Top 10 Picnic Spots along Ireland's Waterways

1. Castle Harbour, Portumna, Co. Galway: Nestled away on the banks of Lough Derg, you'll find the newly renovated Castle Harbour. Fully equipped with a service block, caravan site and lovely green area with picnic benches, all that's missing is you and your packed lunch! For a stroll after lunch you can explore Portumna Forest Park and meet some of the wildlife there, there's also a playground nearby for the little explorers.

Best for: Exploring castles! Just a short walk away from Castle Harbour is Portumna Castle and Gardens.  Dating all the way back to 1618 the Castle was home to the 4th Earl of Clanricarde, Richard de Burgo. The public are free to explore the ground floor of the castle as well as the grounds including a rose garden and kitchen garden.

Where to Snack: The town of Portumna is just a short walk away, here you can find everything from cafés and restaurants to supermarkets for all your foodie need.

2. Calshganny, River Barrow, Co. Carlow: Tucked away along the beautifully scenic River Barrow between the towns of Borris and Graiguenamanagh is the idyllic Clashganny (also known as Clashganna). You can sit on the grassy bank and enjoy your picnic enjoying the peace and quiet of the river and there are public toilets to avail of. There's also a 3.5km looped forest walk nearby to enjoy after you eat.

Best for: Picnic and a dip! Clashganny is a special place on the River Barrow as it also has a designated swimming area, so don't forget to bring your togs to this picnic! (Remember, swimming in Rivers and Canals can be dangerous and should only be done in designated areas. Swimmers should risk assess their swimming location prior to entering the water for boat traffic, entry and exit locations, availability of life saving appliances, weather and water conditions). 

Where to snack: As this one is a little off the beaten track you may want to plan in advance and pick up some snacks on your way through while passing Graiguenamanagh or Borris, both of which offer a range of shops and cafés.

3. Toome Linear Park, Lower Bann, Co. Antrim: The small town of Toome lies on the shores of the Lower Bann where it runs into Lough Neagh, Ireland's largest lake. The park offers some nice short walks along the river with plenty of benches for your picnic and public restrooms located just a short walk away in the nearby town.The park also forms part of the Lower Bann Cycleway and the Canoe Trail so you won't be stuck for activities.

Best for: TV lovers! Toome is located in Game of Thrones territory, so parts of the Lower Bann and the surrounding countryside will be very familiar to viewers of the popular TV Show. Shortly outside the town of Toome, you'll find Moneyglass Estate, more recognisable to viewers as Winterfell, home of the Starks. Unfortunately, this site is not open to the public but if you continue along the shores of Lough Neagh you'll soon come to Shane's Castle which has been a backdrop for several iconic moments in the TV Show.

Where to snack: Pop into Toome town centre, just a short walk away from the waterside and you'll find everything from grocery shops to cafés to restock your picnic basket.

4. Coosan Point, Lough Ree, Athlone, Co. Westmeath: Located just outside the bustling town of Athlone, this is the ideal location to bring your family while you sit, eat and enjoy breathtaking views over Lough Ree. Here you can moor up your cruiser, or park your car on the shores of the lake and relax in comfort. There are picnic benches and a children's play area. Remember to bring some extra snacks as the younger explorers of the group are sure to enjoy feeding the ducks and watching the boats go by.

Best for: Getting in touch with nature! Coosan Point is the perfect picnic spot to make some new feathered friends. Stroll down to the slipway, carefully with younger explorers, just make sure you've brought appropriate snacks (not white bread!)

Where to Snack: You won't be short for somewhere to pick up snacks in the nearby Athlone. Or you can pop into the Lough Ree Inn which hosts a bar, restaurant and café!

5. Devenish Island, Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh: Only accessible by water, Devenish Island, has roots that date all the way back to the 6th century. It offers some peace and quiet as you view Lough Erne from a completely new angle. If cruising Lough Erne be sure to call in here. Anyone approaching by land can arrange a visit by boat through Erne Water Taxi. During the summer season ferries generally run every hour from 10am to 5pm, but make sure to check the timetable before you arrive. There are also public toilets located on the Island.

Best for: Hungry history lovers! Devenish has an extensive history. There are ample ruins to explore once here including the 12th century house of St. Molaise and the iconic round tower. A second 13th Century Church as well as St Marys Augustinian Priory on the hilltop dated to the 15th/16th centuries. One of the highlights include a distinctive, intricately carved stone cross located in the graveyard.

Where to Snack: Pick up provisions in Enniskillen, you'll find plenty of café's and supermarkets here to put together a grade A picnic basket!

