Wilderness Express: Ireland’s Rivers

The Emerald Isle is not only known for its old monuments and castles, but also for its beautiful nature. Ireland’s rivers are a stunning example for this.

Ireland is a land of many lakes, rivers and mountains shrouded in mythology. Which is not surprising, considering how stunning and ethereal the country’s nature can look in the right light. Ireland’s rivers in particular hold a special beauty, meandering through green valleys and fanning out into the sea.

River Shannon

River Shannon, Limerick
River Shannon, Limerick

Ireland’s longest river is the Shannon, or Abhainn na Sionainne. It originates from the Shannon Pot on the slopes of Cuilcagh Mountain in County Cavan and meanders south-west for 360.5 kilometres. On its way through Ireland, it crosses 11 counties and forms a number of lakes en-route, the biggest are Lough Allen, Lough Ree and Lough Derg, before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. The river forms a natural barrier between the east and west of the country and was of major strategic importance throughout history. Castles and monasteries were built close to the river to have a strategic vantage point, like the famous monastery of Clonmacnoise. Of course, it is not only of historic importance but a popular tourist destination. In the warmer months you will see many people fishing, boating or doing water sports along the river, not to mention enjoying the beautiful scenery. There are a number of beautiful towns to be found along the river as well, like Carrick-on-Shannon, Shannon Town or Limerick. 

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River Liffey

River Liffey
River Liffey and Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin

The River Liffey is not necessarily one of the longer rivers in Ireland but certainly one of the most famous ones, since it is the biggest river flowing through Dublin, Ireland’s capital. It starts its journey in the Wicklow Mountains National Park, bubbling up through a soft mountain bog. Then, it meanders west, then north-east through Counties Wicklow and Kildare to end up in Dublin, where it opens to the Irish Sea. The Liffey is fed by a number of tributaries along the way, with some of these tributary rivers having tributaries of their own, creating a whole system of interconnected rivers. It is also connected to the River Shannon by two canals, the Grand Canal and Royal Canal, making traffic between those two rivers possible.

The Three Sisters (River Barrow, Suir and Nore)

River Barrow, Athy
River Barrow, close to Athy

The Three Sisters are three rivers in Ireland, the Barrow, Suir and Nore, that join together before draining out into the sea at Waterford Harbour. The point where the three rivers meet is called Cumar na dTrí Uisce in Irish, the ‘confluence of the three waters’. While the rivers Suir and Nore originate from the same mountainous area near the Devil’s Bit in County Tipperary, the River Barrow rises in County Laois in the Slieve Bloom Mountains. In ancient times, the rivers Barrow and Suir formed the national border of the Irish medieval kingdom of Ossory. The River Barrow is the second longest river in Ireland, next to the River Shannon, with 192 kilometres. Towns and cities along the three rivers include Waterford, Carlow, Athy, Kilkenny and Clonmel.

River Bann

River Bann
River Bann

With 159 kilometres, the River Bann is the longest river in Northern Ireland. It originates in the Mourne Mountains in County Down and flows into Lough Neagh, from which the Lower Bann then flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The river is often used as a dividing line between the eastern and western parts of Northern Ireland, with the industrial east and agricultural west. It has also played a big role in the industrialisation of the north of Ireland and was used to transport goods, especially linen. Nowadays, it is more popular with water sports enthusiasts, anglers and cruisers and only has minimal commercial traffic.

River Boyne

River Boyne, Trim
River Boyne and Trim

The River Boyne has both historical and archaeological, as well as mythical connotations, which makes it famous despite its comparably short course. Everyone who has read a bit into British or Irish history has heard about the Battle of the Boyne. It was a major battle that took place along the Boyne near Drogheda in 1690. The Hill of Tara (seat of ancient High King of Ireland), Navan, Brú na Bóinne (a complex of megalithic monuments), Mellifont Abbey and the ancient towns of Drogheda and Trim are all situated along the Boyne. There are also a great number of old monasteries and castles that can be found in the Boyne Valley.

Did you like our journey through Ireland’s rivers? Do you know any other rivers in Ireland that you will certainly never forget? Let us know in the comments below!

Jacqueline Russe
Jacqueline Russe

Jacqueline is a German journalist and editor for Babylon Radio who likes comics, manga and video games. She is a state-certified translator for both English and German, currently working on her Bachelor's in Technical Translation.

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