On the Water
Drift into another world of natural beauty with a trip down the River Barrow and the Barrowline of the Grand Canal
You can’t properly appreciate the tranquillity of the waterways, riverbanks and canal paths around Athy unless you’re actually out on the water. Here, gliding along the polished, navy-coloured waters, you can really enjoy the soft lushness this landscape is famous for. Drifting under old arched bridges, experiencing the manual mechanisms of the old locks, and watching life go by on the riverbanks is something truly special. The towns and villages along these waterways live and breathe life on the water, and in places such as Monasterevin, which boasts the Monasterevin Blueway Kayaking Club, you’ll discover that community life is very much connected to the rivers and canals.
Whether you plan to go barging, enjoy a shorter pleasure trip for a few hours or take to the waters in your own canoe, it’s an experience that can totally change your perspective. “When you see it from the river looking out, it’s like you’re in a different world,” explains Chris McKenna from Athy Boat Tours. “People can’t believe the diversity of wildlife, and the history and the heritage.”
Athy Boat Tours
Departing from a jetty in the centre of Athy just in front of the historic courthouse, Athy Boat Tours is a fantastic way to experience the idyllic local surrounds. There are two tours available, with a maximum of six people on each: the Lock Gate Experience, a one-hour tour that brings you through Ardreigh Lock; and Immersed in Nature – a two-hour trip that takes you into the heart of the Barrow Navigation's wildlife. It's an exceptionally tranquil way to explore what were once busy commercial waterways and are now havens for nature.
Barrowline Boats and Bikes
There's little that's more satisfying that a day spent meandering down the idyllic waters around Vicarstown in County Laois. The calm waters here mean it's a great option for novice boaters, with two good experiences on offer. Head north and you can enjoy the Barrowline section of the Grand Canal, which runs between Dublin and the Shannon. Head south and you'll reach the River Barrow, which offers more challenging cruising, with wild scenery and lively waters.
You won't find an abundance of watersports companies along the Barrowline as it's less commercialised that other sections of waterway, but Shannon SUP is one company that offers paddleboarding along both the River Barrow and the Grand Canal from Monasterevin. Paddling softly through the glassy waters delivers relaxation on a grand scale and really helps to immerse you in the natural environment of this scenic area.
Athy Rowing and Canoeing Club
With its relaxed and friendly atmosphere, the Athy Rowing and Canoeing Club is the perfect place to get a taste of the water, and it has a legion of loyal members who meet up every Saturday morning. If you're in town and want to get out on the water, give them a shout and see what options they have coming up. The club participates in Canoeing Ireland paddle days, which are a fun way to get involved in the action. In the summer, there are Olympic-style rowing summer camps for kids between 12 and 18.
The town of Monasterevin in County Kildare boasts an ideal location on the River Barrow and the Barrowline, making it a handy spot to hire a barge. If you're new to barging then check out Jennifer's Travels, which specialises in short-term barge hire and is especially good for novices. They're great for helping you plan your break and offer personal service and good, honest advice. Not only that, but they'll help you navigate your first lock before you set off on your way. The barges are bright and both sleep four adults.
SVT Canoeing & Kayaking Club
The small and sleepy village of Vicarstown makes a delightful place to stop when walking along the canal (thanks to its excellent pub), but it's also a good option if you're looking to try out some watersports. The SVT Canoeing and Kayaking Club hires out boats and SUPs, Bic SUPs and 2-Seater Canadian Canoes to non-members from around €5 for an hour and up to €30 for a day so it's a good spot to check out if you've kayaked or paddle boarded before and don't need to be guided.