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Shannon

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Shannon is a town and airport in County Clare in the west of Ireland. The airport came first, as a stopover for early transatlantic flights, then an industrial zone and new town grew beside it. These are unattractive: don't worry, Ireland gets better once you drive clear of the airport, and Shannon is a good entry point to this scenic and historic region.

Understand

In 1946 commercial transatlantic flights re-started after the war, but aircraft range was limited and they faced stiff headwinds going west. Airports were therefore needed as far east as possible in North America, e.g. at Gander in Newfoundland, and as far west as possible in Europe, e.g. at Prestwick in Scotland and Shannon in Ireland. This was also important for military flights, and the airports were equipped with very long runways to handle the largest aircraft; they became hubs of local industry. From the 1950s aircraft speed, range and capacity extended, notably with the Boeing 707, and it was foreseen that these airports would be bypassed once Europe to USA non-stop flight became routine. The response here was to create Shannon Free Zone as a duty-free port and industrial zone. Shannon town itself was built in the 1960s to serve the airport and industrial park, but like other "New Towns" of that era, it was ugly and in parts shoddy. Over the following years its fortunes rose and fell along with the Irish economy, booming during the "Celtic Tiger" years of the 1990s, slumping when the dot.com, property and banking bubbles burst. In the 21st century budget leisure flights greatly expanded (Dublin airport benefited even more). So while Shannon is still a springboard to North America, it's nowadays more a portal for tourism into the scenic west of Ireland.

Shannon's other attraction for aviation is that it's virtually free of fog and snow, with mild sou'westerly winds off the Atlantic. Winter lows are 3-8°C with summer highs seldom much over 20°C. There is rain a-plenty in summer, even more rain in winter, and incessant rain if you venture out without a raincoat.

Get in

By plane

1 Shannon Airport (SNN IATA) (From N18 take N19), ☏ +353 61 712000, ✉ comments@shannonairport.ie. This large airport has many flights across Europe and the UK; there are no flights within Ireland. The main carriers are Aer Lingus and Aer Lingus. There are also daily flights to New York JFK, Newark, Boston and Philadephia, all with US border pre-clearance, and summer seasonal flights to Toronto. There is a single terminal. There's not much groundside, the food court is airside and lounges are €25 for 3 hours. All the main car rental firms have desks in Arrivals, and see "By bus" below for local public transport. A taxi might be €30 to Bunratty and €50 to Limerick or Ennis.

By bus

See Limerick for bus and train connections from Dublin and the rest of Ireland.

Bus 51 runs hourly from Cork via MallowLimerick and Bunratty to the airport (30 min from Limerick), continuing to Ennis and Galway. The last bus is around 22:00. Don't take X51, which runs nonstop between Limerick and Galway.

Bus 343 meanders hourly from Limerick via CratloeBunrattySixmilebridge, Shannon town and airport (one hour), and Newmarket-on-Fergus to Ennis. The last bus out of Limerick is around 23:00, and from the airport towards Limerick is at midnight.

By car

By road from Dublin take M7 west, which bypasses Limerick to become N18 / M18, and join the spur road N19 into Shannon.

Get around

The town is all walkable, but it's nondescript and industrial. Bus 343 winds around the houses and industrial parks en route from Limerick to Ennis.

There are bike racks at the airport, but no bike hire facilities locally.

See

  • 1 Atlantic Air Adventures, Shannon Road, Smithstown, ☏ +353 61 363687, ✉ info@atlanticairadventures.com. Apr-Oct daily 11:00-16:30, Nov-Mar Sa 11:00-16:00. Aviation museum with 7 light aircraft and cockpits of 6 larger planes. The Boeing 737 simulator (Saturday only) needs to be booked. They also offer try-flights and lessons. Adult €8, child €6.
  • Foynes on the south bank of the estuary shows another aspect of Shannon's aviation history. From 1937 Foynes was the base for commercial transatlantic flying boats: this is how Sinatra, John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara stepped down into Ireland to the pop of flash-cameras. It operated until 1946, by which time Shannon airport had developed on its present site, and wheeled land aircraft flew faster and further than flying boats.
  • See Bunratty for the Castle, Folk Park outdoor museum, and medieval banquets.

