Ireland may be called the "Gateway to Europe," but Shannon Airport is the gateway to Ireland. The West Coast has long been described as the starting point of Irish adventures and although not the biggest or most heavily-trafficked on the island, this international airport located just north of Limerick City is the travel hub of the west.
On September 16, 1945, the very first transatlantic flight flew from New York into Shannon Airport. International travel really took off after World War II, but limited aircraft ranges still warranted refueling stops and Shannon Airport was the most convenient stopover. Ireland was a non-NATO country right in the middle of NATO, which also made the airport attractive for the USSR. Even when aircrafts became capable of flying longer stretches, the famous “Shannon stopover” still existed—this mandatory, politically-motivated interruption of flights ended only in 2007.
These days, Shannon Airport, located in County Clare in the Province of Munster, is the third largest in Ireland, behind Dublin and Cork. It sees about 1.8 million passengers per year, and serves the towns of Limerick, Ennis, and Galway. Such tourist attractions as Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Limerick's bustling city center, and the Foynes Flying Boat Museum are only a short drive away.
Despite its fame from being the first transatlantic airport in the world and from having Ireland's longest runway (which was once a designated emergency landing site for the Space Shuttle), Shannon Airport remains humble. In fact, it has only one terminal.
Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information
- Shannon Airport (SNN) lies directly between Ennis and Limerick, adjacent to the Shannon Estuary. Many use SNN as their access point to Ireland's highly sought-after coast. It's 15 minutes from Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, an hour from Limerick, and an hour, 30 minutes from the famous Cliffs of Moher.
- Phone Number: +353 61 712 000
- Website: https://www.shannonairport.ie/
- Flight Tracker: https://www.shannonairport.ie/passengers/flight-info/arrivals/
Know Before You Go
Whereas Shannon Airport was once a first choice when it came to catching long-haul flights, it is no longer. It does operate several flights per day to the US, UK, and beyond, but many are apt to fly into the much bigger and busier Dublin Airport (which sees 15 times more passengers per year), unless the West Coast is their first or only stop.
The busiest international routes starting and ending at SNN are London, New York, and Boston. Its airlines include Aer Lingus, Aer Lingus Regional, Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta, Lufthansa, Norwegian, Ryanair, TUI Airways, and United Airlines.
Shannon Airport has one terminal that's split into two floors. Both arrivals and departures occupy the ground floor, while the first floor is reserved for restaurants, lounges, a museum which showcases the airport's history, US Preclearance for people traveling to the States, and passenger screening.
Though old, this West Coast travel center has been kept up-to-date and is known to be super clean. However, the temperature inside is typically cold, so keep your Irish Aran jumper in-hand.
There are several parking options for those who prefer to drive themselves. The nearest to the airport are the short-term (offering hourly rates, up to €19.50 for the day) and long-term garages (which offers a better deal when you book online), both adjacent to the terminal. Further away (and offering a cheaper rate) is the Park4Less lot, which can be booked online for €30 per week and is an eight-minute walk to the terminal.
Shannon Airport marks the end of N19 and is well signposted on highways coming from every direction.
- From Dublin: Take the M7 or N7 past Limerick, or the M6 to Galway, then merge onto M18 southbound. All roads have tolls.
- From Galway: Take the M18 or N18 south.
- From Ennis: SNN is a 23-minute drive on N18 from Ennis.
- From Kerry: Take the N21 or the N69 northbound.
- From Cork: Take the N20, then merge onto N18 after Limerick.
- From Tipperary and Waterford: Take the N24, then merge onto N18 after Limerick.
Public Transportation and Taxis
Bus Éireann is one of the most cost-effective ways of getting into Limerick, Cork, Galway, and even as far as Dublin and the Cliffs of Moher from Shannon Airport. It makes more than 100 connections from SNN daily. Bus 51 goes between Cork and Galway (and back) and Bus 343 between Limerick and Ennis, both with stops at Shannon Airport mid-trip. There are bus stops at both the arrivals and departures gate.
Taxis are also available on-demand at the taxi desk in the arrivals hall, though they tend to be a more expensive option. A trip to Bunratty, for instance, will set you back about €30; to Limerick or Ennis, €50 or perhaps more; and all the way to Galway, €130. You can also book your taxi online in advance to relieve some post-arrival stress.
Where to Eat and Drink
There are only four dining options at Shannon Airport—again, it's small—but even still, there's something to suit every taste and budget. Firstly, there's Harry's for your obligatory morning cuppa and croissant. The café is located at Gates 106-114, in the post-Customs & Border Protection Departure area, which makes it extremely convenient for US-bound travelers. It's open from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Then, there's Zest Food Market, located in the departures lounge, which provides middle ground for people who might need more than a snack but less than a sit-down meal. It offers healthy, salad-style takeaway options between 5:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. Those seeking a more relaxed and upscale dining experience might rather head for JJ Ruddles—traditional Irish cuisine with an Italian twist—in the arrivals hall or The Sheridan, a 24-hour pub—yes, really—located at the exit of Shannon Duty Free that serves up famous cups of Irish coffee with its range of appetizers, steaks, and seafood.
There are two airport lounges to boot, both airside, if your layover is long enough to allow stopping by them for snacks and coffee (or a more adult beverage, say). The Burren Suite, adjacent to Gate 6, offers drinks, food, showers, and wifi from 7:15 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. daily (to non-transatlantic passengers only). It is, however, closed during the winter season. The Boru Lounge, alternatively, is open year-round from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., although it closes early on Saturdays. Adjacent to Gate 7, it, too, offers showers and the usual lounge fare.
Both can be accessed by a membership or by paying a fee at the door.
Wifi and Charging Stations
Shannon Airport offers free and unlimited wifi. It also has coin-operated internet kiosks outside the WH Smithbook, which is located in the central concourse between arrivals and departures.
Besides power outlets at the restaurants and bars, there are also public charge points available in the transit seating areas.
Airport Tips and Tidbits
- SNN's greatest claim to fame may be the fact that it's home to the world’s first ever duty-free shop, which opened in 1947.
- One of the largest collections of model aircraft in the world can be found in the Aviation Gallery on the first floor.
- While the airport has only two floors, there is an indoor observation deck on the second level, which has cozy seats to relax in with a view of planes coming in and taking off.
- Luggage lockers are available in the Link Corridor of the Terminal Building for €3.00 per day.