Birthday parties, Swiss fishermen and Access For All on Lough Ree…

Anecdotal evidence from marinas and harbours such as Hodson Bay, Lecarrow and Ballyleague-Lanesboro would suggest that holidays spent on boats and cruisers have increased in popularity since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Each summer, holiday-makers can be found enjoying the peaceful waterways of County Roscommon, and the Lough Ree Access For All visitor centre in Ballyleague-Lanesboro is certainly no different.

Shane Moran, who works at the centre, said the last couple of months have been extremely busy.

“Since May, we have been booked up with visitors from all over the country,” he began, just before being interrupted by another call on the booking line.

Shane has worked at Lough Ree Access For All for just over a year and says the opening of the state-of-the-art facility was great for the area.

Dubliner Harry Sheehy is a boat skipper and trainer and describes his work as “the best job in the world”.

Harry said the numbers of visitors to the facility were up “over 60 per cent” since last year and that there was a regular flow of group visits in recent weeks.

“We can tailor excursions to suit different groups which some larger boats cannot do. We can accommodate nine on the boat so it means we have more flexibility,” he said.

“We recently had a group who wanted a tour of some of the islands and to learn about the history. We can offer that”.

Improvements are ongoing at Lough Ree Access For All and the centre is in the process of installing a new hydraulic jetty ramp in order to make the amenity even more accessible for those with limited mobility.

As we waved skipper Harry and a group celebrating a birthday party off in the Estonian-built Access For All boat and prepared to set sail for home, an impressive cruiser carrying six merry souls pulled in beside us.

One of those aboard was casting off at the back of the vessel while the others were admiring the Access For All boat while sipping cans of beer.

Crossing the language barrier, it was revealed that the men were from near Basel in Switzerland (home of the “not so great anymore FC Basel”) and were in Ireland for a week-long fishing holiday on the Shannon.

Their cruiser didn’t appear to be weighted down with fish but they assured us they would keep trying and were enjoying their trip nonetheless!

Harry Sheehy would later tell us that it wasn’t an optimal time of year for fishing on Lough Ree, but the recent good weather, local history and the friendly welcome that was evident this week in Ballyleague-Lanesboro probably made up for that.