Shannon – A Hidden Jewel on the Shannon Estuary Way

Shannon - A Hidden Jewel on the Shannon Estuary Way

Built at the confluence of the Fergus and the Shannon Estuaries, Shannon, Clare’s second largest town, is home to just under 10,000 people.   Before the airport, industrial zone or town were conceived of, the Shannon and Fergus Estuaries were immensely significant waterways as an abundant food resource and means of travel into Ireland’s interior and there is evidence of habitation here for over 5000 years. In modern times Shannon has the distinction of being a place of many ‘firsts’; Ireland’s first trans-Atlantic airport, the world’s first Duty Free shop, and industrial duty-free zone and the republic’s first new town in modern times.

While Shannon is a new town it is set within a historical and cultural context that connects it to its surrounding hinterland.  Farming communities once lived and worked along what is known as the Slí na Mara boreen.

The boreen is now a pleasant walking route through the town that culminates close to the estuary at Hastings Farmhouse.  The farmhouse survives as a conserved ruin but is set to be developed as a heritage centre by Dúchas na Sionna, the town’s heritage group.

Visitors to the site will learn about its role as a War of Independence “safe house”, and its connection to the “General Lucas Kidnap” story, and its happy outcome.

Shannon Town Community Wetlands

As the town has grown and matured it has sought to establish its identity as a modern, Irish town.  Shannon owes its Irish identity in no small part to the efforts of Seán Ó Nuanáin, a keen Irish speaker who arrived with his family in 1964 and is still one of Shannon’s most avid supporters.  When he recalls Ireland’s economic depression of the 1950s, he also remembers reading about the developments at Shannon and describes them as a sort of ‘practical patriotism’.   Seán was instrumental in setting up many of the Irish language and cultural organisations within the town.

World Wetlands Day - Shannon

The town is now home to second and even third generations of the original residents. The community spirit which founded so many of Shannon’s sporting and cultural organisations is stronger than ever, and these days there is renewed excitement about living in Shannon. Gone is the bleak, windswept appearance. Decades of landscaping and tree planting have given Shannon a green infrastructure that makes it a most pleasant place in which to live and work.

Shannon recently acquired a newly developed Town Park; a community group is developing an area of the original marshland on which Shannon was built into the Shannon Town Community Wetlands and the recently upgraded riverbanks provide kilometres of beautiful walks along the estuary for visitor and residents alike.

Its location adjacent to the airport makes it an ideal base from which to explore all that the region has to offer, from the world-renowned attractions of the Wild Atlantic Way to the hidden gems and local attractions of the Shannon Estuary Way. Indeed, Shannon has some unique attractions of its own.

The Shannon Aviation Museum is a family friendly attraction that celebrates Shannon’s rich aviation heritage.  Jane Magill of the Shannon Aviation Museum is justly proud of the new interactive displays that provide a fun and engaging way to explore Shannon’s unique contribution to global aviation. The proposed heritage centre at Hastings Farmhouse will be an interesting landmark on the proposed greenway to Bunratty which will add a significant dimension to nature-based tourism in Shannon.

The Park Inn, Oakwood and Shannon Springs hotels provide ample accommodation and conference facilities at the airport and in the town. Guest houses and B&B’s in and around Shannon offer high quality accommodation with the bonus of meeting local people and hearing their stories. So, whether your visit is business or pleasure you are sure of a very warm welcome in Shannon.

Slí na Mara Boreen

This article, written by Dúchas na Sionna, appeared in The Clare Champion’s 2021 Where West Magazine.       

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