Getting off-the-beaten track is a cinch in this undiscovered part of Ireland.
The Shannon-Erne Waterway is dotted with lesser-known gems that are full of intrigue, folklore and history. Travelling around here, you might stumble upon an ancient cairn, a mysterious castle ruin or a little local market. Our advice? Go with the flow, travel down quiet country lanes, chat with locals and see where the Shannon-Erne leads you…
Cavan Burren Park
carefully across the blanket of green moss and soft grass around the Cavan
Burren Park, as ancient secrets lie underfoot. This is one of the most
exceptional prehistoric landscapes in Ireland, where a tropical sea once ebbed
and flowed 350 million years ago. There’s a great interpretative centre where
you can find all about the geological history of the area, before you head out
to discover it for yourself. There are over 10km of trails to explore,
including bog bridge trails over ancient limestone, and with short distances
many are ideal for smaller children. Feel like taking it further? Try the 26km
walking trail from Dowra to Blacklion.
Exploring the small lakes of the Shannon-Erne Waterway is a joyous
experience, whether by cruiser or kayak. Unsurprisingly, lots of folklore
swirls around these rippling waters, not least of which is Lough Scur, which is
thought to have attracted Mesolithic hunter-gatherers to its shores as early as
8000BC. The lake is packed with history, from ancient stone “druid’s
altar”-type monuments to the 13th century Castle O’Connor and 16th
century Castle Sean. But of particular interest is the eerily titled “Prison
Island” or “Jail Island”, linked to a notoriously cruel 17th century
landlord called Shane Reynolds, who was known for beheading people for minor
offences. The prison he ordered to be constructed on the small island in Lough
Scur must have been an indescribably tough place to be, with tiny jail cells
that only had six inch air holes. Today, only tumbledown ruins are left, but
standing on the island it’s easy to let your imagination run riot about how
horrific penal life was here. Don’t be surprised if you spot a few people fishing out and about on
Lough Scur – it’s a favourite destination for local anglers thanks to a
consistent stock of roach, hybrids and skimmers, especially around The Rocks.
And if you’re interested in making a holiday of it, Lakeside Cottages is a
great place to staty, with a wealth of local knowledge and hundreds of lakes
right on the doorstep.
away within the soft rolling hills of County Cavan sits a fairytale-style white
cottage fringed with firebox-red trim. This is the home of Corleggy Cheese,
whose name aptly translates as “little windy hill”. It’s an unassuming little
place for the hand-crafting of a cheese that has been ranked in the top 2% in
the world, when it won a Super Gold at the 2016 World Cheese Awards. You will
notice Corleggy on menus locally, but if you’re interested in the process of
cheesemaking, keep an eye on the website and social media feeds for their
one-day cheesemaking classes.
Sliabh an Iarainn
As you travel through County Leitrim, look up as the beautiful Iron Mountain (or
Sliabh an Iarainn) comes into view – a place so appealing that it was once the
landing place of Tuatha dé Danann, a mythical race of god-like people who had
incredible powers. Great walking trails here allow you to explore this majestic
area, from a half-day amble to a full 20km-hike along country roads, forest and
open mountain paths. Want to find out more about the mountain? Pop into the Sliabh an Iarainn Visitor Centre, which
details the history of the Cavan and Leitrim railway, the canal, lakes and the
local iron and coal mining industries.
Aughrim Wedge Tomb
grounds of a five-star hotel seem an unlikely place to find an archaeological
monument that dates back to 2000BC, but that’s exactly what you’ll find if you
wander around the gardens at the Slieve Russell Hotel. The Aughrim Wedge Tomb
was discovered when a local business was quarrying on Slieve Rushen mountain. It
was excavated and reconstructed in the hotel in 1992. Interested in visiting?
Just pop along to the hotel grounds and you’ll find the tomb sitting within a
small enclosure to the right of the main building.
The Cottage Market
a sense of local life in Ballyconnell on the first Saturday of every month with
the Cottage Market. There’s a real sense of community spirit as you walk around
the market stalls at The Courtyard at Lizzie Buggies. Open between 1pm and 5pm,
the mix of stalls includes home baking and handcrafted items, and local
musicians are invited along to add a bit of atmosphere to proceedings.