Proper Irish chats, the "do you know" game, taking proper time-out with family, the River Shannon boat holidays have come into their own during the coronavirus. Take it from a boat-owning regular. 

“We’re supposed to be on a huge cruise ship on The Caribbean,” the woman with a strong Cork accent told me.

Instead, she and her husband were on a very small cruiser on The River Shannon. My husband was assisting them to tie up their rented boat beside us. We were moored in a most beautiful harbor on The River Shannon, in Dromod, County Leitrim. 

“And the four of us are supposed to be on a holiday in New York,” a Cavan man, on another small hire-cruiser, added. They were all unable to travel abroad because of the strange times we are living in, due to COVID-19. 

Socially distanced chats

As the sunset on Lake Bofin, later in the evening, we sat on our own boats drinking wine and chatting to each other. It was perfect for social-distancing as we were about four meters apart, yet could converse easily out in the fresh air. Amid much laughter, they all admitted that they were enjoying their "staycation" in Ireland immensely. 

Jean Farrell on her own boat on the River Shannon.

Jean Farrell on her own boat on the River Shannon.

My husband and I have spent every summer on The River Shannon since we retired, 10 years ago. Living in Athlone, in the center of Ireland, we usually travel south to Lough Derg first. This beautiful lake borders counties Tipperary, Galway, and Roscommon. Then we head north across Lough Ree with counties Longford, Westmeath and Roscommon on either side of us. Lough Allen is at the very north of this magnificent river, in County Leitrim.  

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Every summer about 50 percent of the boats on the river are hire-boats. These are almost always hired by Germans. They have been holidaying in Ireland since I was a child in the 1950s.

A quiet bank along Lough Derg.

A quiet bank along Lough Derg.

Germans love our river and return here again and again. Whilst we would assist them to moor in harbors we never got into the "chat" with them. Apart from friendly smiles, there was very little interaction with people on hire boats before now. 

This year it is all very very different. The Germans cannot come here as they would have to spend 14 days in quarantine. Instead, Irish people are taking their holidays on The Shannon and this has been wonderful for us because we have met many very friendly people of all ages. 

Irish people, unlike the Germans, love to talk.

Read more: Why you should be planning a staycation in Ireland

Pubs, craic and Irish weather

As soon as they are settled in the harbor we exchange life stories, which is wonderful! All along The Shannon, the bars which sell food are open. To meet the needs of tourists there are the best of restaurants in these bars. The Irish are eating-in these this year, instead of the Germans. Over a few pints of Guinness with our meals there is great ‘ceol agus craic’ [music and fun] with fellow Irish folk. 

And Ireland being so small a country - nearly everyone I met on the river knows someone that I know! Honestly. 

The Irish weather – I hear you think! Was it Bing Crosby who said that you get the four seasons in one day here? Well, on The Shannon you can get the four seasons in one hour!  

Irish people hiring boats this year come prepared. One must. Rainwear is essential as well as sunscreen and swimsuits. Books are a must, as are fishing gear, and walking boots.  

The River Shannon at Clonmacnoise monastery on Lough Ree.

The River Shannon at Clonmacnoise monastery on Lough Ree.

I see many Irish families leaving their boats to go hiking along the county roads and hills. Many fathers enjoy fishing with their young children, or alone. Fishing is mindfulness, one man told me, as he sat quietly enjoying the calm and quiet of the beautiful River Shannon.  

River Shannon relaxation

I agree. Every year, when we head off on our annual holiday aboard our boat, I am fussed and hassled. After a few days afloat I am in a completely different frame of mind. A boat moves slowly, which slows one’s mind. And water is calming, so a sense of calmness takes over. (One would definitely not find this on a huge cruise ship on The Caribbean!)   

I am delighted that Irish people are discovering the calm and beauty of the beautiful River Shannon for themselves this year.  

Staycations may be here to stay! 

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Read more: Where will the Irish “staycation” during the COVID summer of 2020?