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, 2 May 2013

29th - 30th April From the Inner Lakes across Lough Ree. From Athlone down the River Shannon to Clonmacnoise.

We stayed by Coosan Lough for three nights and loved the peace there. One small speed boat came through the narrow entrance to the lough at full speed, which was a bit bouncy. Let's be charitable and think that he did not see us tucked in behind a tree. However as he returned at the same speed later, perhaps not!

Our return journey across the south of Lough Ree was much calmer than it had been on the way.

We paused briefly in Athlone for a shopping stop. Shannon enjoyed watching the town as we sailed past.
This swan had built her nest in a very safe spot, on a small island in the river. She will be fine so long as the water does not rise much higher. We have never seen as much water in the Shannon as there is at present. It is well out of its banks, and across the adjoining meadows. We are told that, as a dry spell of weather is forecast, the water is being retained in the Shannon basin by the Ardnacrusha Dam, rather than being allowed to flow away naturally. In this way the water will be available for hydro-electricity later in the summer. This policy naturally annoys the farmers, who would like to be able to use their riverside fields for their stock. The idea of dry weather sounds good though!
Further downstream Clonmacnoise is as impressive as ever. This was a monastic settlement founded by St Ciaran in about AD 545. It grew to be a great monastic city, famed throughout Europe, but suffered attacks by the Vikings during the 8th, 9th and 10th Centuries. It was also attacked by Irish Kings and then by English soldiers in 1552, and the churches were in ruins by the end of the 16th Century. It is well worth a visit.

There were some fishermen at Clonmacnoise when we arrived, and this one was delighted to catch a pike, which weighed in at 21 and a half pounds! It put up a real struggle, and almost caused a problem for a German family on a hire boat. While the fisherman was working the fish in the water, he was on the end of the jetty. The hire boat approached, wanting to moor on that jetty, even though the other side of the mooring was nearly empty. The fisherman firmly waved them away and carried on fighting his pike. Eventually they went round to moor on the other side, but were a bit grumpy about it. Once the pike was out of the water it seemed quite resigned to being held up for a photograph, and to being weighed. You got the impression that it had been there before!
The afternoon light was shining on the ruins of St. John's Castle, which lies quite near to Clonmacnoise monastery. This castle, was built in 1214 by the English Judiciar, John de Gray. The ruins can be seen of the gatehouse, courtyard and keep, which were destroyed by an explosion, many years ago.

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