Extend that summer feeling with an autumn break along the River Shannon through Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.
Just because the summer has come to an end, doesn't mean that the adventures have to stop. Now is an ideal time to make a splash along the River Shannon as the water is still at its warmest and the wonderful autumnal colours provide a kaleidoscopic backdrop.
Ready for a river adventure? Ok, Let’s Go!
Drop anchor in Athlone
With its central location and abundance of attractions and activities, Athlone is a perfect place to kick off your trip.
Built at an ancient crossing point on the River Shannon, this strategic position means Athlone has played a role in every important invasion of Ireland.
Roam like royalty around a castle
Absorb yourself in the town's remarkable history on a self-guided tour of Athlone Castle where state-of-the-art exhibitions and technologies tell the story of this medieval stronghold.
In the castle's imposing Keep, The Great Siege of Athlone is dramatically recreated in a 360-degree cinematic experience. Throughout the castle, there are fun, hands-on exhibits and astonishing artefacts that fully engage you in the gripping story of the castle, the town and its people. Kids will love it too and it's a fantastic rainy day activity. Before you leave, climb to the top of the city walls and admire the sweeping views of the Shannon.
Now that you are acquainted with Athlone's history, it's time to get to know the local cuisine.
Savour the local cuisine
Thyme Restaurant is a Michelin Bib Gourmand eatery in the heart of the town. In the cosy dining room, candles flicker in the windows and a warm welcome awaits from the friendly staff.
On the menu, you'll find modern Irish cuisine based on the seasons which showcases the wonderful producers the Midlands has to offer. While all the dishes are delicious, it would be remiss not to try the ham hock with celeriac mousse and breaded deep-fried egg.
It is the most popular dish on the menu, and once you taste it, you'll understand why. It is rich in flavour and delightfully comforting. The dishes are an expressive representation of Irish cuisine.
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Soak in the lakeside views
After such a fabulous meal, you'll need a little time to rest. One of the best places to enjoy some R&R is in the Hodson Bay Hotel. Set on the scenic shores of Lough Ree, this four-star hotel is a luxurious haven of tranquility. Enjoy a swim in the 20-metre deck level pool, or, if that's too energetic, relax in the hydro pool and on the airbeds. Unwind even more with a personalised treatment in the Hodson Bay Spa before soaking in the thermal suite's outdoor hot tub overlooking the serene lake. Bliss.
If you have the little ones with you, you’ll be delighted to know that the Hodson Bay Hotel is a wonderful child-friendly hotel. From fun times in the pool to magical Fairy Walks, there’s plenty to do to keep the whole family entertained.
Revived? Then it's time to hit the road to Banagher in County Offaly and take to the water in a different guise.
Captain your own cruiser
Picturesque Banagher is a popular spot with boaters as the marina is so close to the town centre. It is an ideal place to rent a cruiser and explore the region the way our ancestors did, along the River Shannon.
Take the helm of your holiday and captain your own boat with Silver Line Cruisers. You don't need a licence to rent a cruiser, the experienced team will show you the ropes, literally! Once you've found your sea legs, it's time to cruise the calm waters for a unique escape on the majestic River Shannon.
Silver Line Cruisers
Camping on the water
Set course south to Lough Derg and enjoy the slow travel lifestyle. Sunbathe on the deck. Fish for your dinner. Sit out under the stars. Think of it as a camping trip on the water — although a boat is a lot more comfortable than a tent.
Moor up in County Clare, along the shores of mystical and mythical Lough Derg and get ready to treat your tastebuds to some terrific foodie experiences.
Camping on the water
Treat your tastebuds to a chocolate making experience
Take a tasty trip to Wilde Irish Chocolates in Tuamgraney, just ten minutes from the shores of Lough Derg, and experience the wonder of chocolate making on a behind-the-scenes factory tour.
You'll be mesmerised by the rivers of chocolate churning in the machines and the speed and precision with which the team fills the moulds by hand.
Sadly, you can't stick your face in the melted chocolate, you can, however, enjoy a guided tasting of the scrumptious creations as well as make your own bespoke chocolate bar. Before you skip out of the factory, pop into the shop and pick up an exceptionally Irish creation — the Dark Chocolate Seaweed and Lime bar. Made with dillisk harvested along the Wild Atlantic Way, with each bite you can taste the sea!
Wilde Irish Chocolates
See a working mill in action
Whilst in Tuamgraney, pay a visit to Eugene and Anke McKernan, the Irish/German couple who run McKernan Woollen Mills, where the past and present are woven together.
The couple have been handweaving scarves since 1985, and you can take a peek at their fascinating workshop where traditional methods and materials are used to create modern textile garments.
A visit to the shop and workshop gives a wonderful insight to a craft little changed in over a century.
Time to make a splash
Full of sugar, make the most of the energy burst by getting wet and wild at the Lakeside Hotel & Leisure Centre in Ballina-Killaloe.
Head to the deck and make a splash in the 18-metre pool and scream with joy, or terror, as you zoom down the 40-metre figure-of-eight water slide. Need to recuperate? Relax in the steam room and sauna.
Need to revive? Brave the cold water plunge pool! There's plenty of thrills and spills to keep you happy for hours.
Lakeside Hotel & Leisure Centre
Enjoy Italian food with an Irish twist
Worked up an appetite? Satisfy your rumbling tummy with some flavourful, and filling, Italian food in Tuscany Bistro, just a short stroll from the hotel. This family-run restaurant has a mouthwatering menu of classic Italian dishes and riffs on old favourites made with locally sourced ingredients.
The pasta di Giovanni is an explosion of flavours that tickles all the tastebuds. As for the lasagne? It's a bona fide traditional recipe, but served in the Irish way, with garlic bread and chips. Mamma mia!
Listen to the lullaby of the Lough
After such a carb-tastic meal, crawl back to your cabin and let the sounds of the Shannon soothe you to sleep. It's an incredibly memorable and uniquely Irish experience.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s go!
As you can see, now is a great time to enjoy a break along the River Shannon, a destination that's sure to appeal to water enthusiasts and landlubbers alike.
With wet and wild activities and slow adventures, heritage hotspots and great gastronomy, there's so much to do both on and off the water in Ireland's Hidden Heartlands.
Capacity restrictions may be in place at visitor attractions, sites and restaurants so you are encouraged to book ahead to avoid disappointment. To access indoor service in bars and restaurants you must follow government guidelines/regulations as laid out on gov.ie. 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 protect the natural environment. Love this place, leave no trace.
In Partnership with DiscoverIreland.ie
Lakeside Hotel & Leisure Centre