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Lough Derg - Make a break for it


Paddling out onto a mist-covered Lough Derg, the descending drizzle doesn’t distract from its beauty, in fact, the wintery July weather somehow makes the mystical and mythical waters even more spectacular.

Lough Derg laps the boundaries of counties Tipperary, Galway, and Clare in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and is just waiting to be uncovered by intrepid travellers who like to get outdoors no matter what the weather - pack a raincoat and your sense of adventure and you’ll have a ball.

Paddling, swimming, cycling, hiking, splashing, diving, floating and boating are just some of the energetic ways of exploring the region and when you’ve burned off loads of calories, you can replenish them with plenty of chocolate, coffee and carb-tastic cuisine.

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Base Yourself in Ballina and Killaloe

The twin towns of Ballina in County Tipperary and Killaloe in County Clare are linked by the historic Killaloe Bridge and are ideal places to base yourself as the towns are really geared up for those looking to make the most of the area with plenty of activities and places to stay and eat. Killaloe is also the birthplace of Brian Boru and during his ruling years (1002 to 1014), Killaloe was effectively the capital of all Ireland. So not only is Killaloe a nature-lovers playground, it is a history-lovers paradise too.

So, what are you waiting for? Now that we can explore more of Ireland it’s time to make a break for it to the shores of Lough Derg for a wet and wild time come rain or come shine.

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Take A Tasty Trip To A Chocolate Factory

Delight your tastebuds and discover the wonder of chocolate making with a visit to the Wilde Irish Chocolates’ factory. This is where the magic happens. Trish Wilde and her team hand make 80 different truly scrumptious chocolates in a small chocolate factory in Tuamgraney, just a 15-minute drive from Killaloe.

You’ll be mesmerised as you watch the melted chocolate churring around in the tempering machine and you’ll be transfixed as the team fill the moulds with lightning speed and precision. As this is a small artisan chocolate factory, there are no big machines or converter belts of chocolates. Instead, you see the skilled artists creating all types of chocolate by hand right before your very eyes.

You’ll be mesmerised as you watch the melted chocolate churring around in the tempering machine and you’ll be transfixed as the team fill the moulds with lightning speed and precision. As this is a small artisan chocolate factory, there are no big machines or converter belts of chocolates. Instead, you see the skilled artists creating all types of chocolate by hand right before your very eyes.

No doubt you’ll want to stick your face in the vat of melted chocolate, but somewhat surprisingly, that isn’t allowed, however, you will get to taste the warm melted chocolate, which is just pure indulgence. This really is the stuff of dreams. After watching the chocolate production in action, you can do a taste test of different chocolate types and if you are lucky, you might even get to try out a new flavour or product.

No doubt you’ll want to stick your face in the vat of melted chocolate, but somewhat surprisingly, that isn’t allowed, however, you will get to taste the warm melted chocolate, which is just pure indulgence. This really is the stuff of dreams. After watching the chocolate production in action, you can do a taste test of different chocolate types and if you are lucky, you might even get to try out a new flavour or product.

Top tip: Be sure to leave space in your luggage as the factory has a shop where you can buy all the yummy creations. Pick up a packet of the salted caramel fudge, and the cute bars of chocolate with adorable packaging, and the white chocolate rocky road and the, oh, just get one of everything. You’ll regret nothing.


Explore the Waterways by Kayak

There’s a multitude of options when it comes to exploring the waterways of this region, but if you like your water sports with a smattering of history thrown in, then the two-hour Brian Boru kayaking experience with My Next Adventure is great fun, whatever your experience or fitness level.

Brian Boru - for those who missed school that day - was the high king of Ireland from 1002 until 1014AD and was born/reared in Killaloe. The ancient seat of Brian Boru is located between the River Shannon and the Killaloe to Tuamgraney road.

Hear all about Boru, his life, his death and his connection with the region as you paddle around this very serene and spectacular setting. You’ll navigate through a lock on the old Shannon canal network, venture out onto Lough Derg, paddle under the arches of the 18th-century stone bridge and pass by the former marble mill powered by water from the Shannon.

Getting out on a kayak really is a unique and eye-opening way to explore this picturesque region and uncover its fascinating history.

Top tip: The waterways brim with wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled for Kingfishers, Whooper and Mute Swan other a whole host of other flora and fauna.

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Soak Up The Views From Above

So, you’ve explored the Lough from the water, now it is time to see it from another perspective - from the hills. For a walk with wonderful views, lace up those sturdy shoes and head out to Ballycuggaran, which is just 3km from Killaloe.

Depending on how full of chocolate you are, you can enjoy a leisurely stroll around Twomilegate lakeside amenity park or take a hike through the Ballycuggaran woods. Twomilegate is a picturesque picnic spot with lots of benches and jetties which are perfect for relaxing and taking in the wide views across Lough Derg to county Tipperary. It is also a safe place for bathing and you’ll see plenty of people diving in off the piers - their shrieks and splashes echo around the lake.

Felling bit more active? Ballycuggaran woods has some lovely looped trails that take you up into the impressive oak woods. The trails form part of the East Clare Way and if you prefer two wheels, you can also cycle the routes.

Top tip: You don’t have to hike far for the breathtaking views, within ten minutes of walking from the top car park there is a viewpoint with a bench beckoning you to sit, relax and admire the bucolic beauty below. However, if you do hike to the top, your reward is panoramic views and postcard-perfect photos.

