Carrick-on-Shannon in Leitrim is one of Ireland’s most popular inland resorts and as a result, it is well geared up for holidaymakers of all types and all ages.
Nestled in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, it makes the most of its enviable position on the banks of the River Shannon, offering a whole host of water-based activities to enjoy. However, if you are more of a Jack Charlton than Jacques Cousteau there are plenty of land-based adventures too, so you won’t feel like you are missing out by not getting wet. And for those who are more of a Jack Sparrow, there are plenty of restaurants and pubs full of ceol agus craic.
With the River Shannon at its warmest this time of year and experiences for the whole family to enjoy, now is the perfect time to make a break for it to Carrick-on-Shannon.
Need some destination inspiration? Read on…
Lough Key Forest Park
As Christina Aguilera sang, ‘let’s get dirty’. No, not like that! We mean, muddy, covered in dirt. Lough Key Forest Park is the place to have some filthy fun running around the bog garden, exploring the nature trails and climbing the tree canopy.
Lough Key, in Roscommon, is one of the largest forest parks in Ireland. As the name suggests, it is located on the banks of Lough Key and you can rent a boat and explore its shoreline.
A whole wooded wonderland awaits with zip-lines, walking and cycling trails, orienteering challenges, an adventure playground and a lot more. There’s even a camping ground and caravan park so you can stay overnight and continue the fun in the morning.
Want to chill out? You can take it easy here, too. Despite the adventurous activities, the park is very tranquil and there are plenty of woodland walks to enjoy and a wealth of historical and archaeological points of interest around the estate. There really is something here for everyone.
Arigna Mining Experience
Sitting in a picturesque valley some 20km from Carrick-on-Shannon, Arigna with its breathtaking scenery and unspoiled landscape is now home to Ireland’s first coal mine museum. Mining took place in Arigna for 400 years and the last mine was only shut in 1990 - not that long ago at all.
Now the town is telling its rich history through the Arigna Mining Experience. Discover the exhausting and hazardous work carried out by the miners and follow in their footsteps down a mine to see their working environment. You’ll be astounded by the stories your tour guide, an ex-miner, tells you about his daily working life. The exhibit, which traces the history of mining in the area and the impact it had on the region, as well as the tour down the mine is very impressive. It will leave a lasting impression on you.
When you come out of the mine, you’ll be more appreciative of the panoramic views of Lough Allen, Sliabh an Iarainn (The Iron Mountain) and the surrounding mountains and deep valleys. This really is a day out with a difference.
Electric Bike Trails
Looking to explore more of Carrick-on-Shannon and the beguiling region? Hop on an electric bike and go twice the distance with half the effort. Hurrah! Electric bikes are also a leg saver when you have children in tow as you can put them in a trailer which the bike pulls along. It is a very pleasant way to cover a lot of ground without little legs tiring out.
To discover the beautiful bike trails and routes, rent a bike with Electric Bike Trails based in Leitrim Village. Hire an electric bike for a few hours - you'll cover a lot of ground in this time - or hold onto one for a little longer and go a lot further on a three-day tour of the region's lakes.
Want to cruise the waterways but don’t have a boat licence or sailing experience? Don’t worry! If you hire a boat from Carrickcraft the team will teach you everything you need to know including how to handle the cruiser, navigate the waterways and get to wherever you want to go! Carrickcraft has a selection of boats and will help you choose the perfect one whether it's just you or you need a boat that sleeps 12.
Not sure if pleasure cruising is for you? Just think of it as camping, but on the water! It is fun and there is a real sense of adventure to it. Oh, and kids love it. It will be a holiday to remember for everyone.
Craving a carb fix? Jinny’s Bakery rises to the occasion with its bread and cakes that you can eat straight from the oven. No knead (sorry, not sorry) for GPS, just follow the intoxicating aroma of freshly baked bread and you’ll soon find the pretty tearooms which are on the shores of Aches Lake.
Tuck into the fresh sourdough cob, with lashing of butter and jam, and listen for that satisfying crunch as you bite through that gloriously crispy crust. Jinny’s Bakery is right beside the Blueway so you can drive, walk, cycle and even sail right up and enjoy the wonderful food on offer.
