From moments of perfect peace to fast-paced on-the-water adventures, we’ve got the ways to go. Ireland's beauty is intrinsically linked to the water that surrounds it, from the might of the River Shannon to the calm waters of the Royal Canal, heading for a break on Ireland's waterways is what a staycation is all about.
Enjoy long lazy days stopping off at lakeside restaurants, drifting past mystical islands where Vikings defended forts and monks founded monasteries, and enjoying the thriving wildlife that gives Ireland's lakes and rivers a mesmeric appeal. Are you ready for an experience of a lifetime?
Challenge yourself by trying out the entire Lower Bann Canoe Trail or take it easy with shorter sections – however you want to tackle it, the 58km Lower Bann Canoe Trail offers a unique way to experience this beautiful stretch of water. From the trailhead at Toome, the river weaves towards the Atlantic Ocean through the waters of Lough Beg, and past some of the earliest known sites of human habitation in Ireland. For guided trails, check out Ardclinis Outdoor Adventure, who offer canoe trails along the Lower Bann with trips lasting from three hours to several days.
Captain your own boat around Ireland's only island town with Erne Boat Hire. You’ll spot these cheery looking vehicles around the lake in summer. Known locally as the “wee red boats”, the vessels comfortably hold six adults and are self-driven, with two-, four- and eight-hour sessions, meaning that you can explore the lake under your own steam. Enjoy the wildlife of the lough up close, stop off at Devenish Island or pop down to the Ardhowen Theatre for lunch at the Ardhowen Café. A fun, affordable and entertaining way to explore Lower Lough Erne.
Swaying reeds, silky waters and the sound of birdsong – the Shannon-Erne Blueway basks in a tranquility that few places can rival. But while this delightful stretch of waterway feels glorious serene most times, that’s not to say it doesn’t have an adrenaline-filled wild side.
Thrills and spills come thick and fast along the Ballyconnell White Water Trail, which is perfect for testing the skills of proficient paddlers. Beginning at Lock 2 in Ballyconnell, this section of the Blueway suits experienced adventurists who are happy to tackle the rapids, standing waves, eddies and rock piles along the course. Adventure of a different kind can be enjoyed with Leitrim Surf Company, which specialises in SUP and surf, with guided stand-up paddle-boarding along sections of the Blueway.
With a liquid playground that stretches out in all directions, it’d be easy to think that the area around Athlone doesn’t offer much for the walker. Think again: gloriously low-lying, incredibly tranquil and enveloped in a panoply of green – the walking routes around Lough Ree and the Shannon are nothing short of breathtaking.
1. Warren Point Looped Walk
Set on the western shore of Lough Ree in County Roscommon, this fascinating loop mixes history with heartbreakingly beautiful vistas. The 5km trail through woods and lakeside trails is home to the incredible archaeological site of Rindoon, a medieval town with ivy-clad ruins that seem to grow out of the green Eden that surrounds them. The castle in particular is a highlight here, seeming perfectly at one with its surrounds.
2. Portlick Millennium Forest Walk
Filled with whimsical wooded glades offerings views of Lough Ree, this lovely forest walk weaves through a woodland of hazel, ash, beech and sycamore on grassy paths and earthy trails. Running to around 5km in length, with shorter trails available, the walk is located on the Whinning Peninsula near the village of Glasson, and makes a lovely spot for a picnic.
Introduce yourself to Portumna, by exploring this vibrant market town on land and on water. Situated in the south-east of County Galway, on the border with and linked by a bridge to County Tipperary. The town is located to the west of the River Shannon and to the north of Lough Derg. Cycle through Portumna Forest Park and enjoy a family walk in this forest friendly trail in Portumna Forest park.The Forest Friendly Walking Trail is on wide and smooth forest road and timber boardwalk. It winds gently through trees to a viewing platform close to the shore and on to the duck pond before returning to the car park. The viewing platform looks out across Lough Derg and its islands and southwards towards Terryglass while to the right the main expanse of the lake can be seen.
Like siblings, Killaloe/Ballina are two (twinned) towns on the banks of the River Shannon separated by the 13 arch, 18th century bridge. Known as the birthplace of Brian Boru, the high King of Ireland, these towns are among the most picturesque towns in Ireland. Are you hungry? Let’s head to Flanagan's on the Lake for a bite to eat. Flanagan’s is situated on the beautiful shores of Lough Derg, here you can enjoy a shoreline meal or a cold pint of Guinness.
In the beautiful Barrow Valley in County Carlow, Borris Gardens sit amidst wooded Victorian splendour with a majestic backdrop of Mount Leinster and the Blackstairs Mountains. Explore the Lace Garden, inspired by the colour and designs of the world-famous Borris Lace and envisage life as a laundry maid in the restored Victorian Laundry. Get lost in the parkland of stunning specimen trees and fragrant flora as you explore this natural wonder.