These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over nine years now and are still loving it. Our Ulster born Shih Tzu, Shannon, has grown up, and has taken over the boat! After three wonderful years in Ireland, we transported The Puzzler to The Netherlands, and spent a year there. In 2015 we went southwards, to reach the north of France by June. After glorious weather throughout the summer, we arrived in Roanne in late October, and enjoyed our winter in this friendly port. We cruised extensively in France in 2016 and 2017, returning to Roanne each winter.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Upper Shannon Meanderings 18th – 26th July.

Monday was wet and windy, but we set off down Lough Key, in order to be at Carrick-on-Shannon in good time. It was a wet crossing with waves over the bows!
At Carrick we took the only free finger mooring. There is room for 29 boats on these moorings, but they are only 28 foot long, so The Puzzler sticks out into the river. Our bows are in as far as they will go, really they are! There is also space along the wall near to the bridge for several more boats. It is busy this week as the Shannon Annual Boat Rally meets here at the weekend, and several boats are already here. Unlike in England, boats here move from harbour to harbour during the rally. The Shannon Rally has over eighty boats attending this year, so they will fill the harbours wherever they stop!

We sailed from Carrick up the Shannon and on to the Boyle River again. The weather was much calmer this time when we reached Lough Key, and we continued on to Boyle, at the far end of the Lough. We visited King House, a magnificently restored Georgian Mansion, built in the early 1700's for Sir Henry King, whose family was one of the most powerful and wealthy in Ireland. The house later became a military barracks for the famous Connaught Rangers, and is now a museum. We each had an audio guide, and there was an immense amount of information to absorb.

We next visited Boyle Abbey which is in the process of restoration. It was founded in the 12th Century as a Cistercian Monastery.

The abbey ruins were very well preserved, as were the visitors!

These donkeys came straight over to see us, and were very friendly.

 Martin enjoyed taking the helm back across Lough Key to the Lough Key Forest Park mooring.Martin is an incredibly experienced sailor, albeit usually out at sea.

We did the Lough Key Experience, which includes a trip underground, through the cellars of Rockingham House. They are the only remaining part of this stately home, which burned to the ground in 1957. There is a lift up to the top of the Moylurg viewing tower, which gives a good view over this part of Lough Key. Jenny is listening to her audio guide, not her mobile phone! After leaving the cellars, the return route is by way of a tree canopy walkway.

Castle Island was our next stop. This folly was built in the 19th Century from the ruins of the old castle.

It was a very short mooring here, with The Puzzler resting on the rocky shore. We created a minor problem for visiting canoes!

It was possible to scramble right round the island and also to climb up to the ramparts.

Next stop was The Zipit Experience, also at Lough Key Forest Park. Sally and Martin were strapped into their harnesses, ready to go, while Andy was photographer-in-chief !

There are four levels of difficulty at Zipit. This shows one of the early obstacles on the White course, which was also one of the most difficult obstacles, due to the height being climbed up the seemingly level steps.

This one was much easier!

Martin strolled across the ropes with ease!

These pallet type platforms tended to swing apart as we stepped between them.
The zipwires themselves were the best bit!

As we only had time to complete two of the four courses, we had to forego riding a BMX bike along a wire from treetop to treetop. Maybe next time!

Jenny steered back down Lough Key to the Boyle river. The weather has been kinder than it was on Monday, when the waves were coming over our bows.

This gypsy horse and caravan were in Leitrim.

From Leitrim we cruised up the first six locks on the Shannon-Erne Waterway, to moor above Kilclare Lower lock. We played Petanque on the newly mown grass beside The Puzzler, before going to the local hostelry to sample the Guiness there.

We continued up the last two locks to the summit level. Passing Keshcarrigan, we went down one lock, before turning off into Kiltybardan Lough. The mooring in the middle of the lough was a perfect place for a swim, followed by some sunbathing on a glorious afternoon.
On our return down to Leitrim next morning, Martin and Jenny nearly had an unexpected shower, as the lock above us was emptied by a following boat. As the pound between the two locks was already full, the excess came over the gate of Kilclare Lower lock. There was nowhere to run!

Well, you could go and work the locks instead!

We had a very pleasant meal at The Barge in Leitrim, before rejoining the Shannon to continue southwards.

This young foal was having a drink as we sailed past on the river.
We moored at the end of the Jamestown Canal. It is a lovely place, with our own lawn, which had been freshly cut. The weather is still being kind to us, so we had our second game of Petanque here. It was closely fought, but this time Martin and Sally were victorious, so it is honours even!

Catkin has been coping very well with these high wall moorings

We made an early start through Albert Lock before continuing on through Lough Tap, Lough Boderg and Lough Bofin to reach Dromod Harbour in good time. Dromod is a beautifully kept village. Martin and Jenny left us by bus. We have had a great week together.

We spent the evening on our new neighbours' boat. There were 23 boats in harbour, one of which was a small cruiser tied alongside us.


  1. Sounds like you had a great time with Martin and Jenny. You were very brave on your Zipit experience! Very impressed. Good to see the weather was kind and that you were able to have a swim. We will be swimming in Lake Malawi later today! Love Debs, Matt and Toad xx

  2. This is a bit overdue but we should again say thank you for a great week on the Irish waterways. Perhaps the weather could have been better, but in comparison to Martin's sail down from Orkney two weeks later, it was positively tropical!
    We will follow your blog with interest.
    Martin and Jenny