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Folk, fables and foibles the guidebook forgot to mention
  • Fergus Manor

10. The road to the sea ...

At 60km long from source to Shannon, the river Fergus is one of the longest tributaries to flow into the mighty river Shannon which, at 360km, is Ireland’s longest river. Below Ardilaun the Fergus remains almost out of sight for several kilometres until it meanders into and through Ennis itself. Several bridges later it emerges from its urban adventure and leaves the eastern outskirts of the town to head south straight for Clarecastle and the Shannon. The Fergus enters Ennis proper at Mill Road from where it begins to wander round the centre forming a flowery, italic ‘u’, before heading out of town again a hundred metres beyond the bridge at Abbey Street where it veers right by the Courthouse; despite its serpentine route and its ‘ever-present’ feel, less than 900 metres of river. The scattering of buildings and artefacts that cluster round the Mill Road bridge are testimony to a previous era when this was the site of Ennis Corn Mill, one of only two mills on the river, the other being near the source, south of Lough Inchiquin (see previous Blog). On the bend between here and the next crossing at Bank Place was Wood Quay where the few craft able to make it upriver a century ago would unload and, closer to the bridge at Bank Place, there used to be another wharf, Harvey’s Quay. Between Bank Place and Abbey Street is Ennis’ newest crossing point, Harmony Row (pedestrian) Bridge and, just round the bend, Abbey Street crosses as the Fergus abandons its brief flirtation with urban life and heads Shannon-wards. The river that passes Ardilaun’s back garden is, as we all know, called the Fergus but, 7km down the road in Clarecastle, some locals are already calling it the Shannon. Far be it for me to quibble with a local, but I’m pretty sure some people’s inclination to elevate the Fergus to Shannon status several kilometres before it actually flows into the Shannon Estuary might just be an example of elite river-ism. But Clarecastle has one important claim to fame for, though some boats were able to make it to Ennis, Clarecastle was the end of the navigable line for those craft with a deeper draft and/or a mast, and thus was Ennis’ de facto port. Where the quay once facilitated loading and unloading, there is a pleasant, albeit short, riverside walkway with views of the castle itself and the adjacent bridge over the Fergus. Like the lower reaches of the Shannon, the Fergus is tidal at Clarecastle but it is also tidal beyond Clarecastle at Ennis itself. Another local anomaly is the small town of Newmarket-on-Fergus, almost 9km south-west of Clarecastle. Despite the name, the town is definitely not on the river Fergus which, at its nearest point, is about 2km to the west and not even a stone’s throw away. Personally, I think it should be renamed as Newmarket-nearly-on-Fergus and, if this takes off, then Clarecastle could justifiably warrant a reicarnation as Clarecastle-nearly-on-Shannon. That said, when it passes Ardilaun it is definitely called the Fergus and is non-tidal. From Ardilaun it meanders its way south into and around Ennis where, depending on where you start and finish, it is crossed by those seven road bridges and one pedestrian bridge. Sadly there is no one road or route that easily allows you to visit all Ennis’ bridges but for those determined to view the Fergus from each and every one, there is a contrived drive-cum-walk that will mollify such obsessions as well as take in a few other interesting landmarks. That’s for a future Blog so, in the meantime, if you’re out and about and know your way round the town, then, starting from Ardilaun, these are the bridges to look out for: Drumcliffe Road, Cusack Road, Mill Road, Bank Place, Harmony Row pedestrian bridge, Abbey Street, Clon Road and Quin Road. And for those who need to see it to the very end, then an online map will give you a bird’s eye view and the road to Islandavanna Lower off the R473 is probably as close as you’ll get if you want to be really up close and personal. Now you know as much about the Fergus as a native of Ennis … or perhaps even more.



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