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The Three Sisters -

The absence of detailed charts designed for the inland waterways boatman – rather than the seagoing charts for shipping – could be one contributory factor for the absence of craft on these most beautiful waterways. Charles Dunn has compiled the attached notes to assist anyone who wishes to visit The Three Sisters, but – as with all navigation guides – no liability is accepted for any error therein.


The most beautiful stretch of the Three Sisters is also the least travelled by any craft. It’s a voyage of beauty, and exploration. Bring your maps, guides, compass and essentials and you will be well rewarded. Fresh water taps are only located at Graiguenamanagh and at Waterford marinas; fill up before going south!

South of St Mullins is tidal – check your insurance policy as most inland policies exclude tidal waters. You also need to get a tide tables for the area, and practice predictions by watching the tides rising and falling. Note the lack of other craft means you need to be self sufficient on this stretch, as there is likely to be nobody else to tow you off any shoal. It would be wise to bring a dinghy, and check your engine before heading out. Some suggest a VHF radio is useful for communicating with Waterford Harbour and the shipping, but problems will not arise if you maintain continuous watch for the ships and give them plenty of space – they have very restricted mobility in the shallow and fast flowing river. 

The Barrow Navigation Guide stops abruptly at St Mullins, with only sketchy details and part plans of the rivers south. These notes and drawings were made on voyages undertaken in a canal narrowboat. Motor boats will have more power to overcome the river flows but may also have deeper draught and more headroom requirements.

Publisher's note: The information on this page is published by IWAI in good faith.  However, please note that the information here is provisional and must be treated with utmost care, i.e. it may be inaccurate, dated or the features described may be adversely affected by tidal or weather conditions..  Note also that there is commercial traffic in some of the channels discussed. 

Author's note.

It was an idea borne out of madness, to bring a 40 ton M barge down the (for us) untried waters of the Barrow in 1998. The floods, the rocks, the weirs? Sure nobody goes down there at all, the Shannon crowd said! So we were a little surprised to find – after professional bargeman Jim Gill guided his first cargo carrying boat 67M back into Graiguenamanagh after an absence of some 30 years – that Dick Lovergrove had beaten us south to St Mullins with 70M by the cunning stunt of a seaward passage down the east coast from Dublin! Fortified with the enthusiasm that only a fleet of M barges can assume, we ventured up the Nore to Inistigoe to the amusement of locals. No M barge had visited their quayside for years, and then - in the manner and style of a Dublin Bus fleet - along come two in company at the same time!

We are older and wiser now, but the beauty of the Nore, Barrow and Suir remained in our memory until we could  fulfil our dream to return and explore further. Armed with a more manoeuvrable craft – 45 foot of steel hulled English narrowboat – we returned in 2003, coming south from Lowtown down to Ballyhack and Carrick On Suir.

The absence of detailed charts designed for the inland waterways boatman – rather than the seagoing charts for shipping – could be one contributory factor for the absence of craft on these most beautiful waterways. We compiled the attached notes and distribute them freely to assist anyone who wishes to visit The Three Sisters, but – as with all navigation guides – no liability is accepted for any error therein. It would be useful to update these guides with any information you might have, please forward in first instance to IWAI who will try to notify relevant parties.

Charles Dunn
December 2003


(See also WI Guide Map No.22)

Best to depart at 2 hours before high tide, so that rising tide will lift you off any danger you happen upon. Stay close to the towpath bank (east side) to avoid the Scar at St Mullins, which rocks cover at high tide. Steamer Hole dries alongside at low tide, but there is water at the farthest downriver wall. Be careful not to get trapped under the steel tide measuring device here as the tide rises. A ladder is required to get ashore at low tide.

Stay mid river, there is no towpath or access to the river along this stretch. The Round Tower is conspicuous high on the hill at the bend, at this most rural part of the River Barrow. The banks are high forested cliffs towering majestically over the river.


There is not much headroom at high tide on Ferrmountgarrett Road Bridge, and the lifting section no longer lifts. There is enough jetty at the centre arch, where one could moor in emergency and await tide level to drop, but there is a strong ebb flow in the river so you need to judge the headroom as early as possible.

There is a wreck (covers at high tide) near the south bank downriver of Ferrymountgarrett Bridge, it is marked with a Green Conical (leave to starboard coming upriver) but the colour has now faded to indistinguishable.