Do

  • 1 Shannon Golf Club, Shannon Airport House, Shannon Industrial Estate, ☏ +353 61 471 849, ✉ info@shannongolfclub.ie. Open all daylight hours. Parkland course on the estuary banks, 18 holes of 6763 yards, par 72. Round M-F €40, Sa Su €50.
  • 2 Shannon Leisure Centre, Bothar Linne, Tullyglass, Shannon, ☏ +353 61 361 841, ✉ info@shannonleisurecentre.ie. M-Th 06:00-22:00, F 06:00-21:00, Sa Su 08:00-18:00. Facilities include fitness classes, gym, climbing wall, dance studio, playground, swimming pool, sauna & steam room.
  • If you can't get to Limerick's Thomond Park for a pro game, then watch rugby at 3 St Senans RFC, Tullyvarraga, Shannon, ☏ +353 87 250 5555. They play rugby union in Munster Junior League Division Two, the sixth tier of the game in Ireland.
  • 4 Tullyvarraga Point is a grassy area for strolling by the estuary just south of town.

Buy

  • Lidl in town centre is the main store. It's open M-F 08:00-20:00, Sa 09:00-18:00.

Eat

  • Shannon's own restaurants are clustered around Skycourt Shopping Centre or along R471 the old main street towards Bunratty and Limerick.
See also Bunratty 5 km east, which has lots of good eating places. Noel's within Bunratty Manor Hotel is the standout.
  • 1 Bollywood Temple, Supermac's, Skycourt Shopping Centre (above Paddy Power), ☏ +353 61 708 562. Daily 16:30-23:00. Spicey not pricey: it's good Indian food.
  • 2 Hochak Asian Street Food, 9E Shannon Town Centre, Tullvarraga, ☏ +353 61 71 8856. M-Th Sa 15:00-23:00, F Su 13:00-23:30. Inexpensive but tasty Chinese food with hefty portions: their bang-bang chicken is a favourite.
  • 3 Old Lodge Gastro Pub, Shannon Springs Hotel, Ballycasey More (east edge of Shannon main street), ☏ +353 61 364 047, ✉ info@shannonspringshotel.com. Daily 12:00-21:30. Good Irish pub food, so tapas obviously, as well as Cajun and Thai, but it's the wings that most impress.

Drink

  • 1 Shannon Knights, 29 Shannon Town Centre, Tullyvarraga, ☏ +353 61 361 045, ✉ zest@shannonknights.ie. M-Th 09:00-23:30, F Sa 09:00-01:00, Su 10:00-23:30. This is the town pub, not touristy. Has a good carvery and sometimes live music.

Sleep

  • See also Bunratty, only 5 km east. You might also stay in Limerick (eg the Radisson, west edge of the city) or in Newmarket-on-Fergus or Ennis.
  • Park Inn by Radisson Shannon Airport, Shannon Airport, ☏ +353 61 471122. Functional mid-range hotel barely 100 m from the airport terminal. They may have deals on long-stay parking. Double (room only) €80.
  • Maloney's, Hillside and Lohan's are three small B&Bs in town 1.5 km from the airport.
  • 1 Treacys Oakwood Hotel, Shannon Town Roundabout, Smithstown (2 km north of airport), ☏ +353 61 361 500, fax: +353 61 361 414, ✉ reservations@thshannon.com. Modern hotel with fast WiFi, free (though limited) parking, and breakfast available from 05:00. B&B double €110.
  • Shannon Springs is a modern hotel 500 m east of Treaceys. Decent accommodation but you mostly come for Old Lodge Gastropub, see "Eat".

Go next

  • North and west into County Clare is the reason you're here: head for the wild Atlantic coast at Mizzen Head and follow it by Cliffs of Moher and the Burren towards Galway.
  • Ennis just north is a pleasant market town. Its countryside is dotted with ruined abbeys; probably the ruined abbotts are propping up the local bars.
  • Limerick to the east is an interesting Georgian city with a castle.


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