Athy Boat Tours – The Three Hour Tour
My Experience in Photos
When I heard the news earlier this year that Athy Boat Tours were launching (no pun intended) I was delighted. It has been my view, for as long as I can remember, that both the River Barrow and the Grand Canal are huge assets to Athy.
To those who participate in the TriAthy or Athy Dragon Boat Regatta year after year, to those who swim, kayak, sail or fish the waters, and to those who walk alongside them both day and night, stating my acknowledgement of how great an asset these waterways are is like preaching to the choir – because the appreciation for the local waterways is there.
However with saying that having an experience like Athy Boat Tours can only encourage more appreciation, both from those who live locally to visitors to Athy.
If you’re wondering what the connection I have to this Heritage Town in Co. Kildare is, then have a read of my About Page here.
Athy Boat Tours began its journey on July 1st 2016 and there are a number of reasons I booked Patrick, Smith and myself on a tour with them. Perhaps if I share them with you they’ll also inspire you too? I wanted to: show our support for a new business, re-explore the waterways for myself, introduce them to Patrick and Smith and have a fun family experience. After the tour, I’m happy to say that all these boxes were checked.
The following documents our experience in photos. Both Patrick and my tickets were €20 each. Smith travelled for free as he was under two years old.
Life jackets were supplied to each of us. Tea and biscuits were also happily enjoyed onboard. For the duration of the tour we shared ‘Freedom on the Water’ with another family who were great company, we were lucky. The maximum passenger number is twelve, so it never gets too crowded.
Of course Athy Boat Tours is not a self drive affair and our Skippers for the afternoon were Chris and Clifford. Both Chris McKenna and Clifford Reid are part of a CE Scheme. This scheme allows for Athy Enterprise Centre (owners of Athy Boat Tours), to provide the training needed to allow CE Scheme workers, such as Chris and Clifford, to reach the level of Skipper.
This news is fantastic when you hear words like this from Chris “as someone who loves nature, the outdoors, wildlife, waterways and meeting people, being a barge skipper on the barrow-line is a dream job” – and I have to tell you, going by our experience it is evident that Chris loves and suits his job immensely.
You can never really predict the weather in Ireland and so although our tour took place in August, we were greeted with grey skies and rain. Luckily though, a tour like this can be enjoyed in all-weather, and in every season. I suppose that’s the beauty of it – the changing of the seasons, and the changing of the weather offers something unique with every trip down the River Barrow.
The tour began at the jetty in Athy, just before Crom-a-Boo Bridge. We then travelled the River Barrow – passing the historic Horse Bridge – it was the first of its kind in Ireland, purposely built for horses and their loads, passed Lords Island and made our way towards Ardreigh with Levitstown in the distance. The other bridges along the way included Bunberry Bridge, Kilmorony Bridge, Tankerstown Bridge with the final bridge being one of my favourites, the Levitstown Lifting Bridge – you’ll see why later.
Our tour took us under Ardreigh Lifting Bridge and through the Ardreigh Lock.
We were greeted by swans and their cygnets, ducks and their ducklings, and spotted herons and even a kingfisher along our route.
I’ve been told that the birds that the crew have seen while touring are: “waterhen, heron, mallard duck, mute swan, kingfisher, buzzard, kestrel, sparrow-hawk, raven, rook, grey-crow, jackdaw, jay, collared dove, wood-pigeon, sandpiper, cormorant, chiffchaff, willow warbler, sedge warbler, wren, black cap, robin, long-tailed tits, coal tits, blue tits, great tits”. Wow!
The fish that can be seen in the waters are: tench, roach, rudd fish, bream, pike, eel, trout, salmon, and dace.
The animals that can be seen on nearby banks and in the waters are: otter, mink, fox, stoat, badger, water vole, brown rat and pine marten.
Chris filled us in on the birds, fish, flowers and fauna we could see that day, and parted with the history that surrounded us.
We saw fishermen enjoying their Sunday past-time and witnessed the rope marks in the bridges where once the barges were pulled through.
Chris even posed with one of the many wildlife that came out to play that day.
Levitstown Lifting Bridge was a highlight to our bridge experience. You’ll see why below in my short video.
Levitstown Mill took my breath away and dreams of owning and renovating it for my own private dwelling lasted for quite some time after our tour.
When the rain took hold, which it did in parts along our trip, we sat comfortably inside until it passed, keeping an eye on the scenery as we did.
The lock at Ardreigh Lock was manned by Clifford on our return route. Patrick and I had experience of these when we toured the River Shannon, however the locks we passed through were automated, and not manual like this one.
Further Reading: A Weekend with RentOurBoat.ie – River Shannon Boat Hire
With his experience Clifford handled it like a pro.
Back along the River Barrow, the familiar sight of the walkways I took to visit friends in Ardreigh as a teenager, and nowadays the walks we take on lazy Sunday family afternoons began to come into view.
The cows happily grazed and rested as we motored along. The sight of White’s Castle getting closer and closer.
Until we were back at the jetty and setting foot on dry land once more.
There are a number of different tours to take with Athy Boat Tours. “Freedom on the Water” can be hired for parties and celebrations too. Picnic Baskets are available for purchase to those who fancy breakfast onboard, and Afternoon Tea for those who like to brunch. Scary Boat Rides are on offer for Halloween and Santa even makes an appearance in December!
Tours take place Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday. The One Hour Tour departs at 10am & 12pm. The Three Hour Tour departs at 2pm.
For more photographs of Athy, visit and connect with me on Instagram: thelifeofstuff
PIN : Athy Boat Tours, Kildare, Ireland – The Three Hour Tour
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