slovenly-berthed J/24 which, if it had been secured in a more thoughtful manner, would have left plenty of room for other boats.

However, the nearest handy berth put us right beside the playground, so bonus points for Dromineer. And then, as we had access to sheltered water, it was time for a bit of fun with the outboard dinghy, which was a winner with the kids, who were soon helming it with skill. You’d expect that of Matthew – he has helmed a Howth Seventeen – but Julia at just three years old was a very cool and quick learner.

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The berth at Dromineer was ideal for family cruising, being right beside the children’s playground. Photo: W M Nixon

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Outboard dinghy sport at Dromineer. Photo: W M Nixon

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Matthew in charge, and The Diva not too pleased. Photo: W M Nixon

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The Whiskey Still at Dromineer is a Lough Derg institution. Photo: W M Nixon

An overnight in Dromineer means supper at The Whiskey Still, and very good it was too, a real local which comes pleasantly to life as the evening draws on, and lots of folk to talk to about this intriguing place, which in the great days of Waterways transport, was by way of being the main port for North Tipperary. But since 1835 it has also been the home of Lough Derg YC, whose fine clubhouse was taking a brief rest between the excitements of the annual Lough Derg week and the imminent arrival tomorrow of the international fleet of cruising-racing Wayfarer dinghies.

The last walk of the day for Pippa discovered an energetic game of kayak polo under way off Dromineer’s little beach (yes, they really do have a beach, the immaculately-kept Dromineer has everything) but later that night the breeze freshened again and our fenders were squeaking a bit. We couldn’t be having that at all, so the skipper found us enough room along the other quay for us to warp into a berth where the breeze held us noiselessly off the wall for a night of peace.

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Kayak polo at Dromineer. Photo: W M Nixon

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Dennis Noonan of Round Ireland race fame on his Pegasus 800 Photo: W M Nixon

By this time we were so totally into Waterways time that I haven’t a clue when we left Dromineer next day, but we seem to have crowded several days of living into a morning. The playground had to be given a thorough work-over, the dinghy had to be taken out for a spin at least twice, then Pippa had her morning walk along to Shannon Sailing’s secluded marina where of all people we met up with the great Dennis Noonan of Wicklow and Round Ireland Race fame. He was aboard his able little Pegasus 800 which is for sale, and is a fine sailing cruiser if you’re interested in a proper yacht with full standing headroom. But there was little enough time to discuss boat sales, for in real life Dennis is a market gardener of long experience, so he and Georgina were immediately at it yakking away about genuine local produce and how to get people to appreciate what their neighbourhood can produce in season.

I meanwhile wandered off meet up with Robbie the Main Man in the workshop, and soon discovered he was the owner of an enormous 95ft boat – the Spera In Deo - which was lying in Dromineer harbour, a former Dutch mussel dredger which he had discovered in a ruinous state in Donegal after a fire. He was able to make her sufficiently seaworthy to bring her south along the Atlantic seaboard and into the Shannon crewed by all the usual gallant suspects, and while he still has much cosmetic work to do to the exterior, he has fitted out the interior in the most extraordinary way to make her the biggest four berth motor-cruiser in the world, as there are two enormous en suite double cabins - one with a Jacuzzi - while the headroom in the vast main saloon is theatrical in scale.

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95ft of the biggest four berth motor cruiser on the Shannon – the Spera In Deo at Dromineer. Photo: W M Nixon

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To grasp the scale of the Spera In Deo’s interior, you have to realize those are full-height interior doors for a house. Photo: W M Nixon

Eventually I was reunited with my brood in the Lake Café right on the harbour. It’s open from 8.30am until 5.0pm, which makes for a very civilised little village arrangement as The Whiskey Still then opens up for food. Declan & Fiona Collison, who run the Lake Café, used to run The Whiskey Still, so they know the Lough Derg hospitality scene inside out. But like everyone along this ancient waterway, they are as keen to talk about its fascinating past are they are interested in its present and future, and the Lake Café’s walls are adorned with aerial photos of Dromineer from around 1967 which really do bring home to you how much Ireland has moved on during the past half century.

