River Shannon Facts and FAQs: Everything You Need to Know


The mighty River Shannon is not only a very important and historic river in Ireland, but it is also a very popular tourist destination. People come from all over to enjoy fishing, boating holidays, water sports and of course, the breathtaking scenery, not to mention the warm Irish welcome that awaits in its many towns and cities.

To help you get to know Ireland’s River Shannon a bit better, we’ve put together this list of interesting River Shannon facts and answers to the most frequently asked questions. Always wanted to know how long is the River Shannon or exactly where River Shannon starts and ends? Read on to find out about Shannon Cruises.

Where is the River Shannon?


The River Shannon is in Ireland and begins in County Cavan flowing down through the middle of the country, almost separating the west from the east. If you look at our River Shannon map, you’ll see the river creates a border between the western province of Connacht and the southern and eastern provinces of Munster and Leinster.


How did the River Shannon get its name?

The River Shannon means ‘wise river’. It is named after Sionnan, the granddaughter of Manannán Mac Lir (Son of the Sea), a sea deity in Celtic mythology. Sionnan means “possessor of wisdom” and the Irish name for the River Shannon is Abhainn na Sionainne. Sionainn is a combination of the words ‘sion’ (wise) and ‘abhainn’ (river).

Who was Sionnan ?

Sionnan is the Goddess of the River Shannon. Legend has it that Sionnan went to Connla’s Well – the Well of Wisdom in the Celtic Otherworld (the realm of the dead). As Sionnan lifted the cover off the well, it erupted and the water flowed down the mountain dividing the country in two. Her body was washed down the mountain and she transformed into the goddess of the River Shannon.

How long is the River Shannon?

The River Shannon is 360km (224 miles) long, making it the longest river in Ireland. In fact, it is the longest river in all of Britain and Ireland. However, it can’t compare to the longest river in Europe, the Volga, which is 3,530km long.

Where is the source of the River Shannon?


The source of the River Shannon is the Shannon Pot in the Cuilcagh Mountains in County Cavan.


Where does the River Shannon end?


The mouth of the Shannon River is in the Shannon Estuary in County Limerick. This is where the River Shannon ends and flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

How many counties does the River Shannon flow through?


The River Shannon touches 11 different counties as it flows from the Shannon Pot to the Shannon Estuary: Cavan, Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon, Westmeath, Offaly, Tipperary, Galway, Clare, Limerick, Kerry.


Does the Grand Canal link Dublin to the River Shannon?


The Grand Canal in Dublin begins at Grand Canal Dock at the River Liffey and flows 131km through the south and west of Dublin before meandering into County Kildare and crossing into County Offaly where it links to the River Shannon at Shannon Harbour. So, the Grand Canal links the River Shannon with the Irish Sea.

The idea for a canal linking the capital city with the longest river Ireland was proposed in the early 1700s but the Grand Canal didn’t officially link to the River Shannon until 1804.

Is the River Shannon connected to Lough Erne?


The River Shannon is also linked to Lough Erne in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. Navigation between the North and South of Ireland is now possible via the Shannon-Erne Waterway.

This 63km stretch of waterway runs between Leitrim Village (a town on the River Shannon) to the north of Belturbet, 36km from Enniskillen. It takes approximately 13 hours to travel the Shannon-Erne Waterway, but, of course, you can take as long as you like. It would be a shame to rush through this beautiful part of the country.


What lakes are on the River Shannon?


There are three main lakes on the River Shannon. The uppermost lake is Lough Allen in County Leitrim, although some of the lake is located in County Roscommon. Lough Allen is the smallest of the three main lakes on the River Shannon.

The next biggest lake on the River Shannon is Lough Ree, which separates counties Longford and Westmeath in the east from County Roscommon in the west. The most southerly, and also the largest lake on the River Shannon is Lough Derg. The shores of Lough Derg touch counties Clare, Galway and Tipperary. There are other smaller lakes on the Shannon dotted along its course including Lough Bofin, Lough Boderg and Lough Forbes.

How many tributaries does the River Shannon have?


From the Shannon pot, the source of the mighty Shannon River, many tributaries join the Shannon on its way down south to the Shannon Estuary. Its main tributaries are the rivers Inny, Suck, Brosna, Fergus and Maigue. Many other smaller tributaries join the Shannon along its journey and these, plus the lakes and the river itself make up the Shannon River Basin, the largest basin in Ireland.


How deep is the River Shannon?


Some parts of the River Shannon are actually quite shallow with a depth of about 0.5 metres in places. It falls just 18 metres (59 feet) in the first 250km (160 miles) of its course. It rises only 76 metres (249 feet) above sea level at its highest point meaning that it isn’t very deep at all and as a result, the river moves quite slowly.

Is the River Shannon clean?

Due to the River Shannon’s shallow depth, the river hasn’t seen any industrial shipping. This coupled with the fact that it flows through some sparsely populated areas means the river is, in many parts, rather clean and unpolluted.

What animals live in and around the River Shannon?

The River Shannon creates a variety of different habitats for wildlife and plants. As a result, many different animals live in and around the river. In the Shannon Estuary, you’ll see bottlenose dolphins and all along the river, you’ll be able to spot Kingfishers, Whooper Swans, Black-tailed Godwits, Mute Swans, wigeons, and Golden Plovers.

What fish are in the River Shannon?


The River Shannon is home to plenty of fish too and there is an abundance of fishing hotspots and coarse angling areas. In the River Shannon, you’ll find brown Pike, Bream, Perch, Roach, Rudd and Tench.

How to get from Lough Erne to the River Shannon

One of the best ways to get from Lough Erne to River Shannon is to rent a boat and take to the Shannon-Erne Waterway and see all that the area has to offer.

Beyond that, there are over 480km (300 miles) of interconnecting rivers and lakes to explore, stretching from Belleek at the northern tip of Lough Erne to Killaloe at the Southern end of the river Shannon.

Carrickcraft is the only Cruiser company with Marinas on both the Shannon and Erne. We have marinas in Carrick-On-Shannon, Banagher and Bellanaleck. Looking for inspiration? Have a look at our routes and then let our experts help you plan your rent a boat adventure.

River Shannon Pier, “Ferry ride across the River Shannon” by Sandra Hinrich is licensed under CC BY 2.0
River Shannon Wildlife, “Swan on the River Shannon Ireland” by Matt Laming is licensed under CC BY 2.0
River Shannon Ariel shot, “River Shannon at Killaloe” by Colin Simpson is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Mannan Mac Lir Statue, “Mannan Mac Lir” by Michael Kight is licensed under CC BY 2.0
River Shannon moving through Co. Limerick, “The Shannon River” by William Murphy is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The Shannon Pot, “Shannon Pot” by Colin Boyle is licensed under CC BY 2.0
River Shannon Midlands, “boom” by John_A68 is licensed under CC BY 2.0
River Shannon Dublin, “Cruise the river shannon dublin” by Martin & Linda Meehan is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Fishing, “Fishing on the Shannon” by Peter Moore is licensed under CC BY 2.0