Search icon


25th Apr 2024

Embrace the waterways of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands with these activities

Sarah McKenna

Brought to you by Discover Ireland

There are so many ways to enjoy these stunning shores.

The very heart of our country is home to some seriously gorgeous lakes and waterways.

From the peaceful Lough Boora to the magnificent waters of Lough Derg, there are plenty of wonderful waterways in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, and plenty of fun-filled ways to enjoy them on your next short break.

Explore Lough Key from the treetops, see the shores of the Shannon from a replica Viking ship or get lost in the beauty of Lough Gur on a gentle hike. Whether you’re a keen kayaker or you’re more at home with a pair of walking shoes, the lakes of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands offer activities for every type of explorer. 

To help you plan your next summer break, we’ve put together some of our favourite activities to help you embrace some of Ireland’s most beautiful waterways.

Derg Isle Adventure Centre, Co. Clare

Lough Derg is the island’s third largest lake, and a day spent at Derg Isle Adventure Centre offers visitors a myriad of ways to enjoy its beauty, both on water and on land. During your getaway to Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, rent a boat from the centre or grab a wetsuit and settle in for a session of kayaking, canoeing or stand-up paddle boarding. On the shores of the lake, you can have your pick of a range of activities, including archery, zip-lining and a climbing wall. You can even challenge yourself with their obstacle course.

Once you’ve had your fill on the lake, head to the town of Scariff. Enjoy a riverside walk and be sure to visit Castlebawn Castle. For a bite to eat, pop into McNamara’s Bar and Bistro, and for something sweet, check out the nearby Wilde Irish Chocolates.

Adventure Gently, Co. Leitrim

The peaceful waters of Leitrim’s waterways are made for slow, sustainable adventures, and that’s exactly what’s on offer with Adventure Gently. With their guided canoe trips, you’ll glide through the water gently, giving you ample opportunity to take in the breathtaking scenery. During your session, you’ll feast your eyes on islands, inlets and the scenery that inspired the poet W. B. Yeats for his poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree.

During your short break in Leitrim, wander around the picturesque village of Dromahair and see the ruins of the Franciscan friary Creevelea Abbey. For a post-adventure bite to eat, pop into the Riverbank Restaurant, a family-run gastropub.

Lough Gur Visitor Centre and Lakeshore Park, Co. Limerick

With its rich archeological history and beautiful natural scenery, Lough Gur in Co. Limerick is a must-visit on your next getaway to Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. At the Lough Gur Visitor Centre and Lakeshore Park, you’ll have the opportunity to take in the stunning natural lake and the many ancient monuments in the surrounding area. Start your visit off in the hillside visitor centre where you can choose either a guided tour or a self-guided tour of the exhibition. Then, embark on a full outdoor tour of the monuments.

After your visit, check out the Old Irish Ways Museum, which is just 3km from the site. Then, for dinner, make a booking at the Cloister Bar and Grill in the Deebert House Hotel in Kilmallock.

Lough Boora Discovery Park, Co. Offaly

For a peaceful retreat in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, head to Lough Boora Discovery Park during your next break. These sweeping grounds are home to a wide selection of walking trails, from the 3.3km Sculpture Park Route to the 9.3km Mesolithic Route to the challenging 15.8km Turraun Route. You can also explore Lough Boora on bike or, if you prefer, simply enjoy a picnic on its peaceful shores as you take in impressive views of the Slieve Bloom Mountains.

The nearby town of Tullamore is a brilliant spot to enjoy some great food, so book yourself a reservation at the award-winning Blue Apron Restaurant. While you’re in the area, check out some of the local attractions, including the Tullamore D.E.W. Distillery Visitor Experience or the Charleville Castle Heritage Trust. Please note, the Charleville Castle Heritage Trust is closed in May.

Lough Key Forest and Activity Park, Co. Roscommon

Since 2022, Lough Key Forest and Activity Park has been running a programme to manage the park sustainably, so it definitely deserves a spot on your next getaway’s itinerary. Embark on one of the many walking or cycling trails to explore the 19th century parkland which is home to native woodlands, forests and a bog garden. You can also get the adrenaline pumping and see the forest from the treetops with a high wire zip lining experience from Zipit Forest Adventures.

When hunger strikes, call into the Park’s Lakeside Café and grab some food for a picnic or dine in the outdoor terrace. During your getaway, visit the town of Boyle and the Boyle Abbey, which dates all the way back to 1218.

Viking Tours, Co. Westmeath

A super fun way to experience the waters of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands is on-board a replica Viking boat, and Viking Tours in Co. Westmeath offer exactly that. After climbing aboard, you’ll either cruise up the River Shannon to Lough Ree or down river to Clonmacnoise. As you journey through this fascinating part of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, your guide will awaken Ireland’s Viking history with fascinating stories and they’ll also provide commentary on the waters and its flora and fauna.

You can treat yourself to snacks and drinks on board the replica boat and you can also find plenty of great spots in the town of Athenry. Pop into The Old Barracks for a traditional roast, or order from its pizzeria. While in town, visit the dramatic Athenry Castle on the Clareen River.

So what are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time to book your next short break in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.

Brought to you by Discover Ireland

The Leave No Trace principles help us make as little an impact as possible on the incredible Irish landscape as we explore the outdoors this summer and beyond. Keep outdoor areas safe, clean and free from waste/hazards, and help us protect the natural environment. Love this place, leave no trace. 
Keep Discovering at