Think of the ideal family holiday, with a variety of kids’ fun activities. Now think of the perfect holiday with friends – great restaurants, terrific bars, hectic nightlife and lazy days. Think adventure holiday, with water sports and bike trails as just a small part of the action. Or think of a romantic holiday in a pastoral paradise where all you can hear is birdsong. Now think about Ireland’s Lakelands. Stretching from Lough Derg right up to Lough Erne, slicing through lush landscapes and thriving urban hubs - it’s all here. You can explore the Lakelands either by boat or by land, the choice is yours. If you choose the water option, you can hire a boat built for 2 or for 12. Driving it is easy, instruction is provided, and it’s excellent value for money, covering both accommodation and transport. And most importantly of all, it’s really good fun. Navigate all four zones in Ireland’s Lakelands, or take a short cruise. It’s up to you. Alternatively, if you prefer to stay on dry land, you can choose from the myriad of guesthouses or hotels strewn along the Lakelands shores. Family holidays are packed with a huge range of activities, including rainy day fun. Discover some of Ireland’s finest adventure trails and hottest shopping spots. Explore miles of Lakelands designated walkways and cycleways. Refuel in a traditional riverside pub or a quality quayside restaurant. Here are just a few highlights, but you’ll find lots more at Discover Ireland by clicking here
Stretching from Portumna to Killalow/ Ballina and then on through parts of counties Tipperary, Clare and Galway, Lough Derg is effectively an inland sea, providing all kinds of water sports and an ever-changing shoreline. Perfect for walking, cycling, horse riding and many other pursuits. It’s 15,000 hectares of spectacular waterway provides total seclusion, yet there’s always a bustling spot nearby.
Spirit of Killaloe Cruises
Why not let someone else do the driving and just relax on one of the Spirit of Killaloe cruise boats? Starting from Ballina in Co. Tipperary, which is joined to Killaloe in Co. Clare by an old stone bridge, the cruise boat meanders north along the Shannon to Lough Derg, passing the Killaloe Canal and Beal Boru, where Brian Boru famously kept watch on the riverbank.
Lakeside Water Sports Centre, Mountshannon
Lakeside Holiday Park in Mountshannon offers a wide variety of activities, including a comprehensive water sports centre. You can speed along in a motorboat or take it at a more leisurely pace in a rowboat. There’s kayaking and canoeing on the water as well, and safe outdoor swimming in the designated areas. Several mooring harbours are dotted along the river banks, and there’s no shortage of perfect picnic spots.
A group of canoeists having a great laugh in the Upper Lakes
Walk the Lough Derg Way
What better way is there to appreciate the beauty of a place than walking through it? Walking trails in the stunning beauty of Lough Derg Lakelands offer an opportunity to see this landscape in a unique way, which can’t be experienced by car or even by boat. The different types of walks include Waymarked Ways, scenic walks, historical walks, looped walks and linear walks, altogether spanning hundreds of kilometres of countryside.
Lough Ree and Mid Shannon
Lough Ree is 32 Kms long and is one of the Shannon’s three main lakes. It also claims to be the geographical centre of Ireland. The Mid Shannon is dominated by the Callows, a nature lover’s delight, and wonderful for exploring. This area of the Lakelands is bordered by no less than five counties – Longford, Westmeath, Offaly, Galway and Roscommon. Spend your days enjoying the wealth of attractions and lakeside amenities the picturesque towns and villages have to offer. Discover for yourself an area with imposing castles, historical islands and lakeside amenities and much much more.
The Christian settlement of Clonmacnoise, founded by St. Ciaran in the 6th Century, contains the largest collection of early Christian grave slabs in western Europe. With a total of seven churches, two high towers and the ruins of an early Cathedral, it is considered to be one of the finest – if not the finest – heritage site of its kind on the island.
Visitors to Lough Ree invariably stop off at Clonmacnoise
This castle started out as a defensive timber fort in the 13th century and has had a long, dramatic and bloodstained history through the centuries. Fully interactive, with lots of hands-on activities to really get the kids into the spirit of the adventure, this is a must for an extremely enjoyable and absorbing family day out.
Located in Hodson Bay, Athlone, on the banks of Lough Ree, Baysports is one of Ireland’s leading inland sailing and water sports schools. Their new Waterpark – the biggest in the country – is essentially an inflatable playground on the water, with bouncy castles, slides, and climbing frames. You don’t even need to be swimmer to have fun in this centre, and that’s besides offering kayaking, canoeing, pedal-boating, rafting – the list is endless.
