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Top Activities for Waterways Winter Break

Irish winters can be long and everybody deserves a break from the daily grind to refresh and revitalise. Whether it’s a much needed catch-up with old friends or a romantic trip with your partner, there’s an activity along Ireland’s Waterways that’s perfect for you, and best of all, it’s right on your doorstep!

Walk along the Acres Lake Floating Boardwalk on the Shannon Blueway. Follow the towpath around the lovely loop on either side of the canal and see the wildlife living along the way. (http://www.bluewaysireland.org/blueways/shannon/activities/battlebridge-lock-to-acres-lake/Open every day and free.) Afterwards, make your way to Leitrim Village for a pint and some of Leitrim's best bar food in the 200-year-old Barge Pub and Restaurant (http://barge.ie/). 


Float on the Grand Canal as you dine at La Peniche, Dublin's finest floating restaurant located just ten minutes' walk from St. Stephen's Green. (http://lapeniche.ie/ Christmas lunch from €22.50, dinner from €24.50 for two courses.)


Explore Ireland's rich monastic site of Clonmacnoise on the River Shannon (Admission: adult €8, senior €6, child or student €4). Spend time taking in the ancient cathedral ruins, the early Christian crosses and the two perfectly preserved round towers before heading towards Athlone for modern Irish food in the Thyme Restaurant (http://www.thymerestaurant.ie/), a local fine dining favourite. Finish the day off with a drink in Ireland's oldest pub, Sean's Bar (http://www.seansbar.ie/home) which dates back to 900AD.

Zoom along Lough Erne with Erne Water Taxi (http://www.ernewatertaxi.com/booking, £60 per hour regardless of the group size, boat holds eight people). Travel to the world-famous Devenish Island where you can bring your own lunch for a picnic, or stop off at one of the many cafes and bars along the way including the renowned Watermill restaurant (https://www.watermillrestaurantfermanagh.com/).


Visit the VISUAL Centre for contemporary art and George Bernard Shaw Theatre in Carlow Town (https://www.visualcarlow.ie/, open Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 5:30pm, free to visit), a dynamic multi-disciplinary arts facility presenting the best of local, national and international visual and performing arts. Afterwards, why not head for the historic ruins of Carlow Castle (https://carlowtourism.com/carlow-castle-2/, open all year round and free), then finish off your day with some local cuisine in the Teach Dolmain Pub & Restaurant.


Trek with the Nenagh Equestrian Centre which provides riding lessons, trail rides, trekking, livery, hunting, equestrian holiday camps and disabled riding facilities with indoor and outdoor riding areas (http://www.nenaghequestriancentre.com/). Whilst in the area, visit Brian Ború's Fort (http://www.discoverloughderg.ie/beal-boru-brian-borus-fort/,open all year and free), a large ringfort built around the 10th century.


Glamp in Podumna's 'Pods' in Podumna Village (http://www.podumnavillage.ie/, from €100.00 per night), a glamping site set in a magical tree-lined village landscape. During your stay, you can book bikes to explore the Portumna Forest Park which covers almost 450 hectares.


Dig in the Arigna Mines! At the Arigna Mining Experience on the mountain top overlooking the hills of lovely Leitrim, you will see how the mine has preserved the mining heritage of the Arigna area, and gain an insight into coalmining life as it was in the Arigna valley for centuries. (https://www.arignaminingexperience.ie/ Open daily from 10am – 6pm, from €10.00 per person.)


Segway around Lough Key Forest Park (https://www.woodlandsegway.com/, from €20.00 per person) and enjoy a tour around the waters of the River Shannon before heading for Carrick-on-Shannon to rest your head in the boutique Bush Hotel. (https://www.bushhotel.com/)


Cycle along the historic Royal Canal from the new Mullingar Blueway Activity Zone in Mullingar Harbour. (http://mullingarbikehire.com/, from €30.00 per person).


Visit the Toome Waterways Heritage Centre which is set within an atmospheric lockkeepers' cottage overlooking the waters of the Toome Canal on the Lower Bann. (https://www.waterwaysireland.org/toome-lock-house, open every day and free) It covers the history of the waterway and has an old diving suit that was one of the first to be worn in Ireland dating from 1905. The location is also where the HBO series of Game of Thrones® was filmed so keep an eye out for the information plaque in front of the canal. Afterwards, make your way to Toombridge and dine in the historic Crosskeys Inn (https://crosskeys-inn.com/), which dates back to 1654.


Contemplate the beauty of Belvedere House, Gardens and Park (http://www.belvedere-house.ie/, open 9.30am to 4.30pm Daily, from €8.00 per person). The fascinating walled garden, designed by Ninian Nevin in 1857, contains one of Ireland's finest collections of rare and special plants. The nearby Mullingar Park Hotel (https://www.mullingarparkhotel.com/) is the perfect setting to relax and dine afterwards.


Enjoy a mini-package tour of Fenagh, with two nights' accommodation at River Cottage (http://leitrimtourism.com/products/riverside-cottage-fenagh/) and a continental breakfast of locally produced food. Activities on this tour include a guided historical walking tour of Fenagh's Neolithic monuments, monastic site and local landmarks associated with Celtic heritage, a guided cycle ending at the Fenagh Heritage Centre (https://www.fenagh.com/), a 'meet the maker' session where you will practice some local craft, a guided paddle tour on trails around the Shannon-Erne Blueway (http://www.bluewaysireland.org/blueways/shannon-erne), and a lesson in environment and ecological relevance from local ecologist Eileen Gibbons. Round out your trip with lunch and a cycle along the stunning Acres Lake floating boardwalk on the Shannon Blueway. (www.headintotheblue.org, package price from €282.00 per person.)


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