One of highlights for mum of staying at Mountshannon was the opportunity to go on a boat trip to Holy Island. And luckily we weren’t taken along.
The island’s name, Inis Cealtra, means the “island of the burials”; or “of monastic cells”. Holy Island is a historic place with its roots in early Irish Christian times. Pilgrims travelled here for hundreds of years right up to the mid 19th century. Inis Cealtra is associated with several Irish saints of the sixth and seventh centuries most notably St Caimin who founded a monastery here during that period. The 50 acre site boasts the remains of no less than 6 churches, an early monastic cell, a cemetery with more than 80 recumbent graves with an inscription or cross , the most recent of which dates to the 12th century. In one of the graves lie the remains of 10 men, who were probably butchered together by the Norsemen. The dominant feature on the island is an 80-foot tall round tower. You can walk among the ruins of churches, the round tower and several crosses, all built before the year 1000. Romanesque arches from the twelfth century can also be seen. It continued as a place of pilgrimage up until fairly recently and is still very much revered as a holy place by people of the locality.
Gerard Madden, local historian and author of the histories of Holy Island, Scariff, Mountshannon and Tuamgraney, offers boat trips and guided tours of Holy Island from Mountshannon Pier.
One wonderful evening we were just chilling on our boat when we heard a few notes of traditional Irish music. A few boats who’d arrived that day were all sat out along the harbour front singing & playing music so mum wandered round with her chair & had a lovely evening listening to them.
The weather was very mixed while we stayed there ranging from extremely windy with the water lapping over the harbour wall to wonderful hot sunny days where the beach area was packed. Mum kept disappearing off to the visiting ice cream van but that was good as we got a few licks too. Mum also went swimming most days & she loved swimming in the lake with a view of Holy Island.
On Saturday the weather forecast was perfect for a calm flat lake with lots of sunshine so mum was up & ready for action with lifejacket on. But….. upon starting the boat we had a suspected alternator fault. Liam popped across with a multimeter & confirmed it was probably best to stay put. We definitely don’t want to risk going onto the lake with a poorly boat. So then it was operation Fergal to the rescue. Fergal came out & the problem was diagnosed as a poorly alternator so it was sent off for refurbishment. A week later it was back & fitted. Luckily we were in a good spot to breakdown as we had shore power. Unfortunately we did end up staying over our 5 days but Waterways Ireland were very understanding.
Talking of being stranded should the worst happen you can call the coastguard either on your vhf radio or on 999 & the RNLI Lough Derg station do an amazing job.
One of the nights at Mountshannon we saw blue flashing lights out of the window as the RNLI Boat towed in a boat that had engine failure.
So 2 weeks after we arrived we were able to set off on our adventure again. We set off early again on a misty morning bound for Killaloe.
A friend of ours Susie had recommended we pull into the canal section rather than moor on the public moorings jetty on the river & Tony kindly ran mum round in his van the night before so she could suss out the moorings. This is definitely a much better option for us.
On the map above we left Mountshannon at the top cruised across Scariff Bay & down to the bottom of Lough Derg where it becomes the River Shannon again into Killaloe & eventually Limerick.
So we are now at the very bottom of Lough Derg. We’ve not stopped everywhere (yet) as some places we’ll stop on our way back up.
Lough Derg is the largest lake on the longest river in Ireland (the Shannon), and with its wooded isles, rocky bays and tree-lined shores is an enchanting place. The lake is about thirty miles long and is three miles across at its widest point. Four counties, Galway, Clare, Tipperary and Limerick, border it. Portumna and Killaloe are picturesquely situated at its northern and southern ends, respectively. The lake contains approximately 13,000 hectares of non-tidal waters and extends 38.6 kilometres from Portumna to Killaloe. It is about 13 kilometres at its widest and is 36 metres at its deepest. The lake derives its name from an ancient Irish legend. Lough Derg, which means the Lake of the Red Eye reminds us of the influence of poets in ancient Ireland and the merciless way they exercised that power. A king, living near here had but one eye. His name was Eochy Mac Luchta and he lost one eye in a battle. Aithirne a famous poet visited him and when leaving he asked him for the other eye. The King immediately plucked it out and gave it to him. While washing the blood from his face the lake turned red. The King said, “let the lake be called Loch Dergdheirc, meaning ‘the lake of the bloody eye’, and so it is to this day.
As we cruised down the lake the waterways got narrower as Lough Derg ends & we’re just on the river Shannon again. Killaloe lies on the River Shannon on the western bank of Lough Derg and is connected by Killaloe Bridge to the “twin town” of Ballina on the eastern bank of the lake.
This is the narrow bit in the photo lol compared to the expanse of the lough. Susie got some great photos of us passing by.
We turned right into Pier Head & by magic Susie appeared to help us tie up
We are literally just off the river into a canal section which bypasses a section of the river but is rarely used these days. Now although the harbour wall is high we were able to strategically moor right by some steps so I can still get off thank God!
The canal runs parallel to the river & most boats moor on the long jetties as can be seen below but the jetties wouldn’t be so good for us when we needed a cockaleggie plus you get a lot of wake from passing boats so we have a perfect spot for us.
There’s a fab bit of land between the canal & river that has a gate so we are allowed off lead there to have a run around. It’s like a secret island.
Now bet you thought we’d forgotten about sunsets didn’t you?? oh no! Although the weather isn’t looking too promising here this week we did get some amazing sunsets at Mountshannon so here’s a fab photo of 2 handsome fellas posing in the setting sun!