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Breakfast in Dromineer – Georgina, Matthew and Julia have the first of the day’s five meals….. Photo: W M Nixon

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Dromineer as it was in 1967 – photo courtesy Lake Café.

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Heading up-lough in “vivid sunshine”. Photo: W M Nixon

Not everything has come through intact or improved, however. Heading up-lough later that day in vivid sunshine, we went close past Illaunmore, Derg’s biggest island, where very many years ago we discerned what looked like a tiny creek leading to a little harbour. Though it was obviously private, our curiosity got the better of us, and we negotiated our motor-cruiser through the narrow gap to find a harbour. There was a small waterside chalet and a man out for a walk with his very tame golden pheasant, which we later learned was called Sammy. This was the late Martin Winston, and Illaunmore was the love of his life. He was never happier than when on his own island. But that was a long time ago. Martin Winston is long gone. And as far as we could see, the lovely little harbour where we were made so welcome with a fantastic spontaneous party generated within minutes, it now all seems completely overgrown.

But while the harbour in Illaunmore may have disappeared in the undergrowth, the other port of that day’s cruising so long ago, Terryglass, has come on with leaps and bounds. Indeed, when we visited Illaunmore with its fine little harbour, there was virtually no harbour at all at Terryglass, you berthed in a sort of creek where cattle came to drink lake-water. And the first time we were there being Hallowe’en night, the track up to the village where a friend had just bought the pub was quite a spooky experience.

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Terryglass has become a busy port in the past three decades. Photo: W M Nixon

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It’s always an irresistible challenge to try and disappear into the reeds. Photo: W M Nixon

But today Terryglass is one of Lough Derg’s more glamorous ports, while it’s a special place for David and Karen, as they were married in the lovely church in the village, that church whose spire is “Conspic” from all parts of the north end of the lake. But when you’ve a couple of lively kids, there’s no time to be sad or serious about the old days and disappeared harbours or new harbours and whatnot. They’ve splendid reed beds at Terryglass, and disappearing completely into the reeds is a natural challenge for youngsters with an outboard dinghy, so that was on the agenda before we ambled up to the village and supper in the Derg Inn.

It wasn’t a restaurant crawl we were on by any means, but brisk days on the lake are great for the appetite. That last day was typical. We’d the usual good breakfast on board, then after everyone went off on their various pursuits, we’d one of those light “Meals-without-a-Name” with the Collisons at the Lake Café, as their baking is superb. Then when we berthed in Terryglass, somehow Karen had another meal-without-a-name ready on the saloon table, followed by more reed-bashing-by-boat, and then with the kids needing an early meal followed by a reasonable bedtime, we fed well but early in the Derg Inn.

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Not for the faint-hearted (1): The Pineapple Boat in the Derg Inn. Phot: W M Nixon

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Not for the faint-hearted (2): On the swings at Terryglass. Photo: W M Nixon

There, I fearlessly rounded out the feast with a Pineapple Boat with strawberry ice-cream, raspberry coulis and cream – definitely not a nibble for the faint-hearted. Then back at the harbour where the kids went to the limit and beyond on old-style swings in the playground, with people arriving down to join their Terryglass-based cruisers for the weekend we could admire an extraordinary selection of dogs even unto an Irish wolfhound, and not a lifejacket among them except for Pippa. And after all that, the little people went willingly to bed, and in truth the rest were soon headed the same way.

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Canine old mates of Terryglass harbour. Photo: W M Nixon

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The end of a busy week – Mattthew, Julia, David and Karen on the final morning. Photo: W M Nixon

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The bridge opening at Portumna is both a beginning and an end. Photo: W M Nixon

Changeover Saturday at a hireboat base is so busy there’s not time to be sad that it’s all ending. We were perfectly on time across from Terryglass for the 0945 bridge opening at Portumna, there was a berth stern-to right beside the cars, there was the usual final check round to make sure we’d left nothing behind, and then we were gone, only pausing briefly to hope that whoever next took the gallant Slaney Shannon Star down the short channel to the river and the lake was going to have at least half as good a time as we’d had.

