The Hawthorn Blog
Liveaboard life and general wanderings on the Irish Inland Waterways.
Rising early, we were able to briefly enjoy the peace of Barley Harbour before it was broken by a hire boat starting its engine, leaving it running for half an hour before slipping out and heading south down the lough. It was soon followed by the other boat on the moorings: a large cruiser full of elderly English. We had watched the four occupants clamber into a tiny tender and head out into the choppy lake the day before. No lifejackets were worn and, concerned for their safety in the overladen little boat, we kept an eye on it until it disappeared round the headland, returning some hours later none the worse for wear. Braver souls than us obviously. A final cup of tea in this idyllic spot used the last of our milk, so we too left: we would stop at Lanesborough at the head of the lough for fresh supplies. Just before we got there we passed a Plane tree that was full of cormorant nests and appeared to be suffering for it.
Having stopped at Lanesborough, we were returning to the boat when we passed a Tourist Information Office. Good walks have been hard to find and we assumed that this would be the perfect place to garner a bit of knowledge. How wrong I was. My question was met with surprised looks and, after a bit of a conference, I was given a photocopied pamphlet of the town (without a walk in it ) and the following advice: ‘If you go over the river, you will see Pat’s bungalow with a garage beside it. Go past the garage, and you will come out on the rec. You can walk round the football pitch’. This was the second TI Office that I had asked about walks in and a pattern was developing. Ah well, you can’t have everything. Disappointed we returned to the boat and headed upstream.
We had intended to stop for a while at Richmond Harbour, the Shannon end of the Royal Canal that, once restoration was complete later in the year, would offer us an alternative route to Dublin. We could not even get into the first basin though: it had been cleared of all boats (many of which had been there for years without moving) and the entrance sealed. There was an alternative route back to the Shannon on the Camlin River which appealed as it looked smaller and probably quieter and we hoped to find a suitable mooring for the night somewhere along it. We did but it took three attempts: the first had grass so long and wild that we couldn’t walk the dog; the second was perfect, until we realised that there were sheep in the field; finally we got in against a meadow with evidence of livestock but no animals present. Wild mooring is something that we often do in England where we have never been chased off by an angry landlord. Our fortune held in Ireland and the rest of the day was spent reading and drawing while just three boats passed us. The following morning we spotted an even more remote spot just before the river’s confluence with the Shannon which might prove handy in the future. For us, virtually any field is more attractive than an overnight stay in a busy town or noisy village. The following night was spent above Rooksey Lock after a relatively short run up the Shannon.
Our intended mooring for the night was at Grange Lough which, along with its neighbour Kilgass, is accessed through a series of interlinked lakes and channels off the main Shannon navigation. Initially, the route was narrow, twisting and shallow but after a mile or so we started to cross quite substantial bodies of water with shorter narrow sections between them. It was great fun but we doubted that we would have found our way had WI not erected channel markers. Even with these it was not difficult to convince ourselves that we were lost, only to glimpse a black or red marker across the reeds in the distance. The winding nature of the route gave us an understanding of why marshes have been such fine hiding places in the past. When we arrived at Grange Lough, the depth gauge shot up to 9 metres and the banks dropped right back to the meadowed slopes that surround it. Not a lot of hire boats make it to Grange and the two on the moorings were both hired by Irish holiday makers: the first, a dairy farmer and his family from the North, helped us moor and stood and chatted for an hour or so; the second gave Hobbes ham and a duck egg, and then left having given us several more. They were the largest duck eggs we have ever seen and made a fine supper with chips the following night.
The evening was quiet until about nine when a speedboat was launched in order to tow the assembling water skiers round the lake. The age of the skiers ranged from under ten to about sixty and they tore up and down the loughs until long after sunset - it was gone midnight before time was called. While not on the water they stood and chatted to us and we commented about the moorings at the bottom of the fields to the west of the lough. Most of these are rough cuttings at the bottom of meadows with just one exception that looked more suited to the Thames so pristine were its hedges and flower beds. It even had cast iron street lights and an asphalt drive. We were amused to hear the locals describe it as ‘The English Mooring’ (it is owned by an English couple) and to learn that they really cannot see the sense of such manicuring when you only had to look up at the view to see something infinitely more beautiful. We could only agree and were interested to hear that Kilglass Lough, on the other side of the hill to our south, was even prettier than Grange. We will save it for another day as we don’t want to do everything on this, our first run, up the river.