Visiting Carrick-on-Shannon Bridge, County Leitrim, Ireland: five-span structure by Thomas Rhodes, completed 1847
Spanning Ireland's longest river
The Shannon (Irish: an tSionainn), 360.5 kilometres in length, is well known as Ireland's longest river. (Did you know that it is also the longest river in the British Isles?) Rising near Cuilcagh Mountain, in nearby Co. Caban (Irish: An Cabhán), its estuary finally enters the Atlantic between Counties Clare (Irish: Contae an Chláir) and Kerry (Irish: Contae Chiarraí)
The town of Carrick-upon-Shannon (Irish: Cora Droma Rúisc), Co. Leitrim (Irish: Contae Liatroma), on the N4 Dublin-Sligo road, has for centuries been known as a gateway to the West of Ireland (1), making the river crossing at Carrick of special importance. Co. Leitrim is situated in the historic province of Connacht (Irish: Connachta).
Thomas Rhodes (1789-1868)(2) was a Dublin-based architect who, as a Commissioner, under the Shannon Navigation Acts, served as a Commission for the Improvement of the River Shannon. He was contracted in 1844 to build a replacement bridge to a previous, 17 arch structure dating from 1718. However, in Architect Rhodes's creation, the spans were reduced to five. Executed in stone, the bridge was completed in 1847.
Another bridge at Carrick-on-Shannon, the Hartley Bridge, dates from 1915 and is one of Ireland's earliest bridges to have been executed in reinforced concrete.
The Shannon at Carrick-on-Shannon, serves the town's well-appointed marina.
With a population of 3,163 in 2006, Carrick-on-Shannon is Ireland's smallest county town. It may be noted that many county towns in Ireland bear the same name as the county in which they are situated. Co. Leitrim does indeed have a place named Leitrim (Irish: Liatroim): a village also located on the Shannon, a few kilometres from Carrick-on-Shannon, where in recent years another marina has also been built.
May 5, 2012
(1) The nearby village of Roosky (Irish: Rúscaigh), Co. Roscommon (Irish: Contae Ros Comáin), was the birthplace in 1932 of Ireland's first Taoiseach (Prime Minister) to have been born west of the Shannon: Albert Reynolds.
(2) Architect Rhodes was also known for a number of other bridges, and for a significant report on the Ulster Canal. A Member of the Royal Irish Academy, he later became resident harbour engineer on the Channel Islands of Jersey and Alderney.
Also worth seeing
Other significant sights at Carrick-on-Shannon include: the Dock, a former courthouse which has been converted into a centre for the arts; the tiny Costello chapel and other examples of ecclesiastical architecture.
Longford (Irish: An Longfort ; distance: 37 kilometres) is dominated in its skyline by St. Mel's Cathedral.
How to get there: Aer Lingus flies from New York and Boston to Dublin Airport, from where car rental is available. Bus Éireann operates bus services to Carrick-on-Shannon from Dublin's Busárus (bus station). Irish Rail operates rail services to Carrick-on-Shannon from Dublin Connolly Station. By road, take M4 and N4 from Dublin. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.