Traditional Boats of the Irish

Currach on the shore of Achill Island
Currach on the shore of Achill Island

Currach on the shore of Achill Island

As St. Patrick’s day approaches – the day when everyone is Irish – a boating enthusiast might wonder: “I know how to drink like the Irish, but how do I boat like the Irish?” We did some research and made a list of four traditional Irish boats to share with you this March 17th:

West Cork Mackerel Yawl

This traditional Irish boat was used for fishing in the early 1900’s along the southern coast of Ireland. As the design of the boat evolved, several of these were used as racing boats and often won regattas.

Galway Hooker

A “Galway” (or “Conamara”) is actually the largest of four versions of this boat design. These sailing boats ranged anywhere from 35 – 45 feet long and were used mainly for transporting goods. To this day, these are still popular among traditionalists and raced every summer in regattas.


A wood framed boat that traditionally had animal skins or hides stretched over it (though its modern counterpart uses canvas). Native to the west coast of Ireland, these boats vary by size and shape depending on the region.  The currach is versatile and can be used as a sea boat and to traverse the inland waters of Ireland.


This small, oval-shaped water vessel’s first recorded use was in the early sixteenth century. Though not exclusive to Ireland (the craft was used in Wales, England and Scotland), it was used to navigate the River Boyne extensively in Ireland.  A coracle looks a lot like a large walnut shell and the outer layer was often covered in animal skin and tar to make it waterproof.

If you’d like to learn more about traditional Irish boats, visit the Traditional Boats of Ireland project!