Take a Family Break on the River Shannon – The Perfect Family Friendly Getaway in Ireland

Make your next family holiday one you’ll never forget with a River Shannon cruise.

A relaxed approach to life and friendly locals makes Ireland the perfect place for family holidays with kids of all ages. And a self-drive cruising getaway on the River Shannon or Lough Erne takes family fun to a new level, but don’t worry, there’s plenty of relaxation time too. With spacious accommodation, hundreds of activities to try, and a wide choice of restaurants and pubs, everyone will enjoy themselves.

Family Breaks in Ireland

A Shannon River cruise is perfect for those who want a family break on the water but do not have a boat licence or sailing experience. Here at Carrickcraft, our cruisers are easy to handle, even if you’ve never driven a boat before. We have boats for all family sizes from two to 12 people and we’ll show you everything you need to know from choosing the perfect boat to navigating the waterways so you can get out on the water with confidence and a sense of adventure.

We’ll also help you design your family getaway with activities for children of all ages built into the itinerary so that you have a truly exclusive and bespoke cruise your family will be talking about for years to come.

Top 5 Reasons why children of all ages love a river cruise getaway in Ireland

Kilclare, Shannon Erne Waterway

1 - It’s a bit like camping, on water!

Children of all ages get excited about camping out under the stars and exploring the elements, but a family break on the River Shannon and Lough Erne takes that to a whole other level. In fact, it is more like a glamping family holiday in Ireland, just on water! Of course, our boats are much more comfortable than tents and as there are toilets and showers on-board you don’t have to trek off into the bushes when nature calls. It’s the ideal kids’ getaway, and great fun for adults too.

2 - It’s all very exciting

There are plenty of new and exciting things to do on a River Shannon family cruise. There’s a wonderful feeling of camaraderie on-board as there is a lot of teamwork involved. The whole family can participate in setting off and mooring up. Is everyone on-board? Are the ropes coiled up neatly? Is the equipment stowed away? There is a role for everyone – Captain, Navigator, Cook, 1st Mate, Watch Leader – which one are you? It’s this variety that makes a River Shannon cruise one of the best kids’ holidays in Ireland.

3 - There are lots of locks

Going through a lock on a boat is fascinating, as well as very exciting. There are plenty of locks along the River Shannon some with lock-keepers who will take your lines and show you the ropes (pun intended) and some which are electric/hydraulic and very easy and fun to operate. Don’t worry, we’ll show you how to work the locks before you set off.

4 - There’s no time to be bored

On family cruise holidays you spend a lot of time outside in the fresh air and there are plenty of things to do on-board, on the water and on dry land.

Our boats have sunbathing decks, saloons and sleeping areas so there are plenty of options for rest and relaxation on-board as well as spaces for playing games, fishing and cooking.

On the water, you can go swimming, angling, canoeing, kayaking, water skiing, snorkelling, wakeboarding, and every other water sport that you can think of.

When you moor up, you can explore the pretty towns and villages, go for a cycle or a hike or just do what you would usually do when on holiday – go to a museum, historic site, cultural event – the list is endless as there is just so much to do on a family break in Ireland.

5 - Furry family members come too

No family break is complete without your furry family members. Tell Rover and Rex to pack their cases as they are coming on-board. Dogs are allowed on some of our boats and they will love being on the water, exploring new areas and sniffing out the best places to roll in the mud.

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why children of all ages love family breaks on the River Shannon and Lough Erne.

Is a river cruise a good budget family holiday idea?

As for the adults, well, a family break in Ireland can be as relaxing or active as you like and can be tailored to your budget. Family getaways in Ireland needn’t break the bank.

With plenty of free activities to do during your cruise, you don’t have to worry about expensive admission prices and added extras.

A River Shannon cruising holiday can be self-catering, stopping off in towns along the way to go to the shops and markets to pick up supplies, or you can mix it up with meals on-board and some meals in restaurants, cafes, pubs, etc.

Top tip: it is usually cheaper to eat lunch in a restaurant than dinner, so, to save money, cook your evening meal on-board and have lunch or brunch on dry land. Don’t forget about picnics, which can also cut costs.

Of course, you can take a break from cooking and eat out all the time. There is a huge variety of places on route to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, with prices to suit all budgets.

Educational family breaks in Ireland

Also, don’t tell the kids, but a family cruising holiday is very educational and a great way to bond and create lasting memories that you will all treasure forever.

Children can revel in vibrant culture, religious sites, spooky castles, historic landmarks and other places of interest. A river cruise is a good way for youngsters to learn about the history of towns and cities in Ireland.


Learning how to operate locks as well as helping with navigation and the workings of the cruiser are all part of the experience of a Shannon river holiday.

Furthermore, the River Shannon supports an immense diversity of flora and fauna. Children can learn all about the different habitats for wildlife and plants as well as learning how to identify the many types of fish, birds, invertebrates and plants that they’ll encounter.

Keep children entertained for hours by printing pictures or making lists of River Shannon wildlife and get your children to match them and tick them off as they come across them. Who will spot them all? See, fun and educational! What did we tell you?

Family-friendly getaways in Ireland

So, have we convinced you that a cruise on the River Shannon and Lough Erne is one of the great family-friendly getaways in Ireland?


So, let us help you plan your family break away in Ireland.

Carrickcraft is the only cruiser company with marinas on both the Shannon and Erne and all our routes are family-friendly. It doesn’t matter which marina you start from or what route you choose, there are plenty of things to do for people of all ages along the way. Furthermore, as your cruising break doesn’t have to begin and end at the same marina, there is great flexibility and choice when planning your family cruise holiday.

