Barging… What you need to know

Q. What experience do I need and do I require a licence?  

A. No licence is required to cruise on the Inland waterways of Ireland. Previous boating experience is helpful but not essential. If you are a complete novice then we recommend The Grand Canal cruising for still water and ease of navigation. Karin will give you a short course in boat handling before you leave.  We guarantee that after half a day you will feel at ease. For the boating enthusiast, The Barrow River is more challenging, with fluctuating water levels and currents, unguarded weirs and requires boat handling skills.

Q. How fit do I need to be ? Is there an age limit to hiring a Barge ?

A. There is no maximum age limit. It involves plenty of activity, fresh air and adventure.…as you would expect with all adventure holidays you need to be fit and in good health and keep in mind that some parts of the waterways are pretty remote. You need a minimum of 2 able bodied crew who will be required to throw ropes, use a barge pole, jump from the boat onto the canal or river bank, work a lock key and push open lock gates etc… ( Minimum age to take charge of a barge is 21 )   Note:  Children under 16 are not recommended to operate the Lock Key or drive the barge.

Q. How do I steer the Barge?

The boats are steered by a tiller at the stern and unlike driving a car the tiller operates in the opposite direction to the way you want to go; push to the right to make the boat swing to the left and visa versa. This might sound confusing but you soon get the hang of it. While driving you are standing outside enjoying the elements. Many hirers state that they have never slept as well as when on a barge due to all the fresh air.  ( could be the Guinness too ! ) Each  boat has an RYA booklet on board  ” Practical Course in Inland Cruising” , the essential reference book for all you need to know about barging.

Q. What about the Locks?  Is there any Commercial traffic ?

A. The Locks are a feature of Inland cruising. They are a fascinating part of our Engineering Heritage and are all manual. They consist of a simple cog and lever system operated by a Lock Key and assisted by the power of water.  The locks are well spaced and provide a welcome break for the crew from cruising. There is no commercial traffic on Irish canals however the tradition of Lock keeper still exists. They are employed to assist you if you wish.

Q. How far can we go?

A. Remember the slower you go the more relaxing it will be. The journey is best enjoyed at walking pace, 4 mph, and your average distance per day is 18 miles ( 25 Km. ) After the days cruising the real fun starts !

Q. When is the best time to go?

A. We are open from April ( Easter ) to October.     The River Barrow is subject to changing water levels and it is known to have summer water levels in April or even high water levels in August ! Our boats are designed for River cruising.  In Ireland the weather is very unpredictable, you can get four seasons in one day ! The Grand Canal is still water and is always possible to cruise.  Each season has something to offer.

Spring – hatching swans, new growth, white blossoms on the Hawthorn hedges, turf fire, May fly and the ‘Dawn Chorus’, .

Summer – long days, wild flowers, rising temperatures, swimming, eating outdoors.

Autumn – The colour of the trees, fruit laden hedgerows. Sunsets can be particularly good at this time of year. Turf fire.

No matter when you go it is never busy compared with more known tourist destinations… Imagine more often than not you have it entirely to yourselves ! ( FACT)

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