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Cruising The Shannon-Erne Waterway

T​​he Shannon-Erne Waterway was known as the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Canal and opened in 1860. Re-opened in 1994 after restoration, it is 63km of river, lake and still-water canal starting in Leitrim Village and ending in Belturbet. It takes approximately 13 hours to travel and is known as the location where Ireland's 'little people' originate! If you like locks then the Shannon-Erne waterway is for you - there are 16 automated locks along the waterway and take about 13 hours to navigate. The waterway is mostly tranquil as it meanders along, with some nice towns and villages to visit along the way.

From Belturbet you can cruise north along the Erne river to Lough Erne. Upper Lough Erne (which strangely is to the south of Lower Lough Erne) features the county town of Enniskillen, a busy town with pretty much everything you need - there's mooring right beside the Erneside Shopping Centre. Lower Lough Erne is also known as 'The Broad Lough' and can get choppy in high winds.

Lough Erne is as picturesque as Lough Derg with a good mix of history and activities. There are some very interesting islands including Boa Island, home of the famous stone carved Janus figures, the 12th century church at White Island and the restored monastery at Devinish Island. There are activities at Castle Archdale, the Lusty Beg Island resort and Safari Action near Enniskillen, and you can visit the home of Belleek pottery in Belleek.

Shannon and Erne Cruising Guide Map

See the full interactive map


Castle Archdale has a busy activity centre with lots of river and land based activies for all ages. Lusty Beg Island Resort and Safari Action at Enniskillen offers a range of activities - off-road driving, archery, clay pigeon shooting, shooting and canoeing as well as a nature trail and fairy trail. There's the Belleek Pottery visitors centre at Belleek, home of the world famous pottery. For a bit of pampering there are spas at Lusty Beg and at Manor House just north of Enniskillen. There are golf courses at Enniskillen, Lusty Beg and Castle Hume.

Activities on Lough Erne and the Shannon-Erne waterway


Lough Erne has a wealth of history in the islands dotted around the lake. The most famous is Boa Island, home of the famous stone carved Janus figures at Caldragh, believed to be pre-Christian. Devinish Island is home to a semi-restored monastic site founded in the 6th century by Saint Mola. White Island has the semi-restored ruins of a 12th century church. There's Enniskillen Castle in Ennsikillen and further afield are the Marble Arch Caves, Florenc Court, Castle Archdale and Crom Castle.

Holy Island on Lough Derg


The Coarse angler will find some of the finest fishing available in Europe, with bream, roach and hybrids in abundance as well as perch and tench. Add to this pike fishing that is second to none - whether seeking to catch them on fly or in a more traditional manner and the region offers all anglers wonderful opportunities. There good information on the Fishing in Ireland website.

Fishing on the Shannon River

There's no wrong choice when choosing a route on the Shannon, Ireland is a small country and the landscape is pretty much the same all through the midlands with hills at the northern Lough Erne and southern Lough Derg.

The Shannon-Erne waterway is a lovely, tranquil waterway with 5 small towns along it's length, each with pubs and restaurants. Lough Erne is very picturesque and has a good mix of activities and historical sites in the islands and harbours around the lake. Enniskillen is a large market town with restaurants aplenty and good places to visit.

The islands of Lough Erne are a particular attraction, each with it's own piece of history - Boa Island, Devenish Island and White Island are the most famous.

There are three cruiser companies offering boats for hire from Carrick-on-Shannon just south of the Shannon-Erne waterway, and three locations on Lough Erne to hire boats. The Shannon-Erne waterway is mostly canal but also includes rivers and small lakes along it's length, some of which offer great fishing. The locks on the Shannon-Erne waterway are automated locks and you'll need a lock card to pass through - these are available when you collect your boat.

Navigation on the Shannon-Erne waterway is by means of green and red markers that outline the cruising channels, they're painted white on the side that you need to be on. Once you cross the border all of the markers are red, but still have the white side to show you which channel to take. The markers are accurately marked on the navigation maps that will be on board your boat when you take over and full tuition is provided.

There's free mooring at the towns along the Shannon-Erne waterway and at most places on Lough Erne. You can also moor at most of the islands on the lake to visit historical sites - for some you'll need to take a dinghy.

Due to the rural location of the boat hire marinas on the river they can be hard to reach with the exception of Carrick-on-Shannon which is served by both bus and train from Dublin. All of the cruiser companies offer a shared transfer service from Dublin airport to Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturdays but there's no shared transfer from Shannon airport or Knock airport. The cruiser companies on Lough Erne offer a transfer from Belfast airport. Some cruiser companies offer transfers on weekdays and prices vary depending on the company and the day of the week. Sometimes it's good value and less hassle to hire a car, particularly for short breaks. For public transport you can take a bus from Dublin to Enniskillen and make your way to the marina from there.

Theres's more detailed information on how to get to your boat on our web page - aptly titled Getting to your Boat.

Shannon River are have been boat hire agents for the Shannon River in Ireland since 2002. We're passionate about boat hire holidays on the Shannon and our mission is to share the Shannon experience with as many people as we can. It's the same price to book through us as it is to book directly with the cruiser companies and we offer impartial advice on the best boat for your cruising holiday.

A Shannon cruise is all about relaxation. The boats go very slowly, you'll be overtaken by cyclists (and some joggers if they're fast enough) and you don't have much choice but to relax and watch the beautiful scenery go by. But it's not all about cruising, a Shannon cruise offers many great restaurants and, of course, an abundance of pubs to have a nice creamy Guinness.

To help you plan your cruise we have an interactive map, Approximate cruising times and a Travel Guide. There are also some suggested cruises to help you on your way. Our motto is make a plan - if you stick to it, that's good. If you don't stick to it, that's good too.

Find Your Boat

Shannon-Erne Navigation Map

Lough Erne Navigation Map