But now the grandparents weren’t too tied to time. We could go home at leisure, ambling by road on up the Shannon, stopping here and there at river ports which are very different in character from lake harbours. Yet all have their special charms, so it was after dark when we finally got home. It wasn’t until Sunday that we finally opened Saturday’s Irish Times. And there was the announcement that Peter & Mary Ward’s fantastic weekly display of everything good in the Milk Market in Limerick had won the prize for the Best Market Stall in Ireland.

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Winners! Peter & Mary Ward of Country Choice in Nenagh. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in W M Nixon

#lifeboat – Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat launched to assist a person on board a 30ft–cruiser with engine failure by Terryglass Harbour, at the northern end of Lough Derg last night.

At 11.55pm Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat launched to assist a lone boatman, whose 30ft–cruiser had suffered engine failure and drifted into reeds by Terryglass Harbour, at the northern end of Lough Derg. Winds were northerly backing westerly, Force 4, visibility was good.

The lifeboat with helm Eleanor Hooker, Keith Brennan and Lorna Walsh on board, was alongside the casualty vessel at 12.20pm. The elderly person on board was safe, unharmed and wearing his lifejacket, but agitated about his predicament.

An RNLI volunteer crossed over to the casualty vessel and reassured the person before checking the boat for damage. The Lifeboat took the cruiser under tow to one of the floating pontoons in Terryglass harbour.

Lifeboat crewman Jason Freeman, who was in Terryglass at the time, took lines and helped secure the casualty vessel.

Brendan O'Brien, Deputy Launching Authority advises skippers to 'ensure their boat has fresh fuel and is well serviced before going afloat'.

The Lifeboat returned to station and was ready for service again at 2.45pm.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat launched to assist 4 people on board a 24ft yacht, aground in Sandy Bottom in Dromineer Bay last night.

At 8.03pm, Valentia Coast Guard requested Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat to launch to assist four people on board a 24ft yacht, aground in Sandy Bottom, in Dromineer Bay.

The lifeboat launched at 8.12pm with helm Eleanor Hooker, Owen Cavanagh and Dean O'Sullivan on board. Winds were south westerly, Force 3, visibility was good.

The lifeboat located the cruiser at 8.13pm. Local boat owners had attempted to offer assistance, but found themselves in danger of grounding.

An RNLI volunteer waded in to the yacht, aground in two foot of water. He found that the four people on board were safe and unharmed. Once he established that vessel was not taking on water, he set up a bridle, and the lifeboat took the yacht under tow to Dromineer Harbour.

Brendan O'Brien, Deputy Launching Authority, advises all boat users to note that 'water levels on the lake are particularly low at the moment and to bear this in mind when passage planning'. He also suggests asking locals for advice if uncertain.

The Lifeboat returned to station and was ready for service again at 9.20pm.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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#lifeboat – At 1.20pm, Thursday afternoon, June 11, Valentia Coast Guard requested Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat to launch to assist five people on board a 49ft (15m) yacht reported aground by Castletown Harbour on the County Clare shore.

The lifeboat launched at 1.30pm with helm Eleanor Hooker, Keith Brennan and Lorna Walsh on board. Winds were northeasterly, Force 2/3, visibility was very good.

After a thorough search, the lifeboat informed Valentia Coast Guard they did not locate a vessel matching the description given, in either Castletown Harbour or Dromane Harbour, close by. The lifeboat was requested to travel south and check another location at Church Bay, on the Clare shore. The lifeboat located the cruiser at Parkers Point, on the Tipperary Shore, it had suffered engine failure, the water depth at their location was 14.9ft.

All five people were safe and unharmed, they were requested to put on their lifejackets. An RNLI volunteer was transferred across to the casualty vessel, where he reassured everyone. He established that in addition to engine failure, the boat had no steering.

The cruiser was taken under tow to the closest harbour, Garrykennedy, where it was safely tied alongside.

