Slowing the Pace Down by Cosmo (Shannon Harbour to Clonony)

Now we’re back on the canal we will be just hoping vey slowly eastwards over winter with our stops mainly dictated by our need for water. We moved up one lock off the waiting jetty at Shannon Harbour. Amusingly it was the first lock mum singlehanded as it wasn’t so deep so she could climb off the roof as Ireland doesn’t have ladders in the locks. No sooner had she done than she had other boaters kindly rushing to tell her the lock keeper would help. It still takes some getting used to having locks done for you here. Anyway we got through fine & moored just above on a grassy bank with our planks out.

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We’ve got so confident now with the planks we performed a daring escape while mum was chatting to someone. We were soon rounded up & put back onboard.

It was a quiet week with mum working & walkies up & down the towpath. We actually didn’t see another person to talk to for a whole week. We had our first frosty morning which was beautiful but brrrrr!

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Mum & Falcon went out on an expedition to Shannonbridge the next stop up the River Shannon. The river was still quite high so we’re glad we’d not gone up there.

On Saturday mum availed of the wonderful local link bus service again this time to Athlone. The bus runs once a week on Saturday afternoons & she was picked up outside the pub at Shannon harbour. It took about an hour inti Athlone picking up a few people along the route & pulling up at a shopping centre. Unfortunately the return time had been brought forward so there wasn’t much time for mum to explore so she just ran up river to a cafe on the bank of the Shannon for a coffee & a sandwich & then came back to get her shopping done. Athlone looked amazing & mum wants to go & spend more time there so its definitely on our mooring bucket list for next year. Anyway we’re nicely stocked up on food including a roast chicken our favourite!

Sunday we moved up a lock & got water & pumpout this time with the help of Jason the lock keeper. There are hardly any working pumpout facilities along the canal so we emptied the toilet after just a week to give us another weeks leeway. We’re praying the Tullamore pumpout might be fixed but we’re not optimistic. If not the next one isn’t until Lowtown & we weren’t planning on being there for a while yet. We then went up the next lock & moored at Clonony. It was quite an overgrown bank & mum still isn’t good at managing singlehanded to get off & tie up when we need planks. And of course it all has to be done so we can get off! So about an hour later we were sorted & of we trotted to sniff around.

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Our nearest village is now Belmont. We passed through but didn’t moor here on the way down – it’s the one with the double lock that they use with the middle gate open here. On Monday mum cycled up to the little shop on Falcon to check out what it had for reference. She then cycled back along the towpath but it was quite muddy & Falcon’s back wheel kept skidding so mum has deemed roads a safer option even if they are further.

It’s a nice remote spot here barely anyone walks past & we’re allowed off lead on walkies so that’s a bonus.

On Tuesday mum decided to go on another big Falcon expedition to the monastic site of Clonmacnoise. She could go in a big loop via Belmont on the way there & Shannonbridge on the way back. The map below shows all the places we’ve visited over the past week or two; Shannon Harbour, Shannonbridge, Athlone, Clonony, Belmont & Clonmacnoise.

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Clonmacnoise was a spectacular monastery on the banks of the River Shannon. There are moorings right next to the site so again we hope to moor there in the future.

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This sixth century monastic site, located on the banks of the River Shannon is home to three high crosses, a cathedral, seven churches and two round towers. This great monastery was founded in 548- 9 by St. Ciarán Mac a tSaor (“son of the carpenter”), who studied under St. Finian at the famous Clonard Abbey. The strategic location of the monastery at a crossroads between the major east-west land route through the bogs of central Ireland and the River Shannon helped it become a major centre of religion, learning, craftsmanship and trade by the 9th century. Alongside the ruined churches and round towers are three ancient high crosses; two are complete high crosses plus the shaft of another.  But you don’t have to be a history buff to simply enjoy the peace and tranquillity of Clonmacnoise, nestling as it has done for centuries past, on the banks of the majestic Shannon. No visit to Offaly would be complete without a visit to this most special of destinations – even Pope John Paul II stopped by when he visited Ireland back in 1979.

Mum took loads of photos but we’ve made her select just a few for our blog.

After exploring mum popped into the shop & bought a coffee & shamrock shortbread biscuits none of which made it back home! But worse than that she made a disastrous purchase – we may need rescuing & transporting back to the Uk! Us doggies have sensitive ears so this couldn’t be worse – she says it’ll give her something to do on winter evenings. We can think of better pastimes!! Luckily so far it hasn’t made it out of the packet thank God.

On the way home mum cycled via Shannonbridge & back along the main road past Clonony Castle. The castle is only open by appointment but mum saw the gates were open so he popped her head round. Oscar the schnauzer soon came bounding & barking at her with his owner in hot pursuit.

The history of this castle is equally as interesting as the building itself.  It was built by the MacCoughlan clan the early 16th century and was the first place in Ireland to practice musketry but was then ceded to Henry VIII in early 17th century.  The castle passed into the hands of the Boleyn family.  It was given as a gift to Thomas Boleyn by Henry as he wanted to marry Anne Boleyn.  In fact, cousins of Anne are buried in the grounds underneath a hawthorn three.  The writing on the stone has eroded away but may still be recovered with a rubbing.  Luckily this castle escaped the campaign of Cromwell and is in relatively good condition. The castle did become ruined but the excellent renovation work of the present owner is slowly restoring this castle to its former glory.

Well after a couple of days adventuring & with a storm on the way we’re hibernating & snoozing (while mum is working earning the pennies) for the next few days.