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Ard Nahoo Eco Retreat
Reset, revive and rejuvenate at Ard Nahoo Eco Retreat nestled in the hills of Leitrim, 45km north of Carrick-on-Shannon. Spend some quality time with the ones you love and rent out a self-catering eco-cabin and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. With no wi-fi available, you are encouraged to reconnect and enjoy the beauty and simplicity in nature. Ah, the good life. You’ll be feeling zen in no time.
Speaking of which, an hour soaking in the outdoor hot tub and sweating in the outdoor sauna will see you relax in no time and ready to take on the world. Although, we suggest you just head back to your private deck and watch the sunset. The world can wait.
If you enjoy a good stretch, there is a yoga school on-site with classes to suit all abilities. Want to get in touch with your inner yogi? There are more intensive workshops and teacher training programmes available, too.
For those looking for something a bit more adventurous but still quite gentle and in keeping with the slow pace here, how about a pleasant canoe journey down the River Bonet? Reward your efforts with a natural healthcare treatment when you get back to base. Bliss.
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Not far from Carrick-on-Shannon is the historic town of Boyle in County Roscommon. Fans of the TV show Moone Boy will recognise some of the filming locations and if you are a real fan you can walk or cycle the Moone Boy Trail that guides you through all these locations. There are lots to things to keep you entertained in Boyle but one of the most popular things to do is to take a tour of the gorgeous Georgian mansion, King House.
King House dates back to 1730 and has been lovingly restored and is now a museum showcasing intriguing and fascinating exhibits that not only cover the history of the house and the wealthy King family who once lived here, but also a general interest in the area. King House is currently the home of the Connaught Rangers museum and there is a tribute to Irish actress Maureen O’Sullivan who was born in Boyle.
A self-guided tour takes about an hour but you could spend much longer here just admiring everything, and there are guided tours during peak season.
Picture yourself gliding along the water like some sort of elegant but extremely large swan, passing unspoilt scenery and pretty little towns with bird song as your soundtrack. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? Well, that’s what’s on offer when you take a stand up paddleboarding (SUP) safari of The Shannon Blueway with the Leitrim Surf Company. Feeling a bit more adventurous? Venture a little further and explore the Leitrim coastline on the Wild Atlantic Way. Don’t worry if you have no experience, SUP is very easy to pick up - it’s a lot easier than surfing - and the guides will show you exactly what to do so that you can get out and have fun on the water in no time.
Fancy sipping the first whiskey to come out of Connacht for more than 100 years? Want to taste gin surrounded by the botanicals with which it is distilled? A trip to the Shed Distillery allows you to do just that, and a whole lot more.
Located in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim, the name of the town might be familiar to you, especially if you love a good G&T because the town lends its name to the flavourful gin produced here, Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin. But the Shed Distillery is also the birthplace of Drumshanbo Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, and you’ll get to taste both on the tour.
Embark on a journey of discovery to the Far East to uncover the secrets of the botanicals used in the distilling process. Enter the epicentre of the distillery and watch the distillation process whilst surrounded by authentic distillery noises and aromas.
No doubt the tastings will wet your whistle and arouse your appetite so take a seat in the Shed Cafe and tuck into some tasty hot and cold food and drinks and then exit through the gift shop picking up a bottle or two from the special range of distillery-exclusive editions.
With all the things to do in Carrick-on-Shannon and the surrounding region, you’ll no doubt have worked up an appetite. For a hearty meal and warm welcome, grab a table at The Oarsman on Bridge Street, an award-winning gastropub that the Michelin guide praises for it flavoursome cooking and use of local ingredients. If it is good enough for Michelin…
Looking for a meal to linger over? The upstairs restaurant is ideal for leisurely dining and on the menu, you’ll find crab, quail, lamb, beef and vegetarian options. Looking for a more casual bite to eat? Get cosy in the bar and enjoy excellent classy comfort food. The seafood chowder and the Artisan Irish cheese plate give a wonderful taste of the region. Bon appétit!
(Image via The Oarsman on Facebook)
Carrick-on-Shannon is the ideal destination to discover just how much Ireland's Hidden Heartlands has to offer. The region is a haven for water lovers, a gem for nature lovers, and a playground for adventure seekers.
2020 is the year for exploring more of our beautiful island, so, whether you want to rent a boat, climb a tree, savour the scenery, wine and dine or go down a mine, now is the time to make a break for it to Carrick-on-Shannon.
Limited capacity and procedures may be in place at visitor attractions, sites, and restaurants so you are encouraged to book ahead to avoid disappointment!