There was quite a contrast in our holiday afloat.
The SeaCat ferry had us swiftly flying over the waves to Ireland. The giant catamaran takes eighty cars and has room for four hundred and fifty passengers. There was plenty of room to walk around and the journey took only ninety minutes from Stranraer. We were very soon moving up into Belfast Loch.
Later that day I crossed the border, boarded a Shannon Erne Line hire cruiser, took off my wrist watch and felt time slow down as we began to cruise gently down the River Shannon to a world of sparkling water and green fields.
We moored up at Leitrim and being as we were in Leitrim County, I was expecting it to be a sizeable place. As it turned out the main bustle was from cows clattering home along the main street. I was a pleasant village, with a shop and three pubs. A poster advertised a fair whose attractions included step dancing and pig racing.
In the evening to the pub. The scent of the peat burning and the sound of music drew us across the bridge to Carthy’s Bar which pulsed with the sound of traditional music played on Irish pipes, and tabard. Later down the road at the Leitrim Inn we sipped the Guinness as a young lady sang of ‘Lovely Leitrim’ and lovely it was. It is at the entrance to the Shannon-Erne Canal. Restoration work is proceeding apace on the waterways in Ireland and one day you may be able to sail in from the sea north of Belfast and cruise down through Lough Ney, across the
Shannon-Erne Canal, into the Shannon and eventually exit again at the sea at Limerick.
The waterways tend to go through what was the most economically deprived areas of the country, so activity and vitality is being brought back into these parts by the holiday cruisers and it makes a good target for European Community funds
After entering the winding River Boyle we followed its meandering into Lough Rey which was peppered with Islands and moored at the well maintained piers at the Forest Park. From across the water, a black raven perched on the castle on Drunman’s Island, welcomed us with a raucous call. At this point we became aware that many of the other boats were being hired by Germans who were very keen on fishing. One thing is certain there is plenty of room for all and the international atmosphere can be fun. The Dutch couple that we teamed up with became great friends.
The next day it rained so we went ashore to stock up with food at Carrick on Shannon. As we explored a car slowed up in the high street and the traffic comes to a halt as the lady at the wheel shouted her order in to the butcher. Shopping was fun again, the butcher double wrapped our parcel and it tied up with string. He also told us a joke that can’t be printed and we left with a smile. At a shop next to the bridge which was bristling with fishing rods. There I was told that no fishing permit was needed, the constitution of Ireland declares that all fishing,(apart from the salmon and the trout,) is free.
The skies had cleared so we boarded our boat and cruised south. A grey heron regarding our approach with a beady eye took to the air with a couple of flaps of his great wings, soared across the bows of our boat before landing next to some cows that munched contentedly by the wet boggy banks.
The following morning we woke to find the mist that had been hanging on the water was being burned off by the morning sun. Amid the trees there was luxuriant growth everywhere.
After yesterdays rain, it almost seamed to be growing before our eyes.
At the Albert Lock a friendly keeper caught the lines and after relieving us of the toll (£1.25)
we agreed that “yesterday was a fierce bad day” and that the crews of the seventy boats that he had to see though the lock in the rain,. could have better spent their time in the village, sampling the Guinness and enjoying the warm fire in the pub. But that was yesterday, today it might be Autumn but the sun shone warm on our backs, it was glorious and a joy to be afloat.
As we steered our way down the River Shannon, it widened and narrowed as one Lough flowed into another. We followed the buoys that marked our route through Lough Boderg and Bofin and entered the little harbour of Dromod just as another hire cruiser was leaving.
Two girls were casting fishing lines from the bank and the lads on the boat called to them
“Are you doing any serious damage there” and as an after-thought made the offer
“Would you be wantin to come on board?” - but the girls seemed to be more interested in
fish than fellas so the lads they left without any additional crew!