(See also WI Guide Map No.26)

The junction of the River Nore is difficult to distinguish coming downriver, as the summer reed growth conceals it from the North. Stay mid channel going upstream. The river banks are rural woodland and farmland. Note the tide time difference means Inistigoe will be dry before New Ross is at low tide. Much of the river dries at low tide, but there is depth to anchor in at the Red House (conspicuous large house overlooking the river) if you get stuck before Inistigoe.

The quay wall at Inistigoe dries, but has sandy flat bottom suitable for lying alongside. There is depth to anchor in the “Pool” opposite the quay. There are rocks and shallows in the river upstream from the quay.

Inistigoe is a beautiful village, scene for films The Widows Peak and ………. There are good restaurants and bars, and the mooring is secure only a short and picturesque walk from the town. Locals swim in the river at the slipway beside the quay.


The Barrow widens considerable and there is much depth all tides. The banks are lower and more inhabited as you go south toward New Ross. There are boats moored in the river upstream of the bridge, beside the boat club floating jetty where visitors are welcome. There is much depth on the outside of the jetty at all tides. A southerly wind can raise a swell here and there is no shelter nearby. The bridge is fixed, use centre arch and line up early as there is strong current. South of the bridge there are no visitor’s berths, but there are many commercial shipping quays. Replica famine ship Dunbrody is alongside downstream of the bridge at the east bank.

New Ross is recreating itself from industrial and shipbuilding days now gone. There are many fine pubs and restaurants. Replica famine ship Dunbrody is well worth a visit, access through the tourist office and gift shop. Rosbercon side at New Ross Boat Club is undergoing redevelopment. Boat Club members are small enthusiastic band, actively involved in the waterway and very helpful.

plan 2 - click for larger chart


There is much depth in the buoyed shipping channel mid river downstream from New Ross, but look out for ships speeding downstream on the ebb tide.

Barrow Bridge is a relatively high steel construction railway bridge, minimum 10ft headroom, swivel from control section towards west bank, large ships come upstream and passage is clearly marked, separate arch for upstream and downstream traffic. Stream is strong here, line up early for the correct arch.

River Barrow ends here; you have just entered the River Suir.



See also "A Guide to Carrick by the Suir" -
The Carrick guide is much more than a guide to the town: it's a navigation guide for the Suir from Waterford up to Carrick, and the only one in print. The guide is fairly recent and should be available from the Carrick-on-Suir Boat Club.

Ebb flow is very strong, and may be difficult to motor upstream against it (if you have come down the Barrow on the ebb tide). Option is to moor at Cheekpoint and await flood tide.


Power station on east side, has jetty for large fuel ships, not suitable for smaller craft.

detail 1 - click for larger chart

detail 2 - click for larger chart

detail 3 - click for larger chart

CHEEKPOINT (see detail No.1)

Harbour dries at low tide; there is approx. 2m depth low tide alongside outside of quay. Approach from south (there is a sand spit north of the quay) between green/red buoys, stick to centre of marked channel. Cheekpoint has pub and restaurant, but may not open until later in the day. "Day to Day" shop open all day with good range of provisions and call 051 382388 for out of hours emergencies.  Click here for details of a walk about Cheekpoint.

There are stone groins extending from Cheekpoint shore northwards (constructed to deepen rive channel), yellow markers indicate northern extent of each; covered at high tide, stay centre river.  


The river is buoyed clearly for shipping coming upriver to Waterford. Beware the wash from shipping, note also large ships are restricted due to shallows and may not alter course to avoid you. The river is wide at this point, strong southerly winds can cause a large swell.

BALLYHACK (see detail No.2)

Ballyhack Castle is visible from a distance; there is clear water from the west in to the quay where mooring is possible. Avoid the path of the Passage East Car Ferry which operates sunrise to sunset, there is much road traffic associated with it. Be careful not to dry on the slipway beside the quay wall. The harbour dries at low water, and the swell makes mooring outside the quay risky. Private moorings north of the harbour are quite robust; one especially used by the boatyard might be reliable if available. There is a shop, but the restaurant was closed.

Ballyhack is a quaint village to wander around, the castle is impressive and the quay offers lovely views of the river south to the Atlantic. There is much car traffic generated by the ferry, but the coastal walk to Aurthurstown is enjoyable.


South of Ballyhack, on the east coast. Harbour dries and there are no facilities. This is a holiday town with long beach. Coastal walk from Ballyhack but the car ferry traffic uses this route from Wexford and it is very busy.

Arthurstown is a quaint holiday village, with a lovely beach. Many new holiday homes are under construction but the village does not have any services.

