Experience the Lough Derg Blueway With summer here, it’s time to plan out the next few weeks of fun and activities. Whether you’re a family, a couple, or a lone wolf, Lough Derg will provide you with more than enough adventure to keep you going!
With its blissful, blue, clear water and beautiful, dramatic surrounding countryside, the Lough Derg Blueway stretches across three Irish counties – Clare, Tipperary and Galway – each with its own list of activities, trails and loops to explore. Best of all, you can do it your way – by canoe, paddle board, under sail, cruising, by bicycle or by foot. North, south, east and west, we simply can’t choose a favourite, so you’ll have a ball no matter where you go!
If you really can’t decide, here are Go Wild’s highlights along the Lough Derg Blueway.
Northern Highlights: Portumna, Terryglass and Lorrha The northern side of the lake has plenty to offer, from walking to kayaking, driving to horse-riding. There are plenty of ways to enjoy this part of Lough Derg and more activities than you can fit into a weekend.
If you’re looking for a good hike, there’s no shortage of beautiful trails in Portumna Forest Park, with a range of different hike lengths so you can find one suited to your family or group.
Don’t pass up the chance to watch beautiful white-tailed eagles in the forest from a bird hide in the forest – if you’re lucky enough to see them, it’s an inspiring experience. Visit Portumna Castle to bring you back in time to the 17th Century and why not recharge in the newly-opened tea rooms and enjoy some delicious treats in the historical surroundings on the castle grounds?
There’s plenty in the way of accommodation up this side of the lake too, but if you’re looking for something a little bit different, check out the ‘glamping’ facilities at Podumna. The little wooden pods offer a unique experience, with all the fun and feel of a woodland setting in a convenient town central location.
Don’t miss the opportunity to try kayaking in Terryglass with Lough Derg Water Sports. Learn from the experts
as you tour around the beautiful harbour and lake at your own pace. The harbour also offers an excellent playground and the country village is home to two welcoming bar and restaurants. Lorrha Monastic Village is just a short spin from the lake and is home to important ecclesiastical ruins, well worth a visit and try to catch a tour while you are there.
Eastern promise: Garrykennedy, Nenagh and Dromineer Dromineer is a beautiful place to gaze across Lough Derg, listening to the water lapping and the clinking of the dinghies in the small harbour. Stroll beside the boats, let the children loose in the playground, or at ‘Aquasplash’, an inflatable water park operating in the summer months; or simply relax at the nearby café, bar and restaurant.
Go back in time and immerse yourself in local heritage at Garrykennedy Castle – this area is perfect for casual strolling close to the water in the woods, or along the harbour, watching the yachts and cruisers come and go. There are two lovely traditional Irish pubs in the idyllic village and Larkin’s serves some top notch food. Visit on a Sunday if you can as they have great traditional music in the evenings.
If you fancy a cycle, then follow the North Tipperary Cycle Routes that take in Nenagh, Terryglass, Garrykennedy, Cloughjordan and Borrisokane. Don’t miss the chance to climb the 101 steps to the top of the majestic Nenagh Castle; while surveying your surroundings, you’ll see Lough Derg and beyond in the distance.
The Lough Derg area has a rightly deserved reputation for gastronomy – options for fine dining or grazing at a farmer’s market are equally catered for through ‘A Taste of Lough Derg’. See www.atasteofloughderg.ie for a series of summer food events for visitors to enjoy.
If you’ve only time for one walk in this part of the
lake then make it the Arra Mountain Loop (six hours). Travelling over Tarmac, bog roads, farm tracks, gravel paths and fields, it winds past the northern edge of the Slieve Arra. It is a strenuous walk with some climbing, so it’s not for the faint of heart! There are wooden steps up most of Laghtea Hill but it is still steep. Stick with it though: You will be rewarded with spectacular views of Lough Derg.
For your holiday photo, stop off at The Lookout in Portroe offering panoramic views of Lough Derg and take a trip down to Castlelough for a swim in the lake, or stroll in the woods, where fairy doors adorn the trees!
