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River Shannon

By Laurel Lodged - Own work, Public Domain

The River Shannon is the longest river in Ireland at 360.5km. It drains the Shannon River Basin which has an area of 16,865km2, one fifth of the area of Ireland.

Painting by Chris Thompson

Sionnan is the Goddess of the River Shannon

Legend has it that Sionnan went to Connla’s Well – the Well of Wisdom in the Celtic Otherworld (the realm of the dead). As Sionnan lifted the cover off the well, it erupted and the water flowed down the mountain dividing the country in two. Her body was washed down the mountain and she transformed into the goddess of the River Shannon.

The River Shannon means ‘wise river’. It is named after Sionnan, the granddaughter of Manannán Mac Lir (Son of the Sea), a sea deity in Celtic mythology. Sionnan means “possessor of wisdom” and the Irish name for the River Shannon is Abhainn na Sionainne. Sionainn is a combination of the words ‘sion’ (wise) and ‘abhainn’ (river).

Facts about the River Shannon

  • The Shannon divides Ireland, with Connacht in the west and Leinster and Munster to the east and south.
  • The river flows through 11 of the counties of Ireland.
  • There are several lakes on the Shannon, including, Lough Allen, Lough Derg and Lough Ree.
  • Many canals connect with the Shannon, including: the Royal Canal and the Grand Canal.
  • The River Shannon has historically had great strategic importance attached to it in military encounters.
  • There are only about 20 crossings of the River Shannon.
  • The Shannon provides excellent opportunities for water sports and is a very popular tourist attraction in the summer months.
  • The Shannon provided water for industry in the 1800s and was home to the famous Victorian Shannon steamers.
  • The largest towns on the river are Limerick and Athlone.
  • The river is relatively slow moving becasue it only falls 60 feet in the first 150 miles of its course.

The Counties of the River Shannon

The River Shannon flows through:

  • Cavan
  • Leitrim
  • Longford
  • Roscommon
  • Westmeath
  • Offaly
  • Tipperary
  • Galway
  • Clare
  • Limerick
  • Kerry



Britannica River Shannon Page

Find out more about the River Shannon on the Britannica Kids page. Lots of information about its geography with relevant links.

Scoilnet Maps - Find the River Shannon

By Ordnance Survey Ireland

Find the River Shannon and trace it's journey through 11 counties, from Cavan all the way down to Limerick.


Vikings settled in the region in the 10th century and used the river to raid the rich monasteries deep inland. In 937 the Limerick Vikings clashed with those of Dublin on Lough Ree and were defeated.

Find out more about the Vikings on our Viking themepage here.

FlexiQuiz on the River Shannon

Learn all about the River Shannon and test your knowledge using our FlexiQuiz. Suitable for 5th/6th class.

FlexiQuiz on the Story of Water

Watch Irish Water's video 'The Story of Water' and answer the questions. This quiz is designed to test your knowledge and review all that you have learned from the video.

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