Lough Derg Waterway to spend a day

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A rather gruesome legend has it that the name Lough Derg is derived from the Gaelic word for red – dearg. Apparently, one-eyed king Eochy Mac Luchta was once asked by poet Athirne for his remaining eye and obliging fellow that he was, he plucked it out, staining the waters of the lake red as a result.

Thankfully, the lake's waters have long since returned to their natural sparkling blue/grey hues.

The lakeshore is dotted with picturesque villages offering boat hire, mooring and leisure facilities and an excellent variety of restaurants and pubs, many with live traditional music sessions. Whatever you choose, a visit to the magical Lough Derg will leave you relaxed, inspired and re-energised!

Duration of Itinerary: 2 days      

Highlights: Walking, Horse Riding, Dining out, Kayaking

morning

Dive straight in at the deep-end with a visit to ULAC, the University of Limerick Adventure Centre. There you can take a lesson in sailing, kayaking, canoeing or your choice of water sports. Ireland's latest water sport craze SUP or Stand Up Paddling is available at soulkite.ie in lower Lough Derg, which is the perfect place to learn for beginners. For the less courageous, a relaxing boat trip on the Spirit of Killaloe or the Spirit of Lough Derg is a lovely way to experience the breath-taking scenery of the lake.

Don't leave without a spot of angling, as Killaloe, Co. Clare, is a prime location for pike-fishing. TJ's angling centre provides boat trips and all the equipment you need. 'Fishing for Kids' is a wonderful incentive which offers fishing courses for young enthusiasts.

Back on dry land, focus on your feet with a relaxed stroll around the town taking in St. Flannan's Cathedral in Killaloe and its unique stone carvings in runes and ogham. Killaloe and neighbouring town Ballina are joined by a spectacular 13-arch bridge. Even with this majestic structure it's still hard to believe that picturesque little Killaloe was once known as the 'Capital of Ireland'. Yet it's the birthplace of Brian Boru, the High King who won a famous battle against the Vikings and their Dublin pals in the Battle of Clontarf, turfing them out of Ireland in the process.

While you're in Killaloe, the Brian Boru Heritage Centre is worth a visit too. With a tourist information office, gift shop, craft centre and an exhibition tracing the history of Killaloe from the 10th century, you'll learn loads about the last High King and Lough Derg itself.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding, with Soulkite, at Killaloe, County Clare Stand Up Paddle Boarding, with Soulkite, at Killaloe, County Clare

afternoon

For a treat, it's worth the 30-minute drive to Garrykennedy for lunch at Larkin's award-winning Bar and Restaurant. This famous pub also has live music on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, including trad sessions on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and so could tempt you to stick around for a few hours.

Take a stroll around this lovely town with its beautiful views and ruins of a medieval castle. Another option is to explore the lake by water by hiring a live-aboard cruiser from many points along the lake, although this generally requires a three-day visit.

There are excellent walking trails around Killaloe, for example the Ballycuggaran Loop which is of moderate intensity and takes approximately 1.5-2 hours. It starts at Ballycuggaran, Co. Clare, which was the homeland of the O'Cuggarans, an important family at the court of Brian Boru. While the history is interesting, it's the stunning views along the route that'll enthral you.

Pre-swim stretch, Ballycuggeran, County Clare Pre-swim stretch, Ballycuggeran, County Clare

evening

The Tuscany Bistro across the bridge in neighbouring Ballina is the perfect spot for an evening bite to eat, offering high quality modern Italian food in atmospheric surroundings. If you fancy more traditional Irish fare, try Goosers Bar and Restaurant which serves a wide selection of steaks, seafood and Irish dishes at reasonable prices.

Finish up your first day in Lough Derg with a taste of the nightlife. Flanagan's on the lake is a must for a cosy pint on a warm night with its spectacular views of Ballina and Killaloe. Have a drink or two, relax and let the joy of Ireland's Hidden Heartlands wash over you.





morning

Head straight to the scenic village of Mountshannon, stopping for a coffee and a healthy snack at the Scariff Community Co-Op en-route. A trip to the famous monastic settlement of Holy Island or Inis Cealtra is a must with its Round Tower, ruins of six churches, a holy well and an eight-century graveyard. You can take a boat trip and guided tour with local historian Ger Madden or else put your water sports training to good practice and kayak out to the island.

Keep an eye out for the rare white-tailed eagle around Mountshannon. Saoirse and Caimin, the first white-tailed eagles to breed in Ireland in 110 years, have made Lough Derg their home and can be best viewed from Mountshannon harbour or the new Bird Hide viewing point.

Irish Famine Workhouse Museum Irish Famine Workhouse Museum

afternoon

For a well-earned lunch, the Snug Café in Mountshannon does tasty pizzas, tapas and salads. Work off the calories with a stroll through the lovely Aistear Park and wake up your brain cells by taking on the challenge of its labyrinth maze. There are also some nice, relaxing walking trails to choose from nearby. Next up: take a short 25 minute drive to Portumna.

You can brush up on your Irish history with a visit to the fascinating Famine Workhouse Museum. The Portumna region was hit so-badly by the failure of the potato crop that the population shrank by over 66 percent during the brutal years of famine.

A visit to Portumna Castle and Gardens will lighten your mood after that dose of Irish history. Built in 1618 by Richard de Burgo, 4th Earl of Clanricarde, the castle was the seat of the De Burgo family for more than 200 years. It was badly damaged by a fire in 1826, but parts have been restored and the ground floor is open to the public. While you're there, make sure to enjoy the lovely gardens which are planted with organic vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

Glamping Pods, Pod Umna, Portumna, Co Galway Glamping Pods, Pod Umna, Portumna, Co Galway

evening

For an eclectic overnight experience, sample some 'glamping' – camping but with a bit more glamour – at Pod Umna. Pod Umna offers a range of accommodation options, including eco pods, shepherds' huts or a B&B at the main residence. The pods are set in a charming landscaped setting and there are a range of sizes available from the 'pod cupla', to the 'pod almighty' and there's even a 'honeymoon pod'.

Prices range from €65 to €150 per room and they come equipped with power and heating, mattresses and decked areas with tables and chairs. While 'hen' and 'stag' parties are welcome, don't worry – they don't mix dates with family bookings so that everyone is kept happy!





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