Deputy Launching Authority, Peter Kennedy praised the lifeboat volunteers saying, 'the dealt with the challenge very efficiently, considering the size of the boat, and given its total loss of power and steering'.

The Lifeboat returned to station and was ready for service again at 3.20pm.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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#rnli – Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat launched to assist two people on board a 26ft–yacht, aground east of Mountshannon Harbour last night.

At 7.57pm on Friday evening, June 6, Valentia Coast Guard requested Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat to launch to assist two people on board a 23ft yacht, aground east of Mountshannon Harbour.

The lifeboat launched at 8.08pm with helm Eleanor Hooker, Ger Egan and Dean O'Sullivan on board. Winds were south westerly, Force 6, gusting 7, visibility was good.

The lifeboat located the cruiser at 8.27pm. The two people were safe and unharmed and wearing their lifejackets. Killaloe Coast Guard were on scene and had arranged for their D-class lifeboat to take the yacht off the rocks. Valentia Coast Guard requested Lough Derg Lifeboat to remain on standby on scene, until the vessel was off the rocks and safely tied alongside at Mountshannon.

Deputy Launching Authority, Pat Garland, advises all boat users to note that 'water levels on the lake are particularly low at the moment and to bear this in mind when passage planning'.

The Lifeboat returned to station and was ready for service again at 10.50pm.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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#rnli – Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat launched to assist two people on board a 30ft–cruiser, aground on the west side of the Corakeen Islands, near Dromineer Bay last night.

At 5.51pm on Sunday evening, May 17, Valentia Coast Guard requested Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat to launch to assist two people on board a cruiser aground on the west side of the Corakeen Islands, near Dromineer Bay.

The lifeboat launched at 6pm with helm Eleanor Hooker, Ger Egan and Keith Brennan on board. Winds were south westerly, Force 5, visibility was good.

The lifeboat located the cruiser at 6.05pm, and using local knowledge navigated through safe water to the casualty vessel. A local fisherman, who had raised the alarm, was alongside the cruiser and reassuring the two people on board, neither of whom spoke any English. He departed once the lifeboat was on scene. The water was shallow enough for a crew member to wade across to the boat. RNLI crew Ger Egan communicated that they should turn their engines fully off before he could approach the stern.

After a thorough inspection that showed that the boat was not taking on water, the cruiser was taken off the rocks and towed out into safe water. There the engine and props were confirmed in good working order. With an RNLI crew member remaining on board, the cruiser made way to Dromineer Harbour, where it was tied up alongside safely 6.50pm

Deputy Launching authority, Peter Kennedy advises all boat users to 'study your charts and plan your passage before setting out from port, and to know the navigation buoys on the lake.'

The Lifeboat returned to station and was ready for service again at 7.25pm.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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#holyisland – Clare County Council has announced an additional €1.1m investment in service delivery and tourism, business and community development projects around the county during 2015.

The announcement follows the publication of the Local Authority's unaudited Annual Financial Statement (AFS) for 2014 which shows that the Council ended the year with a €611k surplus on a total revenue expenditure of circa €105m.

Clare County Council billed a total of €42.4m in commercial rates in 2014, which represents approximately 40.4% of Clare County Council's revenue expenditure in the year. The council collected €40.9m in rates in the year.

Announcing the unaudited AFS for 2014 at its May Monthly Meeting last evening (Monday), Clare County Council also confirmed additional allocations in 2014 to the Municipal Districts (€400,000), Shannon Area (€100,000), proposed acquisition by the Council of Holy Island on Lough Derg (€100,000), a Visitor Services facility at Doolin Pier (€100,000), Library and Museum Development (€100,000), and Kilrush's participation in the 2015 International Entente Florale competition (€50,000).

Provision has also been made for Public Light improvements (€100,000), Public Area enhancements (€100,000) and playgrounds throughout the County (€50,000).

Cllr. John Crowe, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council has welcomed the overall positive result being reported in this unaudited AFS for 2014.