All that is before you even consider the kayaking, horse-riding, stand-up paddling, cycling and variety of other activities on offer around Lough Derg
Southern Sights: Ballycuggeran, Killaloe/Ballina In Killaloe/Ballina, Lough Derg really is in the centre of everything; it bustles with sailing boats and cruisers and echoes with the clink of halyards on masts.
If you want to unwind and relax, then experience the area from the water in the comfort of Killaloe River Cruises. You enjoy a different perspective of Killaloe from the water, so contact Kevin at Soulkite Stand Up Paddling to arrange for a SUP trip along the Shannon and the picturesque canal. You’ll have a blast trying to maintain your balance and, once you do, you’ll be the envy of everyone watching from the shore – provided they haven’t already seen you fall off 15 times!
There are significant architectural and heritage sites close to Killaloe/Ballina. You can undertake a self-guided tour of this historical area, or be guided by a local if you’d like to hear all the local stories. The tour includes the 13th century St Flannan’s cathedral with its Ogham stone carvings, Romanesque doorway and the tomb of Muircheartaigh. Killaloe is also home to two oratories – named after St Flannan and St Lua.
Ballina and Killaloe are home to superb boutiques, bakeries, artisan shops and galleries – making it the perfect location to explore the old and the new. There is a wonderful riverside park and seasonal outdoor swimming pool, plenty of moorings for cruisers, and the jetty offers a platform to fish from. There are many enticing eateries dotted around the twin towns, making it difficult to choose, but The Wooden Spoon, Goosers, Tuscany and Flanagans are hard to pass by!
With two hotels and many self-catering and guest house options you won’t be stuck for a place to stay either.
West: Two-Mile-Gate, , Scarriff, Mountshannon Who says you need to go to the coast to visit the beach? Lough Derg has three Blue Flags and one of these is at Two-Mile-Gate, a little lakeside beach where you can dip your toe or go for a swim.
Here, you can stop off to enjoy a picnic on the pontoons and just across the road is Ballycuggeran Woods, an impressive oak wood with looped walks and panoramic views of Lough Derg from its highest point.
Scarriff and Tuamgraney are beautiful historical villages with a marvellous woollen mill and chocolate factory – just two of the hidden gems you might find. Trips out on the lake are offered at Scarriff Harbour with Derg Boat Trips.
If you head for Mountshannon, there’s another Blue Flag beach here, but this time, travel out across the lake to Holy Island with local guide Gerard Madden of Holy Island Tours at the helm. You can spend a half day here walking amongst its six ruined churches and round tower, while keeping a lookout for the local white-tailed sea eagles, which were reintroduced to the area in 2012. This is a breathtaking experience, but bring wellies – it’s mucky in places!
Across from the harbour, you can go for a walk through the quirky and beautiful Aistear park in Mountshannon. Run through the maze and along the paths overlooking the lake, or travel along the labyrinth. The wildness and beauty of this area have attracted many skilled artists and provides a diverse range of crafts, paintings, bog oak sculptures and mosaics for gifts and take-home memories. Some of these artists offer workshops as well, so you might even pick up a skill!
For an alternative view, try discovering the great outdoors and beautiful nature of Lough Derg on a horseback with a guided tour with An Sibin Riding Centre in Whitegate. Enjoy a combination of visiting the ancient Irish castles and monastic ruins with lovely guided trail rides through
Key destination points • Holy Island • Castlelough • Nenagh Castle • Lookout at Portroe • Portumna Forest Park • Portumna Castle • Two-Mile-Gate • Aistear Park • Tountinna • Saint Cronan’s Church, Tuamgraney • St Flannan’s Cathedral
A Taste of Lough Derg: The lakeside towns of Lough Derg are renowned for their impressive array of award-winning restaurants, cafes, pubs and speciality food shops, all offering a famously warm, Irish welcome.
For a chance to meet some of the area’s food gurus, look no further than the many farmer and country markets
that take place throughout the year in Killaloe, Scarriff, Mountshannon, Nenagh, Portumna and Terryglass.
Catch one of the many food events that take place around the lake during the summer months as part of the ‘A Taste of Lough Derg’ food series. For some inspiration and to help you plan your trip to Lough Derg in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, visit www. discoverloughderg.ie where you’ll find details of accommodation and activity providers and some special offers to.
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