PASSAGE EAST (see detail No.3)

Harbour dries, but there is possible mooring at the floating pontoon for the pilot boat. Avoid the path of the Ballyhack Car Ferry which operates sunrise to sunset, there is much road traffic associated with it. The ferry docks on its own slipway north of the harbour. There is a new watchtower for the pilot office but it is unused yet. town has shops and most services.

Passage East is a very picturesque village, with quaint old houses in a beautifully maintained village square. The car ferry traffic causes problems during the summer. There are coastal walks south with views over the estuary to the Atlantic. The new pilot station will replace pilot operations at Dunmore East, ships will travel up the estuary to Passage before taking on a pilot.


The channel is buoyed for shipping through to Waterford, but keep an eye for ships which approach very fast from behind as they normally enter the river on the flood. Bell Containers established a container shipping base on the North bank but it is not suitable for mooring.


The eastern end of the island is clearly marked with a lighted beacon (a sand spit extends east a distance from the island), and usual passage is to the north of the island following the buoyed shipping route into Waterford. There is reported to be also passage south of the island. 


There is a very strong current through the city, so be prepared with mooring ropes for a one-shot berthing. A small river enters the Suir east of the city from the south bank; this river dries (although the rowing club moors small craft here). The hotel plans to open new pontoon here also. There are two city council run marinas which welcome visitors on the south bank, and there is much depth at all tides alongside these. Access to shore is by swipecard, obtainable from the county council (Monday to Friday only!) – one of the locals will assist. There is fresh water available at both marinas. Be careful to moor securely, and do not untie from the marina until you have checked the flow in the river as your motor may be overwhelmed.

Waterford is a bustling metropolis, with fine bars, restaurants, shopping and many public festival events. Visit the museum on the river front which has a fine interactive display.

plan 3 - click for larger chart


Waterford Bridge is a lifting bridge but there is much clearance for motorboats all tides. Buoyed channel is deep, some shipping travels up to Fiddown. There are hauling buoys for shipping east of the bridge mid channel. The disused railway bridge has been stripped of its central swivel section (which is seen abandoned on the north bank) so there is no headroom problem. Mount Congreve is a notable hotel building on the south bank, with a small (private?) jetty. The buoyed channel mid-river has deep water.


There is a quay and a slipway on the east bank, but the town of Mooncoin is distant. Nearby church is conspicuous landmark.


The Clodiagh River runs through Portlaw town and enters the river Suir on the west bank opposite Mooncoin. You can read The Clodiagh: the forgotten navigation by Brian J Goggin that appeared in Inland Waterways News winter 2004 .  The Clodiagh was used well into this century by boats bringing stuff to the tannery at Portlaw. There's no towpath: boats would have gone in on the tide, branched off into the canalised stretch below the town and floated up to the mills/tannery. Some Barrow Branch people went up in small boats in 2004.

plan 4 - click for larger chart

detail 4 - click for larger chart

UPRIVER TO FIDDOWN (see plan and detail No.4)

(See also WI Guide Map No.24)

The buoyed channel is clear up to the sand shoal east of Fiddown, marked with buoys. Keep close to south west bank and sharp turn (difficult with the current) to pass north east of the island. The oil storage tanks are conspicuous, but the shoal is covered most tides and the clear channel is closer to the south west bank than you imagine. Fiddown bridge is a fixed bridge, reasonable head height at most tides. There is a quay for oil carrying ships at Fiddown, but there is security fencing protecting the oil storage and quay with no access to the town. Note the buoyage stops at this point, ships do not travel upstream from Fiddown.


(See also WI Guide Map No.25)

The channel is mainly close to the south bank, and there are many shoals (and one particular group of rocks) which are avoided by sticking very close to the south bank. Close to and within view of the town, there is an island which is left to starboard by staying again close to the south bank. A floating jetty has been constructed by local boat owners, but a key is required to access the road. There is a water tap on the jetty, and much depth at all tides.

CarrickOn Suir  is an old town undergoing much renovation, but not looking outward toward the river.  There are many and varied pubs, and it would be worth spending more time to explore but most river voyagers  will need to catch tides for the trip back to Waterford.


It is best to ensure tide is still rising when passing Fiddown in case of mishap on the shoals there, and you need to arrive at Waterford before the ebb gets into full flow or it will be difficult to stop! Best to depart Carrick On Suir with about 2 hours before high tide there. Note the lack of other craft means you need to be self sufficient on this stretch, there is likely to be nobody else to tow you off any shoal.


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