See and Do
In the heart of the island of Ireland, you’ll find a beguiling array of things to do from exploring historical treasures to going underground…
The Shannon is a dominant force around Carrick-on-Shannon. In summer, it rushes and surges through a lush green paradise that teems with life; in winter, its cool tones soothe the soul. But as compelling as this mighty river may be, you’ll soon discover that branching off and exploring the landscape around it has its own rewards. A great place to start is Carrick-on-Shannon itself. Over 400 years ago, King James I granted the town a royal charter and today, wandering through the compact streets unveils fascinating remnants of the past, from the Old Courthouse to Costello’s Chapel. Head beyond town and you’ll find captivating attractions, such as Strokestown House with its tales of cruel landlords and lavish excess, and smaller delights, such as the beautiful Georgian King House in Boyle. And if you feel the need to get to the water while you’re exploring the area, you’re in luck – from rivers to streams, from loughs to canals, it’s never far away…
Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon
After three unsuccessful attempts to settle in Connacht, Cistercian monks finally established an abbey in 1161 at Boyle in County Roscommon. Today, only part of their construction (which once comprised a church, chapter house, refectory, store houses and dormitory) remains, but Boyle Abbey is still a remarkable sight. Converted into a barracks in 1592 and besieged by the Cromwellians in 1645 – it's an interesting assortment of architectural styles and original features. Pick up a guide to the carvings, which include a Sheela na Gig, from the ticket desk and go explore!
King House, Boyle, County Roscommon
Stepping into the Georgian surrounds of King House in Boyle is like entering another era. This magnificently restored mansion on the edge of Boyle River was built in 1730 as a seat of the powerful landowning King family. The vast light-filled entrance hall with its soaring windows and flagstone floor is the kind of place you could linger, but wander through the period rooms and you'll find out about the history of the building and its past incarnations as a military barracks and a merchant's store. Take the 60-minute house tour or pick up an audio pack and go at your own pace.
Strokestown Park, County Roscommon
Prepare to be mesmerised with the history of this incredible estate in the heart of the County Roscommon countryside. The impressive Palladian house dominates the Strokestown story – a tale that takes in famine, cruelty, murder, opulence and decay. Explore the National Famine Museum for one side of the story before taking a tour of the house, which has remained unchanged since the 1970s when its last occupant, Lady Olive, left. The gardens at Strokestown are particularly lovely, with a beautifully restored walled garden and gorgeous woodland walks. Give yourself about three hours for walks, the museum and the house tour.
Dock Arts Centre, Carrick-on-Shannon
The Dock is a case study on how to breathe new life into an old building. In its past life, this lively arts centre was the town's courthouse and the grand 19th century proportions are now a perfect backdrop to contemporary art exhibitions, as well as classes, workshops, festivals and recitals. Check out the website to see what's on…
Costello Memorial Chapel, Carrick-on-Shannon
You'd almost miss the Costello Chapel as you wander around Carrick-on-Shannon – it really is THAT tiny. Sitting back slightly from the road and wedged between a shop and a pub, this is thought to be the second smallest chapel in the world and was erected by Edward Costello as a mark of devotion to his wife and as a final resting place for them both.
Arigna Mining Experience, County Roscommon
Heading down a mine doesn't sound like the most fun way to spend an afternoon, but this captivating mining experience in County Roscommon really is worth a visit. Led by guides who were former workers in the mines, the tour leads you deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness and shines a light on the hard-to-believe conditions that were an intrinsic part of work here. From the drip of the water that filters though the mountains to the claustrophobic spaces that miners worked in, you certainly won't forget the experience in a hurry.
St George's Heritage Centre
If you're interested in the history of Carrick, then make sure to drop into the St George's Heritage Centre. Join the tour and have a look at the documents spanning 150 years before continuing the journey by following the brass footpath plaques onto the Attic Memorial at Carrick Workhouse. Here, the impact of the Famine on the town is remembered with a multimedia experience within an original workhouse room. Outside, the Famine Workhouse Garden of Remembrance, where many were buried, is a poignant place to reflect on the dark history of the 19th century. (Note: the Attic Workhouse can only be visited as part of a tour.)
The towns and villages along the Shannon
Both north and south of Carrick, you'll discover delightful villages that are great stop-off points both for cruisers and those exploring by car. A short drive from town is the tiny hamlet of Jamestown, located beside the vast waters of the River Shannon. Drop in for Sunday lunch at the Cottage restaurant or enjoy a picnic by the river. Set along the shore of Lough Boderg and Lough Bofin, Dromod is bustling in the summer thanks to the busy harbour that lies close to the town centre. As well as being a pleasant place to spend an afternoon in its busy pubs and cafés, it has a surprisingly interesting railway museum, which reflects Dromod's importance as a rail stopover from 1887 to 1959. Roosky has a pleasing waterfront, and is a lively spot thanks to an influx of summer anglers, while further south you'll find Termonbarry and the bustling Keenan's pub, with a nice outdoor space in the summer and gorgeous, wooden interior – perfect for cosy winter days.