The River Shannon
The greatest if Irish rivers , the Shannon touches all four provinces of the country and is a must see on your Ireland tours. It rises in the Cuilcagh Mountains in Ulster , its banks for a long distance form the boundary between Connacht and Leinster , and it finally enters the sea through its large estuary in the West of Munster.
Its full length is 241 miles , and in its waters there are many small islands , some of which were inhabited until recent times. It is still home to many salmon farms as well as to the huge hydroelectric station at Ardnacrusha in County Clare. The river is navigable as far as Limerick , and is the reason why that city has historically been one of the most important of Irish ports. The praises of this river have been sung by many poets , and a cruise on the Shannon – with the wild beauty of Connacht on its Western shoreline – is a most pleasurable experience.
The river’s name in Irish is Sionainn , a title deriving from the ancient Celtic Senona with the meaning of ‘revered old lady’. This represents the very ancient tradition of regarding rivers as female , symbolical of the life-giving and wise goddess , and it is clear that this river was considered synonymous with the great ancestral mother on whom the welfare of the Irish depended.
Using echoes from ancient tradition , the mediaeval poets invented a tragic story. According to it , Sionainn was the name of a beautiful , golden haired maiden who once noticed bright bubbles in the river. Believing that these bubbles contained wisdom , she waded through the water in an attempt to reach them , but she was drowned , and ever after the river bears her name.
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