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Like all the best surprises, Ireland's Hidden Heartlands is off the beaten track, yet right under your nose, the perfect place for your next short break in Ireland.
Ireland's Hidden Heartlands encompasses nine counties that hug the majestic River Shannon and the Beara-Breifne Way, stretching from Lough Derg all the way up to to Leitrim. As a destination the Heartlands have long been a much-loved secret among many local Irish people, who enjoy the natural beauty and expansive panoramic views of its calm lake waters, inland waterways, rolling hills, vibrant farm pastures and vast woodlands.
Fill your time in the Ireland's Hidden Heartlands with walks, hikes, cycles and delicious food. It's all here to enjoy.
In the 7th century, Saint Cronan of Holy Island, founded a monastery at Tuamgraney. Vikings from Limerick attacked and looted the monastery on several occasions, and with its illuminated manuscripts and chalices it proved rich pickings for the invaders. In the 10th century, Abbot Cormac O’Killeen restored the monastery, then later, Brian Boru took an interest in the monastery and is believed to have assisted the monks in rebuilding it.
These days the village offers many activities ranging from horse riding, sightseeing to angling in the East Clare Lakelands – while Reddan’s Quay is an ideal location for fishing.
At the heart of the village is the Memorial Park with its impressive lime tree. Another attraction is Saint Cronan’s Church which is renowned for being the oldest Church in Ireland having continuous services. For food check out Nuala’s Bar & Restaurant , a delightful family run pub full of charm and history with a great pint and lots of craic. The Scariff Garden Café also offers a lovely selection of freshly made vegetarian and vegan dishes with veg picked directly from the garden. On Saturdays the Irish Seedsavers Association is open to explore. And should you want to stay longer in our beautiful village, we recommend Clareville House B&B or East Clare Golf Village just down the road from us.
For more than three decades the McKernan brand has been producing artisan knitwear and woven goods. Still operating as a family-run business, our designs are now sold in high-end boutiques, concept stores and museum shops throughout Ireland, Europe and North America.
Our studio and workshop in the village of Tuamgraney is open for visits and we would be delighted to welcome you here to meet us and our talented team. Come and learn how we bring designs from early concepts to hand-finished pieces.
At Wilde Irish Chocolates in Tuamgraney they are mad about chocolate. Patricia and her team handmake over 80 different yummy chocolates in the small artisan chocolate factory. Want to see how they make the huge range of chocolate goodies? Wildes have an open plan production area where you can see the chocolates being made and packed, entrance is free and you will be able to taste what’s in production, ask questions, make suggestions and most importantly taste the freshly made choccies. They are always looking for Guinea pigs.
Take to the shores of Lough Derg dotted with picturesque villages, the chances to unwind on a spectacular boat trip and soak up all the area has to offer. The gentle shrug of water across the surface of Lough Derg makes you want to put down anchor and just float for a few hours. The legendary lake kisses the sides of Clare, Galway and Tipperary before it spills into the Shannon, so it's easy to find a solitary spot to lap up the quiet, cast out a line, or unbuckle your picnic basket for a lazy lunch.
Holy Island on Lough Derg is one of the most famous monastic sites in Ireland. Its many attractions include a Round Tower, the ruins of six churches, a Holy Well, a unique graveyard with slabs dating from the eight century.
Local historian Gerard Madden offers boat trips and guided tours of Holy Island from Mountshannon Pier. After your tour head back into the town and enjoy a handmade pizza at The Snug or if you want a lighter meal stop by Under The Oak, a quaint family-run café for a freshly made lunch and coffee!
Further north, where the River Shannon enters Lough Derg, you will find the vibrant market town Portumna with its many attractions, cafes and restaurants. You can take a tour at the Irish Workhouse Centre where you will be brought back to the times of the Great Famine and learn about the harsh conditions that many Irish people had to endure. If you'd like to get out into nature, go for a walk or cycle through Portumna's beautiful Forest Park and if you're looking for some family fun, drive out to Pallas Karting for a ride on Europe's largest outdoor karting centre.
By the shores of Lough Derg, the impressive face of Portumna Castle casts a shadow on the peaceful lawns. It’s more like a big fortified mansion than a Norman-style castle with plenty of exhibits to show how the aristocracy lived 300 years ago. You could easily spend a few hours in the gardens alone as there’s a lot to see from the Willow Maze to the “potager” gardens, which were designed to feed everyone in the castle and have been beautifully restored to their original splendour. There is also a lovely tea room in the carefully restored out-houses of the castle.
For food, entertainment and atmosphere, the little village of Terryglass is the perfect stopping place for all those looking to experience the famous Irish ‘craic’. The village has won numerous tourism awards and is a five-minute walk from the harbour. The scenery around this area is amongst the most stunning on the Shannon and a sunset witnessed from here is a truly special wonder. Terryglass has a strong reputation for food and award winning Paddy’s Bar as well as The Derg Inn are well known throughout Ireland for their high standards and friendly atmosphere.
Nenagh is steeped in culture. Among its distinguished landmarks is its beautiful tower structured castle keep, built around 1200.
Nenagh has a fantastic café culture and a mix of art and heritage attractions that gives the town a real cosmopolitan feel, with 25 restaurants, cafés and delis and over 15 boutiques.
Stop by the Heritage Centre which was originally a 19th century prison (Gaol) and visit the unique museum inside along with a free tour.
Garrykennedy boasts a beautiful old harbour with the ruins of an old tower house by the water. Right beside Lough Derg, with breathtaking views, you will find Larkins Bar & Restaurant.
Larkins offers high standards of service with a personal touch and it is a must stop for food lovers.
Only a short 5 minute drive is a spectacular view of Lough Derg from 'The Lookout' in Portroe that you won't want to miss.
When you come to Ballina, step on board the Spirit of Killaloe to experience a tour of the Lakelands in the idyllic setting on the shores of Lough Derg, Ireland’s pleasure lake with its breath-taking views of Counties Clare and Tipperary. The relaxing tour is accompanied by a captain and crew. Don’t leave the beauty of Lough Derg and the River Shannon to the imagination, cruise with Killaloe River Cruises and capture memories to treasure forever.
Departure from the quay on Lakeside Drive, Ballina/Killaloe.
The towns of Killaloe and Ballina are amongst Ireland's most picturesque attractions and are linked by a 13 arch bridge, which links not only the two towns, but also the counties of Clare and Tipperary. St. Flannan's Cathedral, unique for its stone carving inscriptions is in Killaloe, while both villages host restaurants, galleries, pubs, and shops as well as a Sunday Farmers Market. Killaloe/Ballina have all the amenities that you would expect to find in an Irish village, with a range of boutiques, health and wellness centres, historical sites, and a choice of superb hotels, B&B's and self-catering accommodations. In Killaloe you can access SUP (stand-up paddling) lessons and lots of other watersports. Please check out Soulkite and UL Sport Adventure Centre
A short drive from Killaloe is The Old Barracks Coffee Roastery in Birdhill, Tipperary. The coffeebar (open every day from 10-5pm) has been designed to nourish the curiosity of coffee lovers with up to 10 coffees on offer at the bar and showcasing Europe’s first trendy Modbar coffee machine technology. The Old Barracks have removed all the physical barriers between the barista and customer in a way to encourage questions and conversation with coffee curious visitors. The expertise is there, and available to anyone who wants to learn more about coffee and the roasting process. A selection of home-baked gluten free sweet treats are also available. Just sip and enjoy.