Discover quiet beauty, carefree adventures and wonderous wildlife along the historic Royal Canal and in the glistening lakes around Mullingar.
You’re never far from the water in Mullingar: the Royal Canal curls around the town like a question mark and the surrounding countryside is dotted with lakes whose waters and shores are protected habitats that teem with life. This watery world presents visitors with a veritable playground: take a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard and explore a world that’s often hidden from the land; hire a barge and glide along still canal waters; take a dip in a cool, clear lake or just abandon yourself to the uncomplicated joy of splashing about at a water park. The water is waiting…
Royal Canal Blueway paddling trails
23km of glorious paddling trails through the calm waters of the Royal Canal. That’s what you can expect along the Royal Canal Blueway. Centred in the Activity Zone in Mullingar Harbour, the trails extend west to Coolnahay Harbour, with its charming lockkeeper’s cottage, and east to McNead’s Bridge, right on the doorstep of Mary Lynch’s pub. Whether you go it alone or book a guided tour with a local provider such as Outdoor Sports or Vertical Kayakers; start at the Activity Zone in Mullingar or use one of the many access points along the way and soak up the tranquil beauty of the canal.
Mullingar Activity Zone
Head to Mullingar Harbour in the summer months and you’ll find it buzzing with energy. As well as the kayakers, canoeists and stand-up paddleboarders setting off to explore the Blueway trails, there will be plenty of beginners, both kids and adults, trying out popular watersports for the very first time. And they get to do so in the safety of the sheltered harbour, where qualified instructors from local operators such as Outdoor Sports are on hand to offer tips and advice. Well, they don’t call it the Activity Zone for nothing…
Situated on a bend in the River Deel is Derrymore Springs – an adventure centre that offers a fun day out for watersports enthusiasts. At this picturesque man-made lake, you can choose from pedal boating, kayaking and fishing, among other activities. But while you’re here, it would be a shame not to get in touch with your inner child and indulge in the Aqua Park, with its inflatable slides, runways and jumping pillows.
Lilliput Adventure Centre
Based at the 18th century Lilliput House on the shores of Lough Ennell, the Lilliput Adventure Centre offers a range of water-based activities for groups of 12 or more. Kayaking, canoeing, swimming and even bog hopping – it’s all on offer here. The setting is gorgeous, with well-kept lawns sloping down to the crystal-clear lake. And the views from the gracious old stone house are glorious. Facilities are good, with hot showers on standby. And if you check out the reviews for both the staff and the experience, you’ll see that they’re consistently positive so you know you’re in for a treat.
Lilliput Boat Hire
Whether you’re looking for a fun family trip or a day’s fishing, Lilliput can match you with the perfect vessel – be it a rowing boat or a lake boat fitted with an outboard motor. Lough Ennell is a haven for birdlife and if you’re lucky, you could see mute swans, lapwings, peregrine falcons and, in winter, murmurations of starlings swooping and diving in breathtaking acrobatic displays. Anglers – the lake is known for its trout, perch and pike but you’ll need to bring your own fishing gear and, of course, a fishing permit.
In a town surrounded by lakes, it’s not surprising that swimming is a favoured pastime with locals and visitors alike. Try the Diving Boards at Lough Owel, an old-style swimming spot with iron ladders that give access to the clear water – just beware of the slightly stony bottom. Further north, Lough Lene offers a grassy picnic area and a wooden boardwalk leading out to the lake. Lough Ennell has a designated swimming spot at Lilliput in the Jonathan Swift Park and mythical Lough Derravaragh, said to have been home to the tragic Children of Lir, offers access to the water via a concrete jetty. So, if you’re going to base yourself in Mullingar, don’t forget to pack those swimming togs.