Here are just a few of our top family break ideas in Ireland:

1. Our top family break ideas for families with young children

For families with young children, a great starting point is our marina in Carrick-on-Shannon, which is considered to be the centre of cruising in Ireland. From here, you can cruise the Upper Shannon which is one of the more lively sections of the River Shannon and perfect for family holidays with young children. Whilst there you can stock up on supplies for your boat and keep the younger children entertained at the soft play area at Mulvey’s Kidz Kingdom and the older kids can play 10-pin bowling, bumper cars and sumo wrestling.

Cruising further north you’ll reach the beautiful area of Lough Key. Not only is this one of the prettiest areas of the Shannon but it is also one of the best for activities for people of all ages. At Lough Key, you’ll find a forest and activity park with a whole host of things to do including zip-lining. There is also a marina so you can moor up here and enjoy plenty of time exploring and keeping everyone entertained.

2. Our top family break ideas for families with older children

If your children are between the ages of 6 and 12 we know how hard it can be to keep them entertained whilst not running yourself ragged doing so. Thankfully, a River Shannon cruise has loads on offer for families with older children.

A great starting point is our Banagher marina. Banagher marina is right beside the town so you can just moor up and walk right into the heart of the action. Banagher is a popular spot with boaters so there will be plenty of opportunities for children to make friends and play with other children on cruising holidays.

The whole family will love a trip to Birr Castle which is home to what once was the world’s largest telescope and there is a science centre, a treehouse adventure area as well as beautiful gardens for a lovely relaxing stroll. You can even go horse riding nearby.

Cruising north, you can stop off in Athlone, a lively town with plenty to see and do. Athlone is great for families with older children and we particularly like Glendeer Pet Farm – after meeting the animals, tire the kids out along the nature walk – and we also think Jump for Joy, an indoor play area, is good fun especially if the weather isn’t great.

Baysports is the place to head for a wet and wild time as it is an adventure playground on the water! There is a collection of inflatable slides and play areas and it is also home to the highest inflatable slide in the world! Older kids will love it here, and so will the adults.

Continuing north, you’ll come to Carrick-on-Shannon and eventually Lough Key, which, as mentioned above, are both excellent spots for families with children of all ages and if you wanted to continue on to Lough Erne, Share Discovery Village has a whole array of water activities as well as an inflatable waterpark which will keep children of all ages entertained for hours on end. There’s also plenty of on-land activities as well as arts and crafts classes. There’s even a pool, gym, sauna and steam room where you can relax and unwind or you can just enjoy the stunning scenery of this beautiful part of the country.

3. Our top family break ideas for families with teenagers in Ireland

Athlone Radisson

Organising a family holiday with teenagers can be tricky when you’re trying to please everyone – we know, we have teenage children ourselves – but rest assured, teenagers won’t be stuck for things to do on a family-friendly River Shannon getaway. In fact, we think a break on the River Shannon is one of the best activity holidays for teenager families.

Here are just a few of our favourite things to do with teenagers on a river cruise in Ireland.

Athlone Radisson

1. Entertainment & Events

Ireland is great for teenagers as it’s a lively, young place with loads going on throughout the year. There are plenty of attractions, festivals and sporting events along the River Shannon and Lough Erne to keep everyone happy.

Many of the places mentioned above also cater to teenagers with sports and activities more suited to their interests and abilities.

2. Go Karting & Other Outdoor Activities

Cruising south from our Banagher marina, teenagers can race go-karts and take aim at paintballing in Portumna or try wakeboarding and waterskiing in Terryglass.

3. History & Heritage

We think that the cultural and historical experiences offered on a river cruise in Ireland will really pique the interests of teenagers.

Starting in our Banagher marina and heading north, history comes alive at Clonmacnoise, which was once a renowned centre of religion and learning. The site is now a preserved ruin but there is still loads to see including seven churches, three high crosses, two round towers and a cathedral.

All along the River Shannon and Lough Erne, there are fascinating places of history and heritage including castles, Martello towers, battlefields, ruins, haunted houses, heritage centres and fortifications. Most of these are within easy reach of the marinas or just a short taxi or bus ride away.

4. Let Loose in Leitrim

Another great stop off for families with teenagers is the lovely town of Leitrim. Here teenagers can go shopping, go to the cinema, or try indoor shooting and archery.

5. Lough Allen Adventure Centre

Another excellent place is Lough Allen Adventure Centre which has water sports and activities more geared towards teenagers and adults. This is also the perfect place for those looking for a glamping family holiday in Ireland.

As you can see, there are plenty of family break ideas for all types of families when you choose a River Shannon or Lough Erne cruising getaway.

Family adventure holidays in Ireland

A River Shannon and Lough Erne cruise is also one of the top family adventure holidays in Ireland.

Not only is living on a boat, navigating the waters and operating the locks an adventure in itself, but there are also loads of adventure experiences to be had on the waterways of Ireland.

Take your pick from kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, windsurfing, wakeboarding, water skiing, coasteering and a whole host of other fun and adrenaline-inducing watersports.

When you moor up, each village, town and city offers its own slice of adventure. You can go hiking, cycling and electric biking. Try archery, orienteering and wall or rock climbing. You can even have a go on the world’s largest inflatable floating slide if you are brave enough.


There are many adventure centres dotted along the waterways too. Here you can partake in loads of activities geared towards different age groups and you can even camp out in the woods.

As you can see, there is no end to the type of adventures you can have on-board, on water and on land as you cruise the Irish waterways. If you are looking for more family adventure holiday ideas in Ireland take a look at all the suggestions on our blog.

We hope you can see that a River Shannon cruise or Lough Erne cruising holiday really is an unforgettable family getaway in Ireland and we would be thrilled to help you plan yours. Go on, get in contact and start designing your perfect Irish waterway getaway.