Estuary communities united by Ilen voyage

Estuary communities united by Ilen voyage


Photo: Dermot Lynch

Communities on either side of the Shannon Estuary were united as part of a unique event last week, as the renowned Ilen ship followed the path of the old Cargo Ships down the Shannon Estuary, transporting ‘Gift Cargo Boxes’ between communities on each side of the Estuary.

As part of the event, these local Shannon Estuary communities were invited to put together a Cargo Box from their area, to gift to other communities along the Shannon Estuary. The invite to gift a cargo box was greeted with huge enthusiasm with communities gathering gifts that best represented the produce or heritage from their individual areas, as well as the trade traditions between the Estuary communities. Gift boxes included loose tea and sugar from Kildysart and grain, seaweed and lace from Kilrush town and a Gandelaw anchor from Clarecastle along with a variety of gifts from Labasheeda and horseshoes from Ballynanally.

Limerick City was also represented with hampers from Treaty City Beers, The Milk Thistle Café Mungret, and Kearney Bakery Ballyhahill. Other gifts included books from Askeaton and Foynes, dried reeds from Mungret and honey, onions and seaweed from Glin. As part of the same voyage a cask of whiskey from the Treaty Whiskey Distillery was transported to Kilrush town by JJ Corry Irish Whiskey.

The symbolic cargo boxes were boarded onto the Ilen in Limerick City and at various other locations as the vessel made its way to Cappagh Harbour, the shipping harbour for the town of Kilrush. The Ilen vessel itself is hugely symbolic of the tradition of trade across the Shannon Estuary, and the vibrant trade and shipping market that once formed part of daily life.

The event was part of a Destination Development Programme led by two rural and community development organisations, West Limerick Resources CLG, and Clare Local Development Company through the LEADER programme, and the ‘Gift Cargo Box’ event represented the formal launch of the programme. The Shannon Estuary Way Destination Development programme is focused on putting communities at the heart of the Shannon Estuary Way and the visitor experience, as part of the destination development process.

A wealth of ideas are already emerging in the early weeks of the programme for community and story exchanges and local communities are actively engaging in developing ways to enhance the existing offering and develop new visitor experiences. During the course of the next twelve months, participants will learn ways in which their communities can share the rich heritage of the Shannon Estuary Way with each other and with visitors.

Commenting on the launch, LEADER Development Officer with Clare Local Development Company, Agnes O’Shaughnessy added: “We are thrilled with the enthusiastic response from communities to this symbolic voyage. We’re looking forward to all that is yet to emerge as the communities of the Shannon Estuary take the lead in shaping the story of their destination and coming together to share it with visitors.”

The Shannon Estuary Way is a 207km destination route created and launched by Fáilte Ireland in 2019, to stimulate tourism and increase visitor dwell time in the local areas that surround the Shannon Estuary. The route includes communities in the Counties of Clare, Limerick and Kerry. Further information on joining this Shannon Estuary Way Destination Development programme is available from the Tourism Space at or you can register to take part at online at