The River Shannon is the longest river in Ireland, with a total length of 386 km. It rises at a place known as the Shannon pot, near Dowra, in the Cavan Mountains but the various tributaries and bogs along the spine of Ireland also filter into it and together have forged this great river. The Shannon is a natural barrier which divides the west of Ireland (mainly Connacht) from the southern and eastern provinces of Munster and Leinster and has been of critical importance to the people of Ireland since the lands first inhabitants over seven thousand years ago. Up until the 20th century it was still a highway of transport and commerce and many towns line its banks. In cruising the river you will see castles, monastic settlements, forts and garrisons all dating from different periods of time over the past fifteen hundred years, a rich legacy of the ages. Now the Shannon is a world-famous tourist destination, popular for its fishing and magnificent scenery. Thousands of people come for boating holidays every summer and its loughs and marinas are usually buzzing with activity.
The Shannon gets its name from Sionnan, who was the granddaughter of the Irish God of the Sea. She was a beautiful yet curious mortal woman who lived in a mythical Ireland. This was the time of the Druids and they would gather on sacred nights in special places throughout the country to practice their ancient ways. One such place was The Well of Knowledge in the Cavan Mountains and it is here where Druids would come to gain an insight into the magic of the land. On one such evening, the young and headstrong Sionnan set about following the Druids to this secret place. She hid in the surrounding forests, waiting for them to leave and as she did so her curiosity began to build. ‘What could possibly be contained under the cover of that well,’ she thought. Having waited until near dawn for the Druids to leave, her opportunity came. She rushed to the well and as the first bright blade of sunlight burst from over the distant hills, she opened the cover and gazed down its dark neck. Suddenly the well erupted and streamed down the mountain, slicing through the countryside and dividing the land in two. Her lifeless body was carried along with it, transforming her into a goddess and queen of all the rivers in Ireland.