Shannon Harbour dry docks

There are two dry docks at Shannon Harbour, and they are the most heavily used on the Irish inland waterways. Some of the other dry docks are shown here.

According to Waterways Ireland, you should contact the Grand Canal depot at Tullamore to book the use of one of the docks, although in practice most people contact Jason Pender, the Shannon Harbour lockkeeper (listed under “Main Line: Locks 34 – 36”). Charges for the use of the docks are modest.

There are some requirements for the licensing of contractors based on Waterways Ireland property, but contractors who are based elsewhere may work in the docks and owners may work on their own boats. The relevant regulations do not seem to be shown on the Waterways Ireland website, though, so authoritative corrections to this paragraph would be welcome.

One of the dry docks is covered, and is therefore in demand for painting, but its blocks are lower than those in the open dock so it is harder to work underneath a boat.

The covered dry dock

The covered dry dock seen from the open dock

Inside looking out

Dutch Barge Liberty in the dock

The eastern wall of the shed

The inside of the eastern wall; note the door

The inside of the western wall

The back wall. Note the stairs on the left, the rack for emptying the dock (between the door and the dog) and the boat-names painted on the wall

The entrance to the covered dry dock. The black grille can be lowered and raised (note the winch on the right-hand support) and is presumably intended as a barrier, but I've never seen it down and I don't really know what it's for

The gate into the dock is raised by a cable wound from this pillar on the east side

This is the front of the pillar with the cable slack

Here is a close-up showing the pillar, the winch for the grille, an old bollard and a roller to protect a taut cable from the stone edge

Now for a more detailed look at the open dry dock.


Some years ago, Waterways Ireland railed off the (previously open) dry docks, presumably to protect themselves against legal action by folk who tripped or fell in. Here are some of the fortifications.

The railings along the west side of the open dock

The gate at the south-east corner. Moving around the dock, inside the railings, is not easy

This bollard, for your starboard bow rope, is outside the railings. So how do you throw a rope over it?

The entrance to the open dry dock

For the open as for the covered dry dock, entrance is controlled by a wooden gate, hinged at the bottom, which is dropped outwards to allow boats in.

The entrance gate with three paddles in the top row. Note the drainage channel in the bed of the dock

Another view of the gate, with the wire cable used to raise it. Note that the cable is looped around a metal bollard on the far side

A close-up of the top corner of the gate. Note the metal loop for withdrawing the paddle

On the left is the winch used to raise the gate

This is the grille for the open dock

This is the winch for raising the grille

This paddle has been drawn and is resting on the bank

It's a bit cluttered on the dock-side. Note the metal top of the gate, which daring folk have been known to walk across

And here is the other side, with the cable around the bollard

The base of the dock

The base of the dock has large blocks spanning a drainage channel. Three blocks, in the middle, have timbers on either side, running to the dock sides, and with sloping timbers above them.

The base of the dock

The base of an empty dock

Close-up of a block

Cleaning out the dock

On one occasion, a wooden boat was dismantled in the dock. Unfortunately much debris was left behind; Waterways Ireland had to send down a crew to clean it before water could be let in.


Waterways Ireland vehicles

Excavator lifting material

Transferring it to a truck

Going back for more

Nearly done

Draining the dock

The canal is above the surrounding land (and the nearby River Shannon), so it is easy to drain the dock.

The rack for draining the dock and the stairs behind it

Grille for catching debris

The mechanism (with the covered dry dock behind it)

I have been told that the water that is drained out removes, er, matter from beneath this (now disused) loo

The sides of the dock

Stairs to base of dock. Getting to it from the gate requires some agility

The sides of the dock are stepped and folk who are fit can get up and down them

A walkway was built out over the east side of the dock adjoining the covered dock

Looking along the walkwayThe west side of the dock with an old railing (and bollard on the outside)Boats in the dock

Now for some boats in the dock.

Ex-Grand Canal Company motor-barge 59M Countess Corinne in the full dock

34B in the dock

Work in progress (Richard and Mary Swaine painting)

Ladder and prop

ACRO prop

Letting the water back in

The paddles are drawn

The water flows down the dock

The inward end is last to fill ...

... but eventually "she starts, she moves, she seems to feel ..."


If I’ve got anything wrong, or omitted anything, please leave a Comment below. I’d like to make this as comprehensive as possible ….

4 responses to “Shannon Harbour dry docks

  1. Kelland Hutchence

    I’d like to say how much I enjoy seeing your photos and in particular your eye for detail. I have a Dutch barge which I shall shortly bring to France (where I live) but I have often thought of cruising the lovely waterways of Ireland. These pics just increase that motivation, so when my partner and I retire in about three years I think we might try to fix a barge exchange with someone who fancies cruising in France for a couple of months.
    Thanks very much indeed.

  2. Thanks, Kelland. I’m sure you would find takers for a swap. If or when you decide to go ahead, contact me or the Heritage Boat Association on In the meantime, you might be interested in Hawthorn’s blog: her English owners crossed the Irish Sea in their barge last year and have been getting around Irish waterways since then.


  3. Hi, Great set of photos and information. I was wondering if there is electricity available at the dry docks

  4. great set of pictures !

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