Carrick-on-Shannon: Its History and Present

A popular tourist destination in summer and a picturesque town all year round, Carrick-on-Shannon is a stunning spot straight from the pages of a magazine. Its original Irish name is Cora Droma Rúisc, which when translated means “stony ford of the ridge in the marsh”. It is aptly named as there are more than forty lakes within its ten-kilometre radius. This has earned it the rightful title of the boating capital in Europe.

The town, the largest in County Leitrim, is situated northwest of the Republic of Ireland. It is located at the crossing point of the River Shannon, the country’s longest river. It is a busy cruising centre with a pretty marina, all thanks to its proximity to long waterways, rivers, and lakes.


A Marriage of Past and Present

Walking tours and the sight of old structures will take you back to the rich history of Carrick-on-Shannon. Any old soul will gush over how history is preserved in this town.

Near the town was where the Battle of Áth-an-Chip took place in the 11th century. This monumental fight between the Irish and English army led to a decisive victory of the former. In 1607, King James VI granted a royal charter, making it a borough with its own seal. Its famous Hatley Manor was also the ancient fortress of the O’Rourkes of Breffni, the lords of medieval Ireland.

The town has a dark history, too. A famine, called The Great Hunger, struck Ireland in the mid-1800s. The Workhouse was built to accommodate 800 people with no homes nor money for food. Due to overcrowding and inadequate food, many died. Hundreds were lost to typhus and dysentery because of poor hygiene and starvation.

The Workhouse continued to operate until the 1930s and today, in its ground stands St. Patrick’s Community Hospital. Behind it is the Workhouse Attic, which was restored to its original state. It serves as a memorial of a sad period in history. The Famine Graveyard, where hundreds of famine victims were buried in unmarked grave, is now a lovely garden.

The town had been a booming trade depot until the Grand Canal Company was closed down in 1960. It suffered from the move. Its people have since focused on tourism, and it has been a thriving business. Today, it sees tourists flock the fisherman’s haven and cruising port every year.

Old buildings were given a fresh look and turned into cultural and art centres, restaurants, and offices. The Dock is a successful example of a restored 19th-century structure. It was formerly a courthouse building and is now home to Leitrim’s first integrated centre for the arts. Now, family-run businesses, delis, and stylish hotels line the streets.

Nevertheless, lasting evidence of historic architecture is still present. St. George’s Terrace and a town clock dating from 1839 are still alive up to this day.

Beauty All Around

The humble town is surrounded by Ireland’s peaceful sceneries, making it a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Head north and you’ll see Lough Key and Lough Allen. Along the way, the charming villages of Cootehall, Drumshanbo, Knockvicar and Leitrim Village will greet you. You can explore them by taking on a trip along Shannon Blueway. Jump into kayaks, take the adventurous path with paddle boards, or ride the bike with your family.

Go south and Jamestown will welcome you with open arms. It is a remote town with thick stone walls and ruins. Carrick-on-Shannon is close to the enchanting North Leitrim Glens. It is formed by 7 scenic valleys, each a marvellous walking spot lined with amazing landscapes.

View of carrick on shannon

Why You Should Visit Carrick-on-Shannon

Carrick-on-Shannon has been dubbed one of the best riverside towns in Ireland – with good reason. You shouldn’t miss the chance to visit whether that’s alone, with your family, or with friends. Here’s why.

1. A place to appreciate history and nature

The town is a product of its grand history. Monuments and imposing structures are a reminder of the events that have led to the flourishing town it is now.

One of the attractions to visit is the Costello Chapel. Renowned as the smallest chapel in Europe and second in the world, it is a commissioned work by local merchant Edward Costello in 1877. He dedicated it to his dead wife Mary as a beautiful testament to his enduring love. Both of their bodies lie there today on visible coffins under a stained glass window.

While historical architectures delight your senses, lush sceneries stretching around the town make it a go-to destination. There are walking and biking trails around town. It is a great way to explore the town and its nearby villages. Cruises will also help you traverse the river and see even more exquisite places.

2. A paradise for watersport enthusiasts

The place claims miles of the River Shannon. That makes the town a top spot for watersports such as canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and sailing. Different companies offer facilities that are safe and fun to use for the adventurous-at-heart. Anglers will also enjoy the wide riverbanks. Fishing trips are available and various competitions are held yearly.

3. Perfect for family vacations

Spending the summers in a quaint town is the best way to take a break and spend time with your loved ones. Activities such as golfing, biking, and country strolls will definitely make for a family trip you will never forget.

Have a good night sleep in luxurious waterfront accommodation. Take a nice boat ride along the river in the morning. Families with kids can spend an adventure-filled day at Lough Key Forest Park. It’s just a small distance away from town.

4. Fantastic destination for friends

The town is an entertainment hub with its live music, nightclubs, and restaurants. Pub crawls or hopping from one bar to another is something friends can do for an exciting night out. Its bistro bars will turn an otherwise boring night in a small town into a fun one. It comes as no surprise that it’s a favourite spot for hen and stag parties.

5. A food lover’s paradise

Carrick-on-Shannon is fast becoming the No,1 destination in the country for food lovers. A firm favourite in the town, The Oarsman Bar & Restaurant has recently been announced as the overall national winner in the Best Gastropub category at the National Hospitality Awards and if that wasn’t an achievement in itself, they have also retained their spot in The Michelin Guide for 2018, one of 30 pubs in Ireland to be listed!