How the river Shannon got its name

Ireland’s river shannon is the longest river in Ireland and in all of the British Isles. But how did the river shannon gets name? This magnificent river flows majestically from its source at the Shannon Pot in county Cavan through eleven counties, dozens of lakes both large inland seas and many smaller lakes until it reaches the sea at Limerick city.

But it was Sionna, a Goddess in Irish mythology that gave this river its name. The name Sionna means “possessor of wisdom” and Irish mythology tells us that Sionna became the Goddess of the river shannon after she visited Connla’s well. The story goes that the well burst forth and washed her out to sea.

The navigable river flows for 360 klm starting at Lough Alan at its northern end and continuing south. It is joined by several navigable tributaries, the beautiful Boyle river which includes several lakes including Lough Key, the Inny river which enters the shannon system at the eastern side of Lough Ree. Further south the river Suck joines the Shannon just south of the town of Shannon Bridge and it’s navigable all the way to the town of Ballinasloe.

Grange on the Carnadoe lake
Grange on the Carnadoe lake

The three biggest lakes on the Shannon are Lough Alan in the north, Lough Ree on the middle Shannon and Lough Derg on the southern end of the river. The river is connected to Dublin by two canals, the Royal canal and the Grand canal making a fine circular route. Further north the Shannon Erne waterway, a mix of canal, river and lakes link the river Shannon to the Erne navigation which is mostly in Northern Ireland.

The old harbour at Dromod
The old harbour at Dromod

The river Shannon has just six locks in its length and its still waters are a boating paradise. The moorings are a mix of old limestone harbours the once server the barge trade. Modern floating pontoons all of which are a minimum of one meter wide. And many modern and picturesque ports.

Dromod harbour
The harbour entrance at Dromod

Mooring is free of charge in all public ports along the Shannon navigation which is unique among Europe’s waterways. Most larger ports have a service block with toilet and shower facilities.  


Waterways Ireland service block
A typical service block on the Shannon navigation.

Harry & Marion


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