Covering the counties of Roscommon, Cavan and Leitrim, the Upper Lakelands’ two major lakes, Lough Key and Lough Allen, are set in spectacular countryside. Lough Allen lies mainly in Co. Leitrim, touching Co. Roscommon, and is overlooked by Sliabh an Iarann mountain to the east, and by the Arigna Mountains to the west. Lough Key, situated just outside Boyle in Co. Roscommon contains over thirty wooded islands, is a fine trout and coarse lake, and is partly bordered by the famous Lough Key Forest and Activity Park.
Children in full flight at a water activity centre at Lough Allen
The Shannon Blueway is Waterways Ireland’s newest recreational holiday experience. It is the first holiday experience of its kind in Ireland, providing land and on-water trails which are safe and easy to use and offers holiday makers a unique tourism experience. You can paddle with a guide or unguided, taking in the trail along the Lough Allen Canal and the Shannon river from Drumshambo to Leitrim Village. It’s also possible to paddle the beautiful looped trail on the Camlin and Shannon rivers, starting from Richmond Harbour. If you want to stay on dry land you can take the trail by bike.
Lough Key Forest Park/Zipit Forest Adventures
Catering for all ages, there’s something in this park for everyone, whether it’s the many heritage buildings like Moylurg Tower or the 19th Century servant underground tunnels, or for the walking trails. Zipit Forest Adventures is located in the park, and provides a comprehensive list of activities for the whole family, whatever your fitness level may be. Feel like riding a BMX across a treetop bridge? That’s no problem at Zipit, where treetop adventures and zipline trips are the specialty. They have wall climbing too, and you can swing into cargo nets in complete harnessed, supervised safety.
Argina Mining Experience, Arigna
The Arigna Mining Experience was founded to give visitors a taste of working conditions underground in the Arigna mines (which closed in 1990), and also to forge links with energy-related themes of the past, present and future. Complete with lighting and sound effects, visitors are taken underground to see how coal was mined in one of the narrowest mining seams in Europe. The tour takes visitors right to the coal face of the mine.
Leitrim Surf Company
Leitrim Surf Company specialises in SUP (Stand Up Paddling) and surfing. Based in Leitrim Village, the guided tours provide SUPing safaris on the Shannon Blueway, as well as tours of the Leitrim coastline. Surfing lessons are provided at Tullaghan, a stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way and the small stretch of coastline that is part of Co. Leitrim.
Stretching from Belturbet to Belleek, Lough Erne offers widely different experiences from end to end and east to west. It has islands topped with castles, round towers, wildlife nature reserves and with so many towns and villages along the shore, it has a reputation for spectacular views and possesses a wild and untamed beauty second to none. Straddling both sides of the Northern Ireland border, Lough Erne is proof that wonderful landscape knows no boundaries, and that peaceful waterways join communities together to enjoy the views and find refuge in their tranquil beauty. Sail, paddle, walk, cycle or drive on the shoreline and experience it for yourself.
A boat trip in Lough Derg has immense family appeal
Located in Co. Fermanagh, the Castle Coole estate comprises of a state-of-the-art magnificent 18th century mansion and landscape park. The house is one of Ireland’s first Neo- Classical houses and allows visitors to glimpse what life was like when the house was in its hey day. Set in beautiful wooded parks, it’s ideal for family walks and for a day out with friends.
Florence Court is located just eight miles from Enniskillen and is owned by the National Trust, as is its sister property Castle Coole. The house is best known for its exquisite Rococo decoration and fine Irish furniture. There’s a magnificent walled garden in the grounds, displaying many semi-tropical plants, and there’s also a water-powered saw mill.
Crom Estate in Newtownbutler is one of the most romantic spots in Northern Ireland, boasting over 2,000 acres of woodland and Lakeland. Alongside the new castle, the ruins of the old castle remain untouched. Located on the shores of Upper Lough Erne, Crom is a protected wildlife conservation area. You can fish here, take a relaxing woodland walk, and you can go butterfly or bird watching. Hire a boat and see it all from the lake.
-To read the full Your Ireland supplement that features loads more information on holidaying in Ireland please click here