Six paddlers in 4 open boats made the journey from Shropshire Paddlesport to Ireland in Mid July. All took the opportunity to add a few days onto the planned paddle to visit family and / or sample the stunning scenery. Time to relax, enjoy the scenery, drink the Guinness and enjoy the live music. All of us were paddling open boats, but the journey is also suitable for kayak and SUP.
Our paddling journey started in Blackwatertown and we paddled 2 days down the Blackwater river into Lough Neagh. Two days to paddle the length of the Lough and 3 days to complete the Lower Bann.
The Blackwater was a peaceful 2 day paddle through very rural countryside stopping off at The Argory, a beautiful neo-classical mansion …..with a tea room! Most welcome after a spell of torrential rain.
Next was Lough Neagh, the UK’s largest inland lake with a shoreline of 90 miles. We paddled the first day north to south taking advantage of the Force 3 wind, this was our first canoe sailing day with a number of different rigs for solo and tandem sailing.
Dodging large sand dredging ships was the only hazard. Guess what? Another tea room too at Battery Harbour.
On Lough Beg and the Lower Bann we saw an incredible number of Herons, King Fishers, Shags and Cormorants, before reaching tidal waters and seeing our first seals. The Lower Bann has 5 locks, but we only had to portage 4 as the lock keeper took us down in the lock to reach tidal waters just outside Coleraine. Two very different rivers and very large lake. The wildlife, history and culture of Northern Ireland was far more impressive than any of us had expected.
Off the water the group visited Galway and Clifden on the west coast, Giants Causeway, Carrick-a-rede and the Gobbins. Evening entertainment was provided at the Shepherds Rest, live music most nights where locals and guests sang and played a variety of songs along with the Club’s own musician.
This canoeing expedition was a ‘relaxing holiday’ compared to the earlier Club SUP Challenge along the Welsh Border in June. In August, another 7 members in Open Boats will be paddling two of the finest white water rivers in the UK – the Rivers Spey and Tay in Scotland. Not a ‘challenge’, not a ‘relaxing holiday’, this one will be an ‘adventure’!