Follow your Heart on a Trip around Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands
8 Things to Do and 3 Places to Stay
Take a trip to the heart of Ireland and experience the beautiful rolling countryside, glittering lakes and rushing rivers. Ireland’s hidden heartlands is the perfect place to explore the great outdoors with a wealth of natural countryside to be explored and all kind of activities from cycling, hiking and water based pursuits such as kayaking and sailing to be enjoyed
Here we will take you through the best of what Ireland’s Hidden heartlands has to offer as well as where you can rest your head at the end of a day’s exploring …
1. Lough Ree, Co. Westmeath, Co. Longford and Co. Roscommon
Lough Ree is one of the three major lakes of the River Shannon bordering counties Roscommon, Longford and Westmeath, including the vibrant town of Athlone. Why not rent a boat and take to the waters for a relaxing day of exploration or fishing?
For the thrill seekers, The Outdoor Discovery Adventure Company in Longford provides a wide range of water and land based activities to choose from, including kayaking, canoeing, rafting and archery.
If you want to enjoy the peaceful tranquillity of Lough Ree without getting out on the water itself, there are plentiful walking trails to be enjoyed along the lake’s banks. This is an area of beautiful low lands, bog areas and woodlands, perfect for a tranquil day of exploration. Horse riding treks along the lakes are available from the stables at the Roscommon Equestrian Centre
2. The Old Rail Trail Greenway, Co. Westmeath
Rent a bicycle and take to one of the country’s longest greenways. The Old Rail trail winds its way from Mullingar over 40km (25 miles) to Athlone, along what used to be the Midland Great Western Railway. The trail has been wonderfully restored to provide a smooth and safe trail for cyclists and walkers. On route, walkers can visit the Dún na Sí Amenity & Heritage Park in Moate, or enjoy the bustling town and abundant shopping opportunities in Athlone
3. Athlone Town, Co. Westmeath
Those looking for a bit of hustle and bustle after getting out and about in the beautiful surroundings of Ireland’s heartlands should ensure to make time for a visit to the buzzing town of Athlone in County Westmeath. Just 8 kilometres from the geographical centre of Ireland, this vibrant town can truly be considered the heart of the country.
Things to do include a visit to Athlone Castle and the visitor centre, shopping, a pint in the oldest pub in Europe – Sean’s Bar, some delicious dining options, the Derryglad folk and heritage museum, and the Shannon banks nature trail.
4. The Shannon, Co. Leitrim, Co. Cavan,
The longest river by distance in Ireland, running through the west of Ireland, principally the province of Connacht. According to Irish mythology, the river was named after a woman named Sionann, the granddaughter of Lír.
The river provides opportunities for sailing, water sports such as water skiing, fishing or just cruising up and down, stopping off at some of the many points of interest along the way such as Portumna Castle, Holy Island and Clonmacnoise.
5. Portumna Castle, Co. Galway
Situated on the banks of Lough Derg and the River Shannon, the original castle was built in 1618 by Richard de Burgo – the 4th Earl of Clanicarde. Influences by both Medieval and Renaissance architecture, the building somehow manages to be both imposing and elegant at the same time.
The ground floor of the castle is open to the public and houses a fantastic exhibition which takes the visitors through the history and restoration of the castle and surrounding estate. The gardens and grounds of the castle are perfect for walking on a sunny day and there are several old ruins and beautiful woodlands to be explored.
6. Arigna Mines – Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Roscommon
Step back in time and experience what life was like for the coal miners back in the 1700s. The experience gives visitors an authentic insight into the industry and into how the coal mine would have operated throughout the generations. The tour brings you underground so you can truly experience the cramped conditions the workers would have endured, the intensity of the darkness and the oppressive atmosphere.
7. Glencar Waterfall – Co. Leitrim
Nestled in a small valley and surrounded by beautiful scenery, the Glencar Waterfall, near Carrick-on-Shannon in County Leitrim, is the an oasis of natural beauty and the perfect place for a stroll on a sunny afternoon. Relax and enjoy the tranquillity and sounds of nature in stunning unspoiled surroundings. This waterfall is also mentioned by poet W.B Yeats in “The Stolen Child”.
8. Beara Breifne Way
The Beara Breifne Way is Ireland’s longest walking trail, following the line of the historic march of O’Sullivan Beara in 1603, stretching 500km from the Beara Peninsula in Co. Cork right through the heart of Ireland towards Blacklion in Co. Cavan.
The Beara Breifne Way brings walkers and cyclists to some of the most beautiful and least explored areas of the country. Along the way are important historical and archaeological sites to be explored and uncovered including the 12th century Cistercian Boyle Abbey in Co. Roscommon, the Carrowkeel Neolithic Cemetery in Co. Sligo, as well as many vibrant small country towns to be discovered along the way.
Where to Stay in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands
The Shannon Princess, Co. Westmeath
For those looking for something just a little bit different - The Shannon Princess is a luxury boutique hotel barge that cruises up and down the beautiful river Shannon (Ireland’s longest river) in the heart of the country. Guests on board can enjoy comfortable and luxurious surroundings all the while floating down the majestic river, enjoying stunning views and availing of the plentiful opportunities exploring and activities. Cruises are of 6 night/7 day duration and can be booked by the cabin or as an exclusive charter for up to 10 guests.
Viewmount House, Co. Longford
Viewmount House is a boutique gem located in the heart of Longford, tucked away amongst 4 acres of meticulously maintained gardens. This elegant 17th century is the perfect base for exploring Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.
Lovers of fine food will be well catered for in the exquisite VM restaurant where the use of fresh, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients is paramount in crafting their exceptional menu.
Wineport Lodge, Co. Westmeath
Situated right on the banks of Lough Ree in County Westmeath, the Wineport Lodge offers warmth, tranquillity and sumptuous surroundings without . The focus at the Wineport lodge is relaxation and guests can avail of the soothing treatment suites, recline in an outdoor hot tub overlooking the lake or dine on decadent dishes in their renowned restaurant. Those looking to get out and about in nature will find themselves perfectly located for numerous excursions including walking, fishing and sailing.