Think of the ideal family holiday with oodles of fun activities. Now think of the perfect holiday with friends - gorgeous waterside restaurants, terrific bars and lazy days. Or think of a romantic holiday in a pastoral paradise where all you can hear is birdsong. Now think of 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. If you choose the water option, you can hire a boat built for 2 or for 12. Driving the boat is easy as instruction is provided. Navigate the full stretch of the 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.
Stretching from Portumna to Killalow/Ballina and then on through parts of counties of 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. 15,000 hectares of spectacular waterway provides total seclusion, yet there's always a bustling spot nearby.
Let someone else do the driving and relax on a Spirit of Killaloe Cruise. Or head for the Lakeside Holiday Park in Mountshannon where you can speed along in a motorboat, take a little slower in a rowboat or splash around in a kayak. Or soak up the beauty of the Lakelands from dry land by walking the Lough Derg Way.
Lough Ree and Mid Shannon
Lough Ree is 32 km long and is one of the Shannon's three main lakes. 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. Discover for yourself an area with imposing castles, historical islands, lakeside amenities and much more.
Check out Clonmacnoise with a total of 7 churches, two high towers and the ruins of an early Cathedral, it is considered to be one of the finest heritage sites of its kind on the island. A visit to Athlone Castle is also a must - steeped in dramatic and blood stained history. At Baysports in Hodson Bay you'll find waterpark heaven with their huge inflatable playground on the water.
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 County Leitrim, touching County 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 County Roscommon contains over thirty wooded islands, is a fine trout and coarse lake. Here you'll find the Shannon Blueway, with its stunning land and water trails waiting to be explored. At Lough Key Forest Park check out the Moylurg Tower and Zipit Forest Adventures with its exhilarating treetop walks and zipline trips.
Festival Fun in the Lakelands
The Lakelands is bursting with activities, but why not plan your trip around a festival for double the fun! Gather the family and head for The Carlow Arts Festival (Éigse), (May 29th - June 7th), with a vibrant and dynamic programme of large-scale visual art, fun street carnival, music and theatre. Be inspired in the magical surroundings of Borris House in Co. Carlow, the seat of the High Kings of Leinster, for The Festival of Writing & Ideas (June 5 - 7), renowned for its atmosphere and extraordinary line up of speakers. Gorge on a feast of arts and culture at the Boyle Arts Festival in Co. Roscommon, (July 23rd - August 1st) a celebration of drama, film, literature, storytelling and comedy. Or Let your creative side run free on the shores of Lough Derg during the Terryglass Arts Festival, (August 12th - 16th), with a variety of arts events, performances, and visual arts experiences.
For lots more inspiration on taking a break in the Lakelands go to www.discoverireland.ie or find Discover Ireland on Facebook.