 6. Ballinamore, Shannon-Erne, Co. Leitrim: No visit to the Shannon-Erne is complete without stopping off in Ballinamore, on the recently resrtored Shannon-Erne Waterway. Moor up and enjoy the leafy green banks of the canal while you dine in peace. After you eat you can explore the town or some of the many trails located nearby.

Best for: A Blueway adventure pit stop! Located on the Shannon-Erne Blueway, Ballinamore is a popular multi activity destination with uniquely tailored trails for walking, cycling and paddling.  Whether this is the start of your journey or just a quick refuel, you won't be sorry you stopped!

Where to Snack: Stock up in the nearby grocery markets, many of which also supply smartcards, or choose from one of fantastic restaurants or café's across the town to get your picnic to go!

 7. Acres Lake, Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim: If you're looking for something off the beaten track, look no further. Acres Lake, a hidden gem on the River Shannon, sits just past Lough Allen nestled away from the village of Drumshanbo. There's a beautiful green area with picnic benches overlooking the lake, where you're likely to see a fisherman or boater, especially during the summer season. It's also home to Sliabh an Iarainn Visitor Centre, a fantastic heritage centre that offers plenty of information about the surrounding area, as well as a children's play area... so there really is something for everyone!

Best for: Walking! Located on the Shannon Blueway, we're currently developing a floating jetty that will extend the existing trails all the way to Leitrim Village and Carrick on Shannon. You're also near the Arigna Miner's Way, a 118km looped trail.

Where to snack: Pick up your necessities in a supermarket in Drumshanbo or call into Sweet Geranium Café & Bakery where they bake all their own bread, cakes and other goodies and use only locally sourced foods.

 8. Mount St, Grand Canal, Co. Dublin: One of the most relaxing locations in the heart of Dublin city, the canals offer a place to really sit back and relax without taking a train out of the city. Take a stroll down to the grassy canal banks at Mount Street and it's not hard to see why Patrick Kavanagh fell for the 'Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal'. Pull up a seat in one of the many benches dotted around the canal or, on a good day, make some room for yourself on the grass and enjoy!

Best for: An urban picnic! Picnics don't have to be all about the countryside. You can often find peace and quiet in the middle of a bustling city if you know where to go!

Where to snack: There's no shortage of lunch in Dublin's City Centre, you'll find plenty of cafés nearby to provide you with a take away picnic. If you'd like to try something different, every Wednesday the Irish Village Markets open up outside the Waterways Ireland Visitor Centre at Grand Canal Dock, grab anything from a burger, to fish and chips to falafel and walk, just a short distance down the canal to enjoy your lunch on the grassy canal bank. Just remember to take your rubbish home with you!

(Image Credit: Carmel Darcy)

9. Richmond Harbour, Clondra, Royal Canal, Co. Longford: For anyone who has yet to visit Clondra is a charming waterside town that marks the terminus of the Royal Canal, where it meets the River Shannon. A small town with a great buzz, during the Summer you're likely to come across barges, canoeists and anglers along the banks of the Canal. In the town, just under the bridge there's a lovely green area with some picnic benches to sit, eat and watch the world float by!

Best for: A cycling pitstop! Depending on what direction you come from, Clondra marks the start or the end of the Royal Canal Way and the Royal Canal Blueway which offers 16km of off road cycling. The flat towpath offers cycling suitable for a range of abilities, ideal for mooring up and stretching the legs.

Where to snack: Just a few minutes away, by road or by water is, Tarmonbarry where you'll find café's and grocery stores to stock up your on board kitchen. Alternatively, the Richmond Inn, situated overlooking the canal in Clondra will also serve up a scrumptious lunch!

10. Graiguenamanagh, River Barrow, Co. Kilkenny: One of the most charming towns in the country, moor up in Graiguenamanagh and you won't be disappointed. Just north of the town you'll find the community owned and managed, Silaire Woods with some of the most scenic picnic benches you're likely to find in the country with the woodland around offering some shelter while watching the river go by.

Best for: Taking a woodland stroll! Silaire woods offer a short boardwalk which follows the river barrow offering a different view of the river and giving you the opportunity to stretch your legs before stepping back aboard!

Where to snack: Pick up some grub in town of Graiguenamanagh or call into one of the cafés and ask for a sandwich to go.

NOTE: Please remember, if you intend to feed a few extra mouths on your picnic, that not all food is suitable for wildlife. Please click here for a list of duck friendly snacks! And always remember to 'Leave No Trace' and take your rubbish away with you.

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