"Taking into consideration the fiscal challenges faced by the Council in the years since the economic downturn, this result has arisen from effective budget management of both expenditure and income throughout the organisation. I particularly welcome the significant progress being made in relation to the collection of billed commercial rates which bodes well for the future financial operation of the Council, while it also demonstrates the recovering that is ongoing in the local economy," he stated.

Tom Coughlan, Chief Executive of Clare County Council commented: "During the past five years, the Council's cumulative operating debit balance, which stood at €1.77m at the start of 2009, has been reduced to €800,000 at the end of 2014. This reduction in the cumulative deficit in a period of reduced funding and uncertain economic circumstances is a positive development and will have lasting implications for the delivery of services and investment in business and community development projects throughout Clare."

He continued: "The achievement of a positive result last year took place in the context of a number of significant changes brought about as a result of the Local Government Reform Act 2014. They include the abolition of Town Councils, changes to the budgeting process, the creation of new structures such as the Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) and Municipal Districts, the commencement of operations of the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) and the commencement of the operation of water services on behalf of Irish Water under a Service Level Agreement."

"I wish to acknowledge the commitment of Council staff and the support of the Council Members for achieving this positive result," added Mr. Coughlan.

Published in Island News
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#seaeagles – The popular White Tailed Sea Eagle Viewing & Information Point at Mountshannon Pier in Co. Clare has reopened to the public following a hugely successful pilot opening period last summer.

More than 10,000 people flocked to the shores of Lough Derg between mid-July and September 2014 to catch a glimpse of the first successful breeding pair of White Tailed Sea Eagles in Ireland in 110 years.

The Viewing & Information Point is operated by the Mountshannon Eagle Group, in conjunction with the Golden Eagle Trust and Mountshannon Community Council. It features telescopes and information and displays about the White Tailed Sea Eagles, regarded as Ireland's largest and most spectacular breeding birds.

Clare County Council, which funds the facility, says the facility generated more than half a million euro for the local economy in 2014. A visitor survey conducted last year found that 43% of people said the attraction was the primary factor influencing their decision to visit Mountshannon.

The Mountshannon breeding pair of eagles, a seven-year-old male and six-year-old female, were originally collected as chicks on the island of Frøya off the west coast of Norway by the Golden Eagle Trust. The birds were released in Killarney National Park before relocating to Lough Derg in 2011. The pair, named Saoirse and Caimin, created history in 2013 when they reared the first chicks to fly from a nest in Ireland in 110 years. The pair successfully hatched another chick in 2014 with the local community in Mountshannon expressing hope of another successful hatching this summer.

"Our trial opening in 2014 shows there is significant and genuine interest amongst the general public in these wonderful birds. People are especially fascinated by how and why the birds have settled and began to breed in Lough Derg. This project also demonstrates the potential in terms of tourism product development at this location," said Congella McGuire, Clare Heritage Officer.

Ms. McGuire noted that the visitor figures compare well to the Island of Mull in Scotland where White-tailed Sea Eagles watching has been popular for more than 10 years. A greater percentage of people came to Mountshannon (43%) specifically to see the Eagle pair than to the Island of Mull (23%) where eagle tourism brings in an estimated £5 million annually.

"Clare County Council is delighted to have played a leading role in increasing public interest in the local White Tailed Sea Eagle population without disturbing them in their natural habitat. By doing so, the Council is playing a key role in safeguarding these protected birds and their nesting activities as well as providing an excellent addition to the local tourism infrastructure," Ms. McGuire added.

Published in Inland Waterways
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#loughderg – A new trail showcasing the rich natural heritage of Lough Derg has been developed in time for the 2015 summer season.

Lough Derg (on the Shannon) Nature Trail is produced by the County Councils in Clare, Galway and Tipperary, and co-funded by The Heritage Council and Lakelands & Inland Waterways.

The 130-kilometre trail takes visitors from Portumna in Galway down the western shore of the lake, to Killaloe in Clare, and back up on the eastern side to Terryglass in Tipperary. The stops along the route, which can be travelled in any direction, include walking routes, lakeshore access, great bird watching locations, woodland parks for adventuring, and quiet spots to enjoy the beautiful vistas of Ireland's third largest lake and the largest lake in the River Shannon system.

