The Bridge at Banagher forms a county boundary line between Offaly and Galway and a provincial boundary between Leinster and Connacht.
The current bridge that crosses the Shannon at Banagher is not the original iteration of a bridge – the present bridge constructed between 1841-1843 however, a seventeen stone arch stone bridge was standing at the ford at Banagher by 1685 and its many diverse arches suggest it may have been an extension of an older structure. During the Williamite Wars of 1690-91 Banagher sided with the cause of James II and as the Irish Jacobites held the line of the river at Banagher. As a result, the bridge became known as Sarsfield’s Bridge for the number of times the Jacobite forced under Patrick Sarsfield traversed it. Following the Battle of Aughrim the town was soon re-occupied by the English forces who remained until 1863. Banagher’s strategic importance as a major river crossing continued into the nineteenth century, when the renewal of the Anglo-French War in 1803 promoted the Shannon to upgrade the Middle Shannon defences should the French invade from Connacht. A fragment of the earlier 1685 bridge is still visible between Cromwell’s Castle and the 7th arch.
To improve navigation on the main Shannon and to accommodate improvements in steam navigation, the government funded Shannon Navigation Improvement Works of 1841-1843 saw the removal of the ford at Banagher and the construction of a new stone bridge with a cast iron swivel arch. (This opening section has been replaced with a permanent beam). This work was overseen by the civil engineer Thomas Rhodes and undertaken by the engineering contractor William Mackenzie. Mackenzie later became the leading railway contractor in Europe.
The bridge remains a focal point for many of Banagher’s attractions and has an array of places of historical and recreational interest surrounding it.