The first town you will meet as you travel up the narrowing river from Loug Derg will be the bustling town of Banagher. Its large marina allows easy access for cruisers and is just a short walk from the main street where there are plenty of pubs, family restaurants and quirky stores to enjoy. On entry to the marina you will see the renowned Gourmet Food Van where Adam, the chef from the famous Vine House Restaurant has made a return to the Shannon and food from here is widely known as a real treat among cruisers. Traditionally the town has been a haven for fishing and is now a popular tourist hub for Shannon cruisers. The famous phrase, “Well that beats Banagher” originated here, so make sure to keep this in mind when exploring all that the town has to offer!
Saint Rynagh is the patron saint of the parish and she is said to have founded a religious community here in the 6th century. However, the earliest remains from the area date back 4,000 years, from the Bronze Age. The town has held strategic importance for over a thousand years as being a crossing point between the provinces of Connacht and Leinster. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the British feared that an invasion from Napoleon through Galway Bay was bound to happen. To prevent a march across the Shannon, they built various fortifications in Banagher, Shannonbridge and Athlone. Cromwell’s castle and the Martello tower which is opposite it are fine examples of these and both are located near the old part of the bridge. The ruins of a large 19th century barracks are also visible when entering the town. Banagher once had a vibrant industrial heritage; however this ceased in the years that followed the famine. The population more than halved and demand for goods fell rapidly, leading to widespread poverty. Banagher also has an interesting literary history. Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre) is said to have spent some time here and Anthony Trollope used to visit the town while writing his first novel in the 1840’s.
Cloghan Castle is located 5 km outside the town. It was once the stronghold of the medieval O’Madden family who controlled the surrounding territories during the 13th to 15th centuries. The castle is now open for public viewing and tours can be arranged via the local tourist office, which can be found in the Crank House. This Georgian tower house was constructed in the 1750s and is located on the lower part of the main street.
Recently the town has become famous for its very own brewery where the celebrated Bo Bristle beer, ale and stout is brewed. The beer is available is many of the pubs in Banagher and is delicious to taste.
Activities in the town include a lovely pitch and putt course and river-side walk, both of which are located on the far side of the bridge. Within the harbour, there is a playground and a canoeing centre which allows you to explore the Shannon’s hidden thrills and provides all with a unique and fun experience. This area is noted for its fine fishing, with pike being most common, and supplies can be obtained from the fishing and tackle shop which is well signposted on the main street.
Try Banagher’s very own Bo Bristle beer, which is available in most pubs.
Enjoy Banagher’s Georgian architecture.
Take in a lakeside game of Pitch and Putt.