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Indulge In Authentic Italian Food

After a day on the water and in the woods, you’ll have worked up a fierce appetite and there is no better way to satiate a rumbling tummy than with some flavourful and filling Italian food.

Tuscany Bistro in Killaloe is a family-run restaurant with a delightful vibe and mouthwatering menu to match the lively atmosphere. You’ll find all the Italian classics here and riffs on old favourites, too, all of which are made with locally sourced ingredients, where possible, and zing with fresh flavours and harmonious textures.

The bruschetta bursts with bright tomatoes brimming with sweetness, the pasta di Giovanni is an explosion of flavours that tickles all the tastebuds and the authentic lasagne would please any Italian, but it is served in the typically Irish way, with garlic bread and chips!

Desserts are also a triumph with the delicate, silky panna cotta being a crowd pleaser and creamy, dreamy cheesecake adorned with pecan nuts and dripping in maple syrup stealing the show. You’ll definitely need a lie down after dining here.

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Next stop: Nenagh

Just a 20-minute drive from Killaloe is Nenagh, the largest town in North Tipperary. Nenagh is not to be missed as there are plenty of things to do here, especially if you are into history, heritage and hot beverages - it has a flourishing coffee scene.

Enjoy A Brew With A View

Perk up with a brew from The Old Barracks Roastery which is located in a stunning 300-year-old building in Birdhill, County Tipperary, just a three-minute detour on the way from Killaloe to Nenagh. The scent of roasted coffee fills the air as you make your way inside this cafe, roasters and shop, and you’ll actually see the beans being roasted on-site. Choose your favourite roast for your coffee, treat yourself to a slice of cake and enjoy the views of Moylussa, County Clare’s highest point and the River Shannon as it flows into Lough Derg.

Roam Like Royalty Around A 13th-century Castle

Give your legs a workout at Nenagh Castle by climbing the 101 stone steps of the spiral staircase to the top of the keep. Once you reach the top you are greeted with panoramic views that stretch for miles.

Nenagh Castle has four stories and 800 years of history to explore. Each floor has information on the walls describing how the rooms would have been used by the families who lived here and there are interesting facts about the restoration of the castle.

Entry is free and you can take a guided tour or just roam around at your leisure. It’s a great experience and it is an ideal place to bring children who’ll get a kick out of being in a real castle.

Top tip: Keep an eye out for the peregrine falcon that lives in the church across the way.

Relive Ireland Of Old

Just across the road from Nenagh Castle is an absolute gem of a place; the Nenagh Heritage Centre. Formally a 19th-century prison, this has to be one of the most unique and interesting museums in the country.

Uncover the grim history of the prison buildings and then step back in time as you step through the door of a recreated old classroom from 1913, complete with a stern-looking nun! The detail of the recreation is extraordinary and even includes examples of homework from the time.

On the next floor, you’ll again be transported back in time with the recreated old Irish pub. You could spend hours here pouring over the old beers, advertising signs, tinned goods, and pub paraphernalia. Ask the foxy barmaid for an ale, it’s only 10d for half a pint, and then stock up on some Lifebouy and Rinso. No idea what these are? You are going to learn a lot. Do you still have some Rinso under the sink? Then the nostalgia is going to knock you for six.

On the other floors, take a quantum leap back to old rural Ireland with displays of relics of bygone days. The items are fascinating with accompanying tidbits of information which gives a real insight into the past.

The Heritage Centre is free to enter, and you can wander around at your leisure. You could spend a whole day here just marvelling over the displays. It really is a terrific museum dedicated to all things Irish and there is also rotating art, craft, photography and information exhibitions from the Tipperary area.

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Curb Your Appetite

When you’ve had your fill of history and heritage, fill up on home-cooking and hospitality at The Pantry Cafe on Pearse Street. This popular cafe serves seasonal food made with local ingredients with suppliers listed on the extensive menu.

Dishes are flavoursome, hearty and great value and there is a children’s menu too, so even the fussiest of palates should be happy here. Eat-in or take away and have a picnic on the castle grounds but whatever you do, do not skip dessert! The old fashioned fairy cakes with whipped cream and strawberries are light as air and taste of childhood!

Get A Colourful Coffee Fix

Just across from The Pantry, in the pretty pink building, is Guji Coffee Bar which pours delicious caffeinated beverages made from beans roasted in The Old Barracks. So, if you didn’t get a chance to get a coffee in the roasters on the way to Tipp, now is your chance to try this locally roasted coffee and pick up a few bags to take home. Just across from The Pantry, in the pretty pink building, is Guji Coffee Bar which pours delicious caffeinated beverages made from beans roasted in The Old Barracks. So, if you didn’t get a chance to get a coffee in the roasters on the way to Tipp, now is your chance to try this locally roasted coffee and pick up a few bags to take home.





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Make a Break For It to Lough Derg

With its stunning scenery and wonderful waterways and walks Lough Derg is the ideal place to get wet and wild and back to nature.

Add to that its great gastronomy and rich history and heritage and you have a destination that’s sure to appeal to all the family no matter what their interests.

With plenty to do outdoors and in, Lough Derg is an all-weather destination, and considering we can get the four seasons in one day, it is the perfect place for your Irish holiday this year.

So go on, make a break for it! It's time to start planning, time to start counting down the days and, most importantly, time to get excited for your very own adventure in Lough Derg.

Limited capacity and procedures may be in place at visitor attractions, sites, and restaurants so you are encouraged to book ahead to avoid disappointment!

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In partnership with Discover Ireland

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