Among the 24 discovery points featured is the monastic site at Inis Cealtra - known as the "Jewel of the Lough' - as well as the ancient woodlands of Portumna Forest Park, Derrycrag Wood, Raheen Wood and Cominchas Forest, the sheltered bays and harbours at Rosmore, Mountshannon and Garrykennedy, and the twin heritage towns of Killaloe-Ballina.

Speaking ahead of the trail launch in Portumna this Thursday, Cllr. Mary Hoade, Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council, who said "the outstanding natural heritage of Lough Derg enhances the visitor experience by providing a range of vistas, sights, sounds and places to explore and opportunities to experience, many of which are featured in this wonderful new trail."

"The high level of involvement from communities around Lough Derg in the design and content of this trail has been instrumental in its development, and is reflective of the community-centred approach to protecting the environment and promoting tourism around the Lough Derg region. I am confident this new trail will deliver additional visitors to Lough Derg, as well as economic benefits for the wider local community and tourism sector here in the Lough Derg Region," added the Cathaoirleach.

Each of the discovery sites selected for inclusion in the Lough Derg Nature Trail featured in the Natural Heritage Audit of Lough Derg (on the Shannon) produced by Dr Allan Mee and Shane O'Neill and written by Dr. Janice Fuller. The trail project meanwhile, was directed by the three County Council Heritage Officers in the region, Marie Mannion (Galway), Congella McGuire (Clare) and Roisín O'Grady (Tipperary), and Nuala O'Connell (Senior Executive Planner, Tipperary County Council).

According to Marie Mannion: "Galway County Council, along with the Councils in Clare and Tipperary, are delighted to have played a central role in developing a trail around what is a largely undiscovered natural amenity in the heart of Ireland. This trail provides visitors and locals alike with a continuous guided tour around Lough Derg in the Lough Derg Region taking in some of the best scenery and natural sites that Ireland has to offer."

"Lough Derg is Ireland's premier inland navigation and water sports destination, and is also a paradise for anglers along with being a popular region for bird watching. The lake is fully navigable and has many beautiful harbours and piers for mooring. The diversity of landscapes in the Lough Derg lakelands, coupled with the many hundreds of heritage sites dotted in and around its shoreline make it a wonderfully diverse and enjoyable visitor destination. This trail, which complements the existing Lough Derg Heritage Trail, aims to inform and guide visitors to the region about the many places to experience and enjoy here," added Ms. Mannion.

The new trail will be officially launched at a seminar being held at The Workhouse Centre in Portumna, County Galway, next Thursday, 30th April.

The event will feature presentations by Dr. Alan Mee on the White Tailed Sea Eagles on Lough Derg, consultant ecologist and writer Dr. Janice Fuller on 'Going Wild on the Lough Derg Nature Trail', and Lorcán O'Toole of the Golden Eagle Trust on the effectiveness of existing tourism policies for rural communities.

A detailed guide to accompany the Nature Trail will also be launched on the day.

Sites featured in the Lough Derg (on the Shannon) Nature Trail include Portumna Water Recreation Park, Portumna Forest Park, Abbeyville Golden Mile, Derrycrag Wood, Rosmore Pier (Galway), Coos-East Clare Way, Clare/Galway), Dromaan Harbour at Williamstown, Church Bay, Mountshannon, Inis Cealtra, Woodpark, Raheen Wood, Aughinish Wood, Ballycuggaran Forest & Rinnaman Point (Clare) Killaloe-Ballina (Clare/Tipperary) Castletown (The Lookout), Castlelough Woods, Garrykennedy, Youghal Bay, Ryan's Point, Dromineer Bay, Luska Bay at Coolbaun, Cominchas Forest, and Terryglass (Tipperary).

Copies of the Lough Derg (on the Shannon) Nature Trail and accompany guide will be distributed to tourist offices and visitor attractions around Lough Derg. For more visit www. galwaycoco.ie.

Published in Inland Waterways
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