17th March

The River Shannon – a journey down Ireland’s longest river

Paul Mills

Aiveen Cooper’s very readable book describes her journey along Ireland’s longest river following its route from the source at the Shannon Pot in Cavanto its outer edge meeting the Atlantic Ocean between Loop Head and Kerry Head.

Travelling in the main on a river boat (the Nieuw Zorgen) but leaving the water to explore the river’s hinterland in many places, the author brings us a rich description of the many facets of the river that are there to meet the visitor.

 review Shannon

But as she states, the river can captivate the mind beyond a casual experience: ‘Shannonland refers not just to the river, but a state of mind that comes from loving the river and losing yourself on, in or near its waters’.

The book’s chapters follow the path of her journey and describe stretches of water or specific places that are easy to identify. As such, a reader could chose to visit or read about a specific stretch of interest; however the book gives the distinct impression that the best reward awaits those willing to travel along the river.

Varied topics

In each chapter her discursive writing interweaves history, natural history, land and water management, archaeology and much else. There is much to tell as the Shannon landscape preserves so many traces of the long historical record of people in Ireland, as well as habitats of international importance with their key plant and animal species. Think of the corncrake and estuary dolphin as notable examples.

By way of anecdote and casual meetings we also learn more about aspects of contemporary life and experience along the river. These add to her story as do the many photographs and images throughout the book.

Indeed the photographic record is so rich that a reader short on time could pick up the book as a pictorial essay. As a minor gripe, the maps used do not always convey enough detail to do justice to the narrative in the text.

As the author states: ‘At the very least I hope that you gain some sense of the importance of Shannonland, and feel the urge to visit this magnificent river and experience it for yourself.’

With many side tributaries yet to explore and describe (Suck, Inny and Brosna amongst many) she may well